Holiday Roads: West Forsyth’s Abby Reutinger took family activity and became passionate about cross-country

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2023

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

Growing up as a young child, Abby Reutinger didn’t have much of a fondness for running.

As she became a little older, her mother, Ana, tried to coax her into running; now, it’s become part of her daily life. It’s become so much a part of Reutinger’s life that, as a senior at West Forsyth, she is a co-captain on the girls cross-country team, and she also competes on the indoor and outdoor track-and-field teams.

“At first, I really did not like running because my mom would force me to run,” Reutinger said. “But she just kept getting me to run and eventually I started to like it a lot more. And now we sometimes we’ll run as a family.”

Reutinger’s elder sisters, Brooke, 23, and Bailey, who ran at West Forsyth and graduated in 2021, as well as her younger brother, Johnathon, 15, who also runs cross-country at West Forsyth, made a game out of running for special events set up by their mother, who ran in college at UNC Asheville.

“On every holiday, my mom used to make us do fun runs, which she would make us do like a 5K,” Reutinger said. “Most of the time we would hate it, but she had us do it anyway, and eventually, we just started to like it.”

One would think the Reutingers would’ve chosen Thanksgiving or Christmas to take up a 5K for the family, but this family chose a more obscure holiday for its most enjoyable run.

“We would do it on St. Patrick’s Day,” said Reutinger, who said she started running the holidays at age 6 or 7. “That was one of the ones where we would do it more often.

“And Christmas morning, sometimes they would go run, and I would join them.”

Not only is her family a running family, but her cross-country coach for the Titans, Nathan Newsome, is also from a running family.

“Usually, kids that run have parents that run or siblings that run and are exposed to it early,” Newsome said. “I think it can foster a good introduction, and lots of times, I think the further down the line they get, the more competitive they are just because they want to be whoever came before them.”

A typical mother, Ana Reutinger, came up with the idea because of something she does in her profession.

“She teaches PE at Pickett Elementary School (in Lexington), and they did something for St. Patrick’s Day,” Reutinger said. “She would get us cookies that were shaped like clovers, and she really liked to make this green punch, but instead of just giving it to us she would make us run the 5K first.”

Like most parents are trying to teach their children, there is a lesson to be learned.

“She just kind of made us go out and run, and we would hate it, but she made us do it anyway,” Reutinger said. “And I think she knew that it would be better for us later on. If she didn’t make me run all those times, I probably wouldn’t be running right now. I’d still be playing soccer.”

That’s where the conundrum came for Reutinger. Soccer was her first love.

“I would run cross-country, and then in middle school (Hanes Middle School) they would let me do both track and soccer,” she said. “So, I would run track and soccer.”
She was so young when she first started playing soccer that she doesn’t remember how old she was.

“As soon as I could kick a ball,” Reutinger said of her first experience playing soccer. “I was like 3 or 4. I thought I would go play soccer in college.”
Much like the times, athletes and coaches want their particular performer to stick with one sport.

“A lot of coaches for soccer have kind of killed my spirit for soccer,” Reutinger said emotionally. “I had this one coach when I was probably like 10, so every once in a while I would come home, and I would just like cry after soccer practice because he played favorites … and if you weren’t a favorite, you just weren’t treated the same.”

As emotional as Reutinger still is about how she has perceived her treatment from her youth soccer coaches, she has learned to cope with it.

“I’ve just had a lot better coaches since then,” she said. “And the teams are more united. We’re more of a family now, especially at West Forsyth. With Coach (Scott) Bilton (who just resigned earlier this summer), he made it seem like more of a family. But he’s stepped down, so now it’s Coach (Jeffrey) Williams (who replaced Bilton as the girls soccer coach).”
Reutinger moved to West Forsyth and played both sports her freshman season because COVID-19 affected when the seasons normally are.

“Last year (spring), my junior year, I chose soccer because I thought that it would be my last soccer season for high school,” she said.

Now in her senior season, she’s progressed as a runner, and she has options.

“I think she’s always been a pretty talented runner,” Newsome said. “I think she has warmed up the idea and kind of embraced the fact that she was pretty talented.

“I think if she became more prominent on the team, that was good. But that kind of helped, and she’s really developed into a good leader. She’s fantastic with the younger kids – really likeable. She’s really blossomed into what you would hope somebody that has evolved over time would turn into.”

The cross-country season has just begun for the Titans, and the title of captain lends itself well to Reutinger.

“She’s very social and very friendly, and reaches out to all of them,” Newsome said. “I don’t know if it has anything to do with coming from a bigger family. You know, she’s one of four. And maybe playing soccer, you know, for so long, she’s kind of used to that team dynamic.

“Sometimes running can lend itself to more of an individual dynamic, but she seems to thrive in the team element just as much as individual performances.”

Reutiger competed for the Titans in the Norman Trzaskoma Invitational, which is the Forsyth County Championship, and she ran this past week at Friday Night Lights.

“I’m a big believer in competing,” Newsome said. “If you’re going to be an athlete, the more you can compete, the better you can handle it. So, we had a relay event to kick off the season, and I intentionally put her last just because she has the most experience with competing. You know, I would’ve thought in a pressure situation she would rise up to it.”

There’s still plenty of season remaining for the Titans. There’s also the Central Piedmont 4-A championship, NCHSAA Class 4-A Midwest Regional at Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville, and the NCHSAA Class 4-A championship.

“I learned a lot because I wasn’t too sure about the two freshmen coming in, Tatum Snow and Lily Baugh,” Reutinger said. “But they had shown to be really good in middle school, and Coach Newsome was really excited for them.

“I was also a little worried about where I’d be placed because last year, I was first and second with me and Lulu (Serang). And so, I was a little nervous because it’s always a little scary to have freshmen beating you.”

Reutinger also just started her senior year at West Forsyth. She already has the outline together for what she’d like to do after she graduates next June. She wants to study physical therapy at Campbell.

“Sophie Cowart (who played soccer and ran at West Forsyth, graduating this past June and is now running at Campbell), and me and her were like really close. And I like the team dynamic they have,” Reutinger said. “And the coach is really trying to build the team and have it more of a big family.”

And much like running, physical therapy hits close to home.

“A lot of my injuries in like the past, and just like playing sports all the time, I’ve always wanted to be one of the people there to like to help the athletes,” Reutinger said. “And that’s something that I’ve wanted to do so that I can still be involved somewhat in athletics even if I’m not on a team or something.”