Doers, Soleil Gaylord: Her Winning Ways

Doers, Soleil Gaylord: Her Winning Ways

On 9/11, 16-year-old Telluride local Soleil Gaylord represented the U.S. at the 2016 World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria. Four junior women, ranging in age from 16 to 19, were selected from California, Utah, North Carolina, and (Telluride) Colorado.

And the results are in: Soleil finished #2 among the American; 30th overall. Her team was 8th out of the 19 countries competing.

“I think this was an amazing experience and a really exciting first venture into international competition. Being the 30th fastest junior mountain runner in the world is pretty incredible,” says proud coach Keith Hampton.

Image from Bulgaria, courtesy, Soleil and her family.

Image from Bulgaria, courtesy, Soleil and her family.

Now please scroll down to the bottom of the story to hear Soleil Gaylord’s podcast. The podcast was posted prior to the trip to Bulgaria and the run. So was the related story (below).

Soleil on Ajax at age 5 with her sister Chambri.

Soleil on Ajax at age 5 with her sister Chambri and friend. (Soleil in red shorts.)

Key of G please.

“Here comes the sun.

Here comes the sun…..”

And we say, it’s (better than) alright.

In fact, she’s simply dazzling: beautiful and bright – also greased lightning.

She’s Soleil Gaylord.


Soleil in gear, by Randy Stephens.

Soleil in official gear, by Randy Stephens.


Soleil, whose name is French for “sun,” has a real shot at adding one more medal to the 121 medals Team USA won in every category at the recent Rio Olympics (46 golds, 37 silvers, and 38 bronzes), when she competes in the 2016 World Mountain Running Championships.

The 3.6 km (2.23 miles) race in Sapareva Banya, Bulgaria, weaves up the mountain the entire distance. Four junior women, ranging in age from 16 to 19, were selected from California, Utah, North Carolina –  and Telluride, Colorado.

The bold-faced mountain run is not strictly speaking an Olympic event, but it is sponsored as such by the U.S.: Soleil will be running in a US Olympic uniform.

The races takes place Sunday, September 11, and incorporates senior men’s and senior women’s squads along with the junior men’s team.




“The Junior Teams have won medals the last three years at the World Championships. We continue to see more student athletes of a high caliber for our team. This is a great opportunity for a junior athlete to represent his or her country. It is great to have the support of more and more coaches who really see the value in providing their athletes a chance to compete in a World Championship event,” said Paul Kirsch, team manager, Junior Running Team.

“The USSSA (United States Snowshoe Association) wishes Ms Gaylord and the entire US Mountain Running Team the very best of luck in Bulgaria. Additionally, we look forward to seeing Ms Gaylord, only 16 years of age, challenge the very best Junior snowshoe athletes from around the globe when they gather in Saranac Lake, NY., February 24-26, 2017, at the World Snowshoe Federation’s World Snowshoe Championships. Ms. Gaylord dominated at February’s 2016 USSSA Championships race on Ogden’s Powder Mountain to earn her first national snowshoe championship title. She earned a 5 km cross country PR of 18:50 and for the 1600 meter track, 5:15,” added sports director Mark Elmore.

Running is in Soleil’s genetic stew. Her father, Dr. Kent Gaylord was already on a fast track back in med school.

“He loved it for the health benefits and because running with the other med students after long hours of studying was a much needed social event. Once the running bug bit him, Kent began to race and to take running seriously,” explains Soleil’s mom Ramona who, with Kent, ran 14ers and peaks such as Chimboraza in Ecuador until Soleil was born in 2000. “Kent has always loved to run uphill and excels at it.”

(“Excels” meant, for one example, nailing the Imogen Pass Race year after year, once placing in the Top 10 with a PR of 2:37.)

Soleil was off to a running start very very young. Her first summit was Ajax. At age five.


Soleil is the speck in the lead.

Soleil, age 5, is the speck in the lead. See the speck run in video below.


“We have the movie. She ran,” continued Ramona. “She had little red shorts on. It was a very cool October day. I could not keep up, but Kent was right behind her. We descended in the fading light of October without headlamps. Soleil has been climbing and running up and over mountains ever since. For her 15th birthday she wanted to summit three 14ers in one day. She and Kent ran to the summit of Handies, Red Cloud, and Sunshine. Soleil for sure earned her birthday cake at the end of that day last year.”



Since fifth grade, under the watchful eyes of coaches Keith and Alicia Bixby Hampton, Soleil continued her winning ways, ultimately earning the handle “Fly Girl.”

As a freshman Soleil achieved 7th in state in cross country; as a sophomore, she took third and the team won the 2A State Championship.

This spring, Soleil bagged two individual state championship titles in the 1600 and 3200m races; she took 3rd in the 800m; her 4 x 800m team got third too. And, for the past two years, Soleil has been San Juan Basin League Runner of the Year.

Ever summer and fall, Soleil runs mountain races from the Marble Quarry Run to the Moab Adventure half marathon to the Mt. Sneffels Half Marathon to the Kendall Mountain Run, Rundola, and Black Canyon Ascent.




Running for it inspired Soleil to switch this past winter from alpine racing to snowshoe. In preparation for her races and the Colorado State High School Snow Shoe Championship, she ran up Bear Creek almost daily from December through February, even during blizzards. Determination and dedication paid off: Winter FlyGirl achieved 2nd in the State Snowshoe Championship in Leadville; she went on to the National Championships in Powder Mountain near Ogden Utah, where she won the woman’s Snowshoe National Championship and is now a member of the Jr US Snowshoe Team.

The United States Snowshoe Association is hoping that snowshoe racing becomes an official Olympic event one day soon; ditto the US Mountain Running Team.

In her application for the running team, Soleil wrote:

“I would be a great team player. I would be honored beyond words to be able to dream with, laugh with, sweat with, train with, and travel with a cohort of athletes that are the Mountain Running Team. As a team member, I would bring these assets to the table: humility, friendliness, empathy, and drive. I am confident these qualities will endure as a member of the US Mountain Running Team. I am equally confident you would be proud to have me as a team member.”

Telluride is already proud.

But could Soleil be the next Florence Griffith-Joyner?

Could she one day own the finish line?

Stay tuned as Soleil changes the meaning of 9/11 – at least for her peers and fans at home.

Sweet 16 never looked better.


Again, Chambri & Soleil, back when. And please note, a grown up Chambri is a star too. Just in a different venue. She was Juliet in Telluride Thestre’s “Romeo & Juliet."

Again, sisters Chambri & Soleil, back when. And please note, a grown up Chambri is a star too. Just in a different venue. Chambri was Juliet in Telluride Thestre’s “Romeo & Juliet.”


To learn more, listen to Soleil Gaylord’s podcast.

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