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Eighth-grader with talent, maturity helps captain Barnum track team

BARNUM - Peyton Bushey isn't your average 14-year-old girl. Yes, the eighth-grader loves to hang out with her friends and likely talk about boys in the halls of Barnum High School, but only if she has time. The three-sport athlete competes year-r...

Peyton Bushey
Barnum eighth-grader Peyton Bushey is one of three captains for the Bombers track and field team. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

BARNUM - Peyton Bushey isn't your average 14-year-old girl.

Yes, the eighth-grader loves to hang out with her friends and likely talk about boys in the halls of Barnum High School, but only if she has time.

The three-sport athlete competes year-round in volleyball, basketball and track and field, while she plays the clarinet in the pep band and sings in the school's choir. The A-honor roll student also loves to read books around her piano and violin lessons.

At the top of her list: Running.

"I don't know, there's just something about it I like," she said.

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Although competitive running hasn't been common in her family tree, she was quick to remember her early days as a kid running everywhere.

"I like track the most," Bushey said. "We used to have track and field days in elementary school and I really enjoyed them."

That passion for the sport has led Bushey to an honor not often bestowed on an eighth-grader. Not even able to drive a car yet, she carries the load of the Bombers track and field squad as one of their three captains this spring.

Bushey is mature well beyond her years.

"She's one of kind," said Barnum girls track and field coach Patty Jerde. "She never misses practice, always is here and is really a rare find. Her maturity level is that of a 12th-grader. It's unbelievable."

According to first-year boys coach Alan Harbson, Bushey is very well-deserving of her role on the squad. To him, she's a leader on and off the track.

"Peyton is one these kids look up to, take direction from and respect," Harbson said. "We've talked about if she's too young to be a captain, but to me, it's no big deal at all. She's a very impressive kid."

Harbson highlighted the fact that Bushey is one he can trust no matter what.

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"We have a lot to cover here, but I can send her over to teach the younger kids with their forms. She's paid attention and knows what she's talking about," he said. "She leads warm-ups, cool-downs and is one [person] I can always count on to be here if I'm running a little late on the weekends. Usually, I'll come down here and she's already leading the kids on the track for a run."

Bushey said she was awarded her captain duties at the end of last spring, when she was handed a baton from former captain Jenna Zymslony.

"I was surprised," she said.

When she returned home from school, her mother, Sativa Bushey, was also shocked.

"It was surprising, but Peyton surprises us all of the time," she laughed.

Peyton's younger sister Jaelyn, a sixth-grader, might be following in her sister's footsteps. Next spring, she could be lacing up her spikes.

"I think she might join the team," Peyton said. "That'd be cool."

Yet Peyton isn't just a captain, she's a talented runner, too.

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Last spring, in just her first year on the track and field squad, Bushey dominated the lanes in the 1,600-meter run. She placed third in sectionals and according to her coach, barely ever trailed her competitors all season.

"Very seldom did I ever see her behind," Jerde said. "She's a great runner who has perfect form, unlimited endurance and is as cool as a cucumber when she gets to the starting line. I've never seen a kid so young be able to do that."

Bushey started as a sprinter. But after her first one-mile race as a long distance runner, Jerde knew she found her centerpiece.

"I got third or something and then coach Jerde came up to me and said 'You're doing that from now on,'" said Bushey, laughing. "I just tried the mile and I liked it."

The four-lap race is Bushey's forte. She's yet to lose this spring, and has a good shot at setting the school record down the road.

"She's always excelled in the sprints," said Sativa. "One day she just filled in as distance runner and did great. It was kind of a shock to us."

Although always on-the-go, Peyton said she tries to run every other day near her Barnum home during the summer, in preparation for her ultimate goal.

"My goal is state," said Bushey, who was one spot away in third last year. "I've been thinking about it. Getting down there would be very meaningful."

Peyton's older sister, Darian, 18, was a sprinter for five years at Barnum. And although her younger sibling is better at distance events, Darian's still the fastest in the family.

"She'd never beat me in a sprint," laughed Darian.

"I used to go to her meets all the time and watch when I was younger; she's fast," added Peyton with a chuckle, "but I'd beat her in the mile."

Darian holds a relay record at Barnum and explained that it could someday be broken by Peyton. Rivalries aside, Darian watched her sister at sectionals a year ago and knows she's one of the favorites again come May.

"She works hard and puts full effort into everything she does," Darian said. "I will totally be there watching. I got a feeling that she can go all the way to state."

So does her coach. After running the 1,600 in the rain last spring, Jerde recalled what she said to Peyton.

"I told her last year, 'You're going to do it next year,'" recalled Jerde. "That's her event."

If she makes it, Peyton knows one thing.

"My parents would be proud," she said.

State or not, they already are.

"Her life seems to get pretty hectic," said Sativa, "but she just amazes me. She's a good kid. She makes it all look so easy."

Most captains do.

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