TAYLOR MILL – The Natalie Jehn who started running for Holy Cross High School as a seventh-grader was a much different person than the one who is currently a senior at the school.
In between, the Taylor Mill resident enrolled at Scott High School and ran for the Eagles for three season before coming back to Holy Cross last year for her junior year. By rule, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association must approve all athletes’ eligibility after a transfer of schools, and denied Jehn’s request after determining that athletics was part of the reason for her transfer, leaving her ineligible to compete in all sports for the entire school year.
Jehn learned a lot about herself during that year and became a team leader ready to make her mark on the world as she heads off to the University of Kentucky next year.
She led by example, even in defeat, when Amber Victor of Ludlow edged her at the finish line at this season’s 1A regional meet to grab the last individual medal. Jehn finished 1.5 seconds behind her.
“She was in eighth place and a Ludlow runner sprinted past her, and there were only eight medals given out at the regionals,” said HC head coach Tricia Arlinghaus. “All she did was congratulate the Ludlow runner on having a good race. That really impressed me.”
Jehn qualified for state all five years she was active. She was 13th in the 1A state meet as a seventh-grader for HC. In 3A with the Eagles, she ran in three state meets with a high state finish of 62nd and two top-10 finishes in the regionals. This fall, she was 22nd individually at state to lead the Indians to 10th as a team.
She won the Indian Award, the school’s name for team MVP, by a unanimous vote by her teammates.
“She was our No. 1 this year,” Arlinghaus said. “Even more than that, she was so inspirational to the whole team. She would give them a talk before the races or talk to them if they had a bad meet. She’s an inspiration for everybody. We practice with the boys team and she’s an inspiration to them. She’s friends with the runners on other teams and she’s always complimenting them.”
Jehn was named to the state coaches association’s all-state team and was academic all-state. She won individually at the Pendleton County invitational.
“What I got out of it the most is that the sport of cross country is not just about winning medals or coming in first place,” she said. “I have developed so much hard work, optimism and determination that will travel with me to college even when I’m not running.”
Rather than sink into depression during her junior year, she accepted the KHSAA decision and focused on her academics and her training. She became as big a part of the team as she was allowed to be.
“Junior year, she was at every single meet,” Arlinghaus said. “She came to every practice. She didn’t miss anything. I coached her in seventh grade and she had a different mentality. She’s always been a good runner and she was focusing on herself, and now she’s switching to wanting the team to do well. She would much rather the team do well and have her not finish in the top 10.”
She mentored younger runners, as Jehn encouraged Celeste Bergman, the team’s No. 2 runner this year.
“Natalie was always encouraging Celeste to pass her,” Arlinghaus said. “She would always put the team ahead of herself.”
This past summer, Jehn participated in the Governor’s Scholar program, a prestigious Kentucky endeavor where she spent a month at Morehead State to develop her academics and leadership qualities. That experience helped her land a full scholarship at UK, where she will major in journalism and communications.
“It really taught me a lot to see people with so many different talents,” Jehn said. “Now I look at some of my teammates who were not the fastest runners, but I loved being able to see them cross the finish line and see how happy they were that they finished.”
Jehn will run track this spring and will keep running when she goes to UK, where she will try to take part in club or intramural sports.
“The junior year is your toughest in high school, it really is,” Jehn said. “I worked so hard in the classroom all day and I looked to sports to relieve the stress you built up in the school day. It helped me realize that’s why I participate. The friendships I built, all my teammates. I’m proud of my accomplishments but I love how I developed as a person.”
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