Tinkering with chemistry: West Forsyth alum White thriving as runner at Charleston Southern
Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2023
By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier
Taylar White is part of a running family, but she didn’t start out as a runner.
White, who graduated from West Forsyth in 2022, also had a brother, Ethan, who competed as a hurdler and long-jumper at West Forsyth and just graduated, and her mother, Keena, is a former assistant coach at West Forsyth.
Although it took a little while for White to catch the love of running, she has parlayed her ability into getting an NCAA Division I scholarship. She is about to start her sophomore year on the women’s cross-country and track-and-field teams at Charleston Southern.
“I grew up actually swimming,” White said. “And my mom was like, ‘Oh, you’d be better at running. You’d be a really natural runner. You should do running.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t want to do it.’
“And then I was finally convinced to do it when I did a 5K when I was like 8 with my mom and my brother.”
Almost 12 years later, White still has fond memories of that day.
“It was just something fun to do,” White said. “My mom was like, ‘Hey, do you guys want to do this?’ And we were like, ‘OK.’ So, we’d just do little runs around the neighborhood and stuff. And I was so excited because I beat my brother, and I was only eight years old.”
She kept running, and at 10 years old, she ran in a 5K for Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
“I ended up winning the race. I was like a little 10-year-old,” White said. “I just got pictures of that. They popped up on Facebook, actually.
“So, I did that 5K, and I was like, ‘Hey, this is, that actually, I mean, it hurt and stuff, but, you know, it’s fun to do well.’”
White ran in the Mistletoe 5K later that December, and she said she finished third or fourth in her age group.
“After that 5K, I was like, ‘Hey, I wouldn’t be completely against this.’” White said. “And then, I was home-schooled at that point, and so, my mom was like, ‘Hey, there’s like a home-school cross-country team. You could go do it.’ And I did not say yes to that my sixth-grade year, but my seventh-grade year, I was like, ‘Alright, fine. I can do it.’
“And I ran my first day with middle-schoolers, and I was way out in front on my own, and then I had to run with the high-schoolers after that as a little 12-year-old.”
White ran for the Forsyth Home Educators during her seventh- and eighth-grade years. She ultimately decided to go the public school route and ended up at West Forsyth.
“Going into my freshman year, my brothers and I, all three, were like, you know, we kind of want something different. We want just something different. And so, it was we all went back to school at the same time.
“And like for my youngest brother (Brody) and I, he was going into sixth grade, so, you know, he was starting a new school, and everyone else was starting a new school. And I was going into my ninth grade, so it was my ninth-grade year, so it was the same deal, like everybody’s starting new anyway, so it was a good year to go into the school system.”
Going from Forsyth Home to West Forsyth was more like a sprint than a marathon.
“First of all, it was weird,” White said. “My goal was to be in the top five on the team or the top seven. I wanted to be varsity because going into it, like my eighth-grade year, West had gotten third at (NCHSAA Class 4-A) states. You know, I knew I was going to a good team.
“And with home-schooling, I was like the middle-school state champion, whatever it was. I kind of did a lot on my own. But then, going into West, it was, ‘Oh, there are people that are better than me. These are people that I want to keep up with. It kind of pushed me like, ‘Gotta stay hungry for more.’”
Coach Nathan Newsome of West Forsyth didn’t know much about White before she started running there.
“I said, ‘Oh, man, she’s going to be pretty good,’” Newsome said.
Even with COVID-19, White still developed as a runner.
“I think she probably progressed at a pretty normal rate,” Newsome said. “You know, she was a pretty hard worker and pretty diligent, and did pretty well, you know and progressed pretty good up through high school. She was helpful. She was one of our top runners and always helped contribute in that regard.”
In addition to running cross-country in the fall at West Forsyth, White also ran indoor track in the winter, with a year break, and she also ran outdoor track in the fall, mainly as a distance runner.
By her junior year with the Titans, she had progressed enough that she was already considering colleges.
“It took some reaching out on my part because, you know, we’d get mail at the beginning of practice and stuff, like, ‘Hey, this college wants you.’ But like, I wanted to choose where I went, not where I go to choose me. So, I started talking to the school. Well, at that point, the school that I was interested in and getting to know the coaches.”
Being a self-proclaimed introvert, White still took it upon herself to be proactive.
“A lot of schools make it relatively easy,” she said. “Like pretty much any school, you can go on to their website and like fill out a perspective-athlete questionnaire, and then it just takes a follow-up email.”
White originally chose Anderson University in South Carolina.
“I was looking for a small Christian university,” she said. “I had known people that had gone there and were giving away good scholarships, so I was like, ‘That’s a good deal.’”
Ironically, White struggled with one of her chemistry classes at West Forsyth in the fall of her senior year. That helped her change her mind about colleges. She didn’t have a Plan B, but she ran with a girl in home school who knew of Charleston Southern.
“I was like, ‘Alright, that sounds like a good option,’” White said. “So, I found out about it and applied within the same night.”
White eventually signed with Charleston Southern.
“That’s the way life is, man,” Newsome said. “I think things work out, and I think she ended up in a really good situation. I think the choice she made seems to be a really good fit for her. So, I think it’s just one of those things that, you know, you just work off the premise that things turn out the way they should and be thankful that it did.”
White reports back to Charleston Southern for her sophomore season in cross-country, but she had a stellar freshman season last year. She ran her first college race at 17.07.5. Last October, she competed in her first 6K in the Vertcross Invitational in Kernersville and finished sixth.
“I am really excited,” she said. “My cross-country season last year, with it just being a transitioning period in between worlds, really, it was really like starting back at Square 1 of a deal. My times weren’t really great. But indoor times were kind of like a little bit of a breakthrough. And outdoor, I had a really good season.”
She’s even taken up a nuanced event called steeplechase.
“They tend to be pretty good athletes because you’ve got to run and jump,” Newsome said. “So, I would say, yeah, you kind of get a feel that this kid would like to do it. The ones that are cooperative. Coach wants me to do it before I try it, and I’ll do the best I can. Not all kids are like that. So, I think the ones that you ask are kind of the ones that fit that description.”
Even though she struggled in that chemistry class at West Forsyth, she stuck with it and plans to major in biochemistry.
“I’m hoping to go along and either get my masters or my Ph.D. and do some kind of like virological research,” White said. “…(I want to do) stuff in virology, immunology, like enzymes and stuff, and medicinal stuff with that.”