Hundreds of shoes pound the blistering red track as the echo of the start gun blasts in the distance. The runner’s muscles burn as one freshman athlete emerges from the pack and races toward the finish line as if her life depended on it. Odd glances and furrowed eyebrows from spectators are no surprise to Nava Kohn, as she is accustomed to people’s confusion of a freshman placing first in a race against juniors and seniors.
Kohn has pursued her love for running since third grade. Growing up, she was not deeply involved with sports or activities outside of school, and only discovered her talent for running after her P.E teacher noticed she was ou
trunning all of the boys during a game of capture the flag. For most kids, this would have simply been a compliment, but for Kohn, it was a chance to get involved in sports and find something that was important to her.
After attending Mill Valley Middle School and participating as a 100- and 400-meter sprinter, Kohn decided to continue running at Redwood. Kohn knew that the coaches and runners at Redwood would provide her with the right mindset to stay motivated, something that was missing at her middle school.
“I knew that if I wanted to pursue my running career, the coaches at Redwood would be a better fit for me because I want to push myself, and I knew the coaches could do that for me at Redwood more than they could at Tam,” Kohn said. “Redwood’s impressive track record showed me that the coaches must work the kids pretty hard, and that was something I wanted.”
For Kohn, running is not just an after-school activity. It has become a pivotal part of her life, and Kohn takes her running career very seriously by training outside of regular practice. She wants to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather, Ronnie B. Foxy (birthname Ronald Sylvan Anderson), who ran in the Olympic track and field trials for the United States.
“I want to carry on my grandpa’s legacy by running. I know my genes for speed come from him, so if it’s something I love and a gift I was given, I should take it and use it,” Kohn said.
Kohn has already developed an extensive running career due to her extreme dedication and talent for the sport. At the age of 10, Kohn ran a 14.28-second 100-meter sprint in the Junior Olympics, winning second place for her age group. Even as a 10-year old, Kohn’s time was only 3.79 seconds slower than the world record for women, at 10.49 seconds.
Kohn’s motivation for running not only comes from her grandfather, but from other family members, teammates and her coaches. Being a freshman on a varsity team can be intimidating, according to Kohn, but track coach Laura Schmitt makes it a priority to create an inclusive environment for all team members.
“Nava already seems very comfortable on the team and works well with the team dynamic,” said Schmitt. “Nava is only a freshman; we just expect her to show up to practice but she does so much more to contribute.”
The Redwood track team is a serious commitment, as practice is almost two hours every day after school and includes meets on the weekends. After only being on the track team for a short time, Kohn is happy to have found a shared love of running with her team members, something she did not find at her old schools.
“The kids at Redwood have a real passion for running. The kids at my elementary and middle schools didn’t want to run because they liked it, they were made to run by their parents. But at Redwood, the kids run for themselves, not to prove something to someone,” Kohn said.
Even though Kohn is just beginning her involvement with the Redwood team, her dedication is already apparent. Another freshman on the varsity team, Maya Holland, said that Kohn’s intense passion for running is visibly noticeable during each and every practice.
“As freshmen, it’s not our responsibility to carry the team through. But Nava definitely has the ability to gain the team a lot of points and win some of the events because she is extremely fast,” Holland said.
Although the track team has plenty of talented runners, Schmitt is looking forward to seeing what Kohn is going to bring to the table in the upcoming track season. Her talent for running is already strong, yet Schmitt thinks that with slow and deliberate training, Kohn could easily become one of the top runners in the state.
“Nava has already passed every expectation I have for her as a freshman. She is going to be a name that in a little bit of time, you will be seeing a lot. She is a phenomenal student athlete and most importantly, she is inclusive and kind to everyone on the team,” Schmitt said.
Kohn hopes to pursue her passion for running through high school and beyond and aspires to one day reach the Olympic level for track and field.
“I want to do track for the next four years, and even in college. I just want to keep running for the rest of my life, basically,” said Kohn.
Kohn’s next meet is this Saturday, April 8 at the Arcadia Invitational in Los Angeles.