In Ben Kirk’s fondest memory of Peyton Garrison, she was drinking pickle juice.
Garrison just won her first state championship title in the 100m, the race she was most interested in entering the state championships in Lakewood in June. After the catwalk photo, Kirk expected to meet her – and celebrate – at base camp. Instead, she was shutting down half a jar of pickle juice, preparing mentally and physically for her next race, the 400m – which she also won.
“She didn’t want to take around 100,” Coal Ridge’s athletic director and track and field coach recalls. “She was ready for the next thing. That’s always it. She never focuses on ‘I did this.’ It’s just, ‘What’s the next thing I can achieve?'”
As it turns out, there were a lot of next things Garrison had to get done. She is a two-time all-conference runner and one-time all-conference volleyball player. She won four state championships.
For Coal Ridge, Garrison accomplished many of the first things. She led track and field to her first team championship. She was, to Kirk’s knowledge, the school’s first statewide athlete of the year.
On Tuesday, another achievement launched a new path for fellow Titans—signing a letter of intent for a full-fledged Division I athletic scholarship to Montana State University. According to Kirk, Titan has never paid his college tuition in full with an athletics scholarship.
However, broaching other limits did not change Garrison’s mindset.
“It’s exciting,” Garrison said. “I don’t allow myself to move forward knowing, ‘Okay, I did, but I know I can do more. “I won’t let that limit myself.”
It’s the mindset that drove Garrison to be the best college team in the state, some coaches said to Kirk. Early on, Kirk saw what he had in Garrison and pushed the envelope. He ran it with the boys in practice. Assign her to compete in additional events throughout the season just to better prepare her for state competitions.
Whatever threw at her, she grinned and rose to the challenge.
“Most kids, if you put them in this kind of situation, they either complain about it or they just won’t manage them at the highest level,” Kirk said. “It was just a typical peton. She’s like, ‘I love it, let’s do it.'”
Even in her other sports like volleyball and basketball, her work ethic is fading away. She secured an all-conference volleyball place as the team’s middle hitter this season as the Giants made a late push to reach the regional round of playoffs.
“There is always a desire to be better at what you do,” said Col Ridge volleyball coach Amy Gerber. “I’ve never seen her not get along with her teammates. I’ve always admired…she has this special talent that not everyone gets with her ability to run, and she’s very humble about it and grateful to her and she’s just a hard worker in general.”
After complexing over an early obvious talent for turning into a state champion, college calls are starting to come in. Pick up the phone Colorado Mesa University, Colorado State University, University of Wyoming et al.
But after a trip to Bozeman a week before signing as well as a full scholarship, the temptation to become a Bobcat was too strong to pass up. Garrison will not only continue her running career, but will also study equine sciences for free.
“Being good at farming was a big part of my decision to go there,” Garrison said. “Their show was a huge part. Also. Giving me a full ride was a huge part. Also. I was like, 100%. I’ll take that.”
The LOI may be signed, but there is still work to be done before the Giants see Garrison off Bozeman. There is still a basketball season to prepare for and another track season to try and get more medals.
Getting a full scholarship would be a sense of accomplishment enough, and perhaps even prompt some to make a tactical business decision to degas the graduation season. But that wouldn’t be “like Peyton,” as Kirk calls it.
“It makes me want to work even harder to get those times I want,” Garrison said. “Well, I fell, but I still have goals and achievements that I still need to achieve.
“Winning the country again is what I want.”