Meet Rebel Hays, the only 4th grader to ever run in the Arkansas High School State XC meet.
Yes, I said 4th grader.
But, as a matter of fact, you won't find him in any of the results, and you won't find him in any of the results of the eight high school races he ran in this season.
How is this young man managing to run against high school boys all year? Rebel Hays is a guide-runner for Paul Scott, a visually impaired 9th-grader that runs for West Fork High School in West Fork, Arkansas.
Rebel Hays just turned 11 years old and has been guide running for the last few years. He has a personal best time of under 20 minutes in the 5K as a 4th grader. Rebel's cousins ran for West Fork High School and that is how he got introduced to guide running.
"I was at school one day picking up my cousins
when I saw Jenna Scott and Rosie Scott running. I found out they were visually impaired
and I just wanted to help." "I found out Paul and Tim (their brothers)
were starting to run and I knew I could do it!"
Coach Tiffany Surber (Redlarczyk ), former SEC Steeplechase champion for the Lady Razorbacks, has been the coach at West Fork for nine years and this isn't the first time she's had visually impaired athletes on her team.
The Scott Family had adopted four children -- all visually impaired, from China -- and all four of them have run for West Fork. Older sisters, Jenna and Rosie, both ran for Coach Surber from 2014-2018, and brother Tim has run the last few years but has chosen to concentrate on the marching band this season.
There was one point where all 4 of them were on the team and Coach Surber had to reach out to the community and to old running friends to find help with guide running.
Rebel has won the local fun run 5 years in a row and Coach Surber knew it wouldn't be a problem for Rebel.
"He's not only a great runner, but he has a huge
heart and he is willing to serve," Surber said.
Three years later, Rebel and Paul set a personal best time at the Van Buren Pointer Classic of 20:59.44.
"My goal this year was to break 21 minutes. We just missed it at Chile Pepper, but we got it at Van Buren," said Paul. With the guidance of Rebel, Paul finished 59th out of 135 runners in the 3A boys race at the state Meet in Hot Springs this past weekend.
Rebel says he gets a little nervous before a race but it's just because he wants to help Paul the best that he can. Paul has one more year of eligibility in cross country and has set a goal of under 20 minutes.
Although West Fork's XC season has ended, Rebel will be running at the USATF Junior Olympics Cross Country meet in Lexington, Kentucky on Dec. 12.
Rebel's goal is to someday run in the Olympics, and
after watching him compete this year, I believe he will make it!