Peyton Boughton is undoubtedly a driven young lady with a knack for spending her time efficiently. After all, the competition in which she shines is all about using the least amount of minutes and seconds to get from start to finish.
So it’s no surprise the Sturgis High School senior thrives in the classroom, on the cross country course, on the track, and in whichever extracurricular activities she opts to try. One of the state’s top female harriers, Boughton moonlights as an athletic trainer for the Trojans. On top of that, she has an affinity of mathematics and science, but also is drawn to the arts.
Not only has she had a hand in designing the team’s program covers and T-shirts, she’s played a major role in crafting a blueprint for her teammates to succeed.
The latter might be what makes the Sturgis’ 5K record holder really special. Despite having her own lengthy list of goals, those around her have never been forced into the backseat.
“This year I just really want to keep this team strong for the next few years,” she said. “I wouldn’t be so upset if I didn’t break my [personal records] from last year; I just really want to set a base for future years [for the program].”
That’s a pretty mature, big-picture attitude from a young lady who has an opportunity to add to her historic career. Having turned in a time of 18 minutes, 23 seconds at last year’s Division 2 state meet at Michigan International Speedway, which was good for 13th place, Boughton is stalking a sub-18 finish by season’s end.
She’s already one of only nine Sturgis girls to place in the top 15 at the state finals. The last to do so was Ann Marie Arseneau, who was also 13th, in 2008. Before that, Rhonda Wolfe was eighth in 1993. The highest female finish by a Trojan was Wolfe’s runner-up performance in 1991. Boughton won a Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference title as a sophomore in 2011 and finished third last year.
And this season is off to a promising start, with a runner-up at the perennially power-packed field at the Holly Invitational (19:48) and a victory (19:54) at the SMAC East Jamboree on Sept. 17 at Marshall. Boughton prefers cold and wet weather, and should trim major time as the temperature drops. What’s certain is she’ll not be blinded by her own pursuits.
“My freshman year I felt the entire team was so motivated,” she said. “They weren’t asking questions and said, ‘Coach [Emerson] Green, what do I need to do today to improve myself?’ Over the years I saw that gradually decrease as the seniors were leaving. I wanted to bring it back to the freshman year I had when everyone was pushing each other.
“What’s [each girl’s] personality? What gets them going? What motivates them to go out there and do their best?”
Green has seen a variety of talent levels and personalities cycle through the program in his 18 years overseeing cross country. In terms of the whole package, he said, the breezy Boughton might top the list.
“I’ve been blessed over the years, and I think you find that with cross country runners in general,” he said. “You are looking at one super, unique young lady. I’ve had some great kids and some really, great, great runners and some great team kids. I’ve had conference champions in the past, but I’ve never had a conference champion like her, and a regional champion and great runner like her that’s so team oriented.
“She’s just that kind of kid that excels in whatever she attempts. She’s in it for the big picture of it. That’s how she approaches cross country and track. It’s great, and she’s a pleasure to coach.”
The feelings are mutual.
“It has really been amazing,” Boughton said of her four years on the team. “I took it for granted freshman year; I didn’t realize how great of a coach he was. The next few years I gradually saw how other coaches would treat their team and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m so glad I have Mr. Green.’ He knows everybody individually; he knows what your limits are; he knows what you can accomplish and he knows what motivates you. He’ll make a sly remark or something, but he won’t make anybody feel bad about anything. He’s awesome.”
As has been Boughton’s career, which began when her father chose cross country for her. She admittedly didn’t care about training hard or results as a freshman. It wasn’t until her sophomore campaign she realized she had a talent that shouldn’t be wasted.
This past summer, while battling injury, it dawned on her that there was even more to competition than individual milestones.
“I realized it wasn’t worth setting my PRs and just going out to run,” she said. “Those are two extremes. One is trying to go out and show the world you are the best. The other is sitting at the bottom of the pile and coasting along. If I can help others achieve their goals, then I’m moving around; I’m active in all of this.”