LANSING | Ask Alexa Beezhold to describe herself and you may hear the following:
"I feel like I'm a pretty normal person."
Even Illiana Christian girls cross country coach Deb Top didn't have to search the thesaurus for flowery adjectives when she first set eyes on Beezhold.
"When I saw her at cross country camp the summer before her incoming freshman year (in 2010), I heard she was a pretty good runner," Top said. "But to be honest, I watched her and I thought, 'I don't know. She's pretty average to me. I don't know what anyone sees.'"
The coach's opinion changed once she began running with Beezhold.
"We did a workout where we ran at the beach, on trails, and I found that as I was running with her and talking to her, the more I talked to her, the faster she ran," Top said. "I could hardly keep up with her. That's when I realized, 'Oh, there's more here than what we're seeing.'"
Beezhold might have actually surprised herself when she discovered how quickly she acclimated to cross country. Foreign to the sport prior to seventh grade, Beezhold began running in junior high because it seemed like an activity in which she wouldn't embarrass herself.
"I was just bored at the end of the (school) day, but I'm just really bad at sports," Beezhold said with a chuckle. "My brother plays basketball and volleyball, but I was never good at that. I'm pretty average at sports -- except for running."
The Illiana sophomore wasn't an immediate smash, but she experienced a degree of success early enough in her career to keep her coming back for more.
"I didn't think I was going to be any good, but I was," said Beezhold, who admitted she probably would have never given cross country a try at Illiana without her grade-school introduction to it.
"It is hard, but I remember starting off being OK, and as the time got on through the season, I became a little better."
She became good enough to be the Vikings' second-highest finisher at the 2010 Class 2A state meet as a freshman. Beezhold was 104th overall, but the 80th runner among those on scoring teams, and the solid debut performance in Peoria served to catapult her into the current season.
"She ran (as our) No. 1 a couple times in the last three meets last season," Top said, "and that made me realize there's a lot of talent there, a lot of untapped potential."
Beezhold ran her personal-best time of 19 minutes, 24 seconds placing fourth at last week's Metro Suburban Conference meet. Top said Beezhold established her PR for 1 mile in the final third of the race.
"She was sprinting in," Top said. "She wasn't even fazed."
Top hopes Beezhold gradually develops a passion for cross country to match her physical abilities.
"I don't think she's ever experienced being anything except, like she said, average," Top said. "All of a sudden, when she can be way above average and great at something, I think she's still learning how to handle that. It's an adjustment, but she can be really good if she wants to be."
Beezhold knows what she wants to accomplish in the immediate future.
"Just to get back to state -- that's my goal," she said. "And I want to break 19 minutes."