Latter-day Saint athlete Taylor Roe (#12) competes for Oklahoma State University in the recent 2023 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. Roe has claimed several All-America honors — and a national title at OSU. (Photo courtesy of Oklahoma State Athletics)
Oklahoma State’s Taylor Roe continues adding All-America honors to her collegiate resume
The Latter-day Saint distance runner is vying for more national titles — and looking forward to a Big 12 conference rivalry with BYU.
By Jason Swensen
23 Mar 2023
Recently, a reporter asked Oklahoma State University’s Taylor Roe when she discovered a love for running long distances really, really fast.
Roe recalled being in an elementary school PE class and running a timed mile with her classmates. Subsequently, whenever she ran the mile with her PE class, she was determined to run it faster than before. It was a rush measuring her personal progress against the stopwatch.
“But I was also competitive. I wanted to beat other people,” she told Church Ball Magazine, laughing.
That mixture of persistence, talent — and an unapologetic hunger to cross the finish line first — has proven to be a successful formula for the Latter-day Saint athlete from Lake Stevens, Washington.
At the recent 2023 NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Roe added a couple more accolades to her already long list of athletic honors. She claimed All-American awards in the distance medley relay (DMR) and in the individual 3,000-meter race, respectively.
Her success at the Indoors came as little surprise to anyone who has followed her Cowgirl career. Roe’s honors and awards include several All-American performances in both cross country and track & field — highlighted by a 2022 indoor national crown in the 3,000-meters and a second place finish in the 2020 NCAA cross country national championship.
Latter-day Saint distance runner Taylor Roe hoists a trophy after a strong finish in the women’s 3000-meter race at the 2023 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. (Photo courtesy of Oklahoma State Athletics)
There really is no off-season for a collegiate distance runner. So Roe will have several more opportunities to build on her running legend in Stillwater during the current NCAA outdoor track season — and during next year’s cross country/indoor/outdoor campaigns.
Roe is committed to leaving a women’s distance running legacy at OSU. “As a team, we’ve made significant jumps every year I’ve been here. I have one more cross country season and I want to help us try to win a national title as a team. That would be really, really special.”
“My goal is to be a national champion again,” she said. “It is really hard. But I don’t think it is impossible.”
Born to run
Legendary BYU track coach and athlete Ed Eyestone likes to say that anyone who wants to be an elite distance runner “should choose his or her parents wisely.”
Roe can check that box. Her parents, Lawrence and Jennifer Roe, both ran for the University of Washington.
The Roes’ youngest daughter Taylor loved playing basketball. But by middle school, she recognized that distance running was her ticket to competing at a top-end athletic level. In high school, Roe claimed nine Washington state titles in a variety of cross country and track events and was named the 2017 Gatorade Washington Women’s Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
No surprise, several universities sought Roe’s talents. She had not given OSU much thought until she received a letter from Coach Dave Smith, the school’s director of track & field and cross country. Smith was a Washington native and remembered competing against Taylor’s father in high school.
“Once I started talking to Coach Smith and developing a relationship with him, I knew I wanted to run for Oklahoma State,” she said.
Beyond running, OSU has also been a good academic fit for Roe. The psychology major has earned several Big 12 academic awards and will graduate in the spring. She will begin graduate studies at OSU next fall.
Roe grew up outside of Seattle, where there was a fair number of Latter-day Saints — “but nowhere near the amount in, say, Idaho or Utah.”
The number of fellow Church members is even smaller in Stillwater. About 30 or 40 people regularly attend Roe’s YSA ward. “But I have found some really good people here. It has been a different experience, but I have really enjoyed it.”
Roe is the only Latter-day Saint on her team. “So I’ve been able to be like a missionary. …I [try to be] a good representative of the Church because I know I might be one of the few members that some of my teammates ever meet.
“But it’s been fun. I’ve learned a lot from my teammates because I’m surrounded by people from different cultures and backgrounds.”
An OSU/BYU rivalry awaits
Latter-day Saint sports fans know well that the Big 12 Conference will look different in the upcoming athletic season. Counted among the new schools joining the Big 12 later this year will be Brigham Young University.
Roe is excited for OSU to build a conference rivalry against BYU — and the Cougars' highly regarded women’s distance running program.
“It will be so much fun,” she said. “I have a lot of friends on the BYU team, and it will be great to see them throughout the year.”
Roe has competed against her good friend and BYU distance runner Lexy Halladay-Lowry since their prep days.
While surely possessing the skill set required to compete in the pro ranks, Roe is undecided if she will continue running competitively after college. “Nothing is guaranteed. I’m just looking forward to ‘the now’ — and for me, ‘the now’ is our outdoor season and running as fast as I can.”