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Taryn Kunkel has never been far removed from cross-country running.

New cross-country coach Taryn Kunkel, left, in her first year as Scorpions head coach, will be looking to the leadership of her three Sedona Red Rock High School seniors, such as Tia Myers. Natalie Cox and Kevin Alvarez have also been the senior leaders in the team’s first week of practice.

“Running is my outlet,” she said.

The 24-year-old director of food services for the Sedona Unified School District was led to apply for the cross-country head coaching position at Sedona Red Rock High School after one of her two high school coaches in the sport died of brain cancer this past summer.

“And she was only 29,” Kunkel said. “That’s the hardest part. They both ran with us every day.”

But after talking both with former cross-country coach and current track head coach Harry Schneider as well as Athletic Director John Parks, they and Kunkel agreed she was the right person for the job.

“I definitely enjoy running with the kids whenever I can, and they wanted that,” she said. “They also wanted someone who would build a firm relationship with the high school students. Although I knew the kids at Big Park and West Sedona schools more last year, I spend 60 percent of my time outside the kitchen at the high school.”

After a season under interim coach John Ortiz, both Kunkel and the senior leaders of the nine returning Scorpions cross- country runners were equally as excited to find a full-time coach on campus.

“She’s all right,” smiled Tia Myers, one of two senior runners on the girls cross country team along with Natalie Cox. “It’s fun to help coach the freshmen.”

For the full story, please see the Friday, Aug. 15, issue of the Sedona Red Rock News.

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