Kayla Holder finished third among the women who ran the Rock ’n’ Roll half marathon in Raleigh earlier this month, crossing the finish line in one hour and 24 minutes.
The day before the race, Holder celebrated another success: The 17-year-old was the fastest runner in the 2-mile event at the Wake County high school track and field championships.
“I was a little bit worried because I knew I had to be running full speed for both of them,” said Holder, a junior at Wake Forest High School. “I wasn’t sure if I would do my normal pace, but once I got going, I was fine.”
Holder was the youngest runner to place in the top-20 rankings of the Rock ’n’ Roll race series this year. The events take place around the country. Raleigh hosted a race April 12.
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She also finished third in last year’s local Rock ’n’ Roll race, when she finished slightly faster.
“I knew that last year, to get in that top-three spot I had to fight for it,” Holder said. “I knew it would be competitive.”
Although Holder was the youngest to place this year, she does not hold the record for the fastest and youngest competitor at Rock ’n’ Roll races.
The record belongs to Alana Hadley, a Charlotte teen who was 14 when she finished the 2011 Rock ’n’ Roll half marathon in Virginia Beach in an hour and seven minutes, according to race officials.
This year, Holder took part in the Wake County track championships for the first time. She attended school in Vance County until this year, when she enrolled at Wake Forest High.
In late March, she set a school record for the 2-mile event, running it in 10 minutes and 53 seconds.
Holder started running in seventh grade when her mother told her she had to join a sports team.
“Running was the only one that appealed at all,” she said.
She also tried cheerleading, but she ditched the sport after a year to focus on running.
“I liked that it was an individual sport and I could control how I did,” she said.
Holder participated in her first half marathon when she was 14 in Boone. She didn’t do well, she said, but it solidified her love for running long distances.
Now, she’s gotten comfortable enough to have fun during long races. She likes to meet other runners and talk to them about their experiences.
“I’m one of those weird people who talk during the half marathons,” she said.
She also uses races like the Rock ’n’ Roll event as motivation. She said she hopes to one day run a full marathon.
“It’s not as much fun when you don’t have people to push you,” Holder said. “I really love being around people who are better so I can strive to be with (them).”