On October 20th, 2012, Sarah Baxter shattered the Mt. SAC Invitational cross country junior record, running the 2.91 miles in 16 minutes flat. Chelsey Totten, who came in second, took more than a minute to run the same distance.  Many are calling Sarah's performance as the greatest high school performance ever!

Both Sarah and Chelsey are extraordinarily gifted and dedicated cross country runners.   So what is it that defines the difference in performance between these two runners?

Biomechanics!

In some ways, the human body is like a machine.  If the body moves in a straight line fashion (e.g. linear mechanics), it is able to reach its' ultimate performance (power and endurance).  However, if the body moves in a twisting fashion (torsional mechanics), it will be prevented from reaching its' ultimate performance regardless to how much the athlete trains.

Take a look at the photos of these two runners, side by side.  

Look at the position of their left knees relative to their left feet.    In Sarah's case, her left knee is directly over her left foot (linear mechanics).  In Chelsey's case, her left knee is twisted inward relative to her left foot (torsional mechanics).  This makes all the difference in performance.  Specifically, over minute longer for Chelsey to run the same distance as Sarah.

However, the question is - what is the cause of Chelsey's torsional mechanics.

I have had the chance to review photos of both Chelsey's  and Sarah's running.  

  • Sarah was born with a structural alignment that automatically results in linear mechanics.  At the end of cross country race her demeanor was one of who had just taken a brisk walk, not one who had just finished running nearly 3 miles.
  • Chelsey, on the other hand, exhibits a structural alignment typically associated with a PreClinical Clubfoot Deformity. (At the end of the cross country race, her breathing was very labored and constrained.)  By attenuating the resulting torsional mechanics (using the appropriate proprioceptive insole), Chelsey's performance will automatically be improved.


Deterioration of performance, due to torsional mechanics, spans all competitive sports including baseball, basketball, dancing and skiing (just to name a few).  Improving body mechanics can make the difference from being very good, to being the best in their sport.

For more information, go to Rothbarts Performance Edge website.

Cross Country Runners

Sarah Baxter

Chelsey Totten