5 years. 448 barriers. 112 water jumps. 16 races. 2 nationals appearances. 1 Mountain West Conference Championship.
This is it. One last time to don the familiar blue, gold, and white of San Jose State. One last time to bread the bread in my collegiate track career, and I did just that. I left everything I had on that track and although I couldn’t get a qualification to the NCAA championships in Austin, I’m proud of the way that I ran the race.
Friday started out with an 8:30am shakeout just to get the blood flowing and my mind in the right place for the day. Immediately following was breakfast with the classic three pieces of peanut butter toast. Then, the long 12 hour wait until my race began. I was in the third heat of the last event of the night, which was slated to start at 9:00pm at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento. I watched a lot of food network and Guy Fieri to keep my mind occupied, but was constantly visualizing the race and what I thought I would need to do. I knew the race was going to be more like Stanford than the Mountain West race. There would be a lot more jostling, jockeying for position, and probably a few spike marks, and that’s mentally what I prepared for.
We left the hotel at 6:30pm, Bruce reminded me I was Born to Run in the Darkness on the Edge of town, and we headed out to the track. There, the coaches and I talked a lot of nonsense about funny races that we’d want to see in track and field to try to keep me from freaking out too much before my race. At 8:30pm I left for my warmup after a quick pep talk from Coach Wick to keep my mind focused on the right place and he remind me that I was the underdog in this race. I did the usual 20 minute warmup, drills, strides, and then went over to the tent to put on my spikes and hip numbers. They let us sit at the start line for an unusually long time while they did introductions, and then the race was finally ready to start.
The race got out quick. I started on the outside at the start and in the first 200 meters was running in lane 3. To get a better position I jumped to the front, but cooled the pace down a little, so I could have a better position going over the first few barriers. From there I stayed pretty tight on the front pack and never dropped into a position worse than 6th place in the entire race. There was a consistent pack in the front of between 6-7 of us for most of the race, so there was constant jostling and people moving all over the track to get the best jumps they could. Sometimes I had some pretty bad form on the hurdles to cover someone moving in front of me and ruining my steps, but that’s how the race goes. The first lap we rolled through at 67 and I got a little too much air on the water jump but didn’t lose any time recovering which was good. From there my goal was to maintain contact with the lead pack and never let them get away from me. A runner from Iowa took us through to lap 4 before a Cal runner took the lead. By the time we had run through the 1600 mark, I knew there would be no one making it on a time qualifier. We were running 71’s and 72’s because the wind had picked up down the back stretch. That meant that each time we hit the turn into the water jump, it was straight into the wind and made the race go slower than the previous two heats. With about 2 laps to go in the race I had closed the two/three stride gap on the front runners and the pack was starting to seriously bunch up with 8 runners. I knew that two of the runners had a better kick than I did, and have historically run better times than I have, so I made the decision to jump to the front and hope that I could hold on for 3rd place and get a qualifier. I took the pack down to 5 men quickly, dropped the lap pace from 71 seconds to 68 seconds, and held onto the lead for just shy of a lap. The runner from Stanford and BYU covered the move, which was fully expected, and passed me to take the bell lap along with the Iowa runner. Shortly after a Washington runner went by me. As we hit the backstretch, that wind hit me I was done. At this point I couldn’t feel my legs, my arms were carrying me along, and my hurdle form had gone to crap. I hit the water jump and was thinking to myself, “I don’t know how I’m going to get over this”, hopped on top of it, two footed the landed, and took off hoping no one could pass me down the homestretch. My legs were screaming over that last 100 meters and I’m not sure how I made it over that last hurdle and got to the finish line without falling.
I finished with a time of 8:48.71, good for 5th place in my heat, and 18th place in the West Region. It wasn’t a PR, or a school record, or a time that would take me to Nationals, but it was a race that proved I have what it takes to compete at a higher level and I’m no longer afraid to make moves I would never have dreamed of in the past. I know that there was nothing left in me after this race and I took the race in my hands to try to make the best outcome for myself. Everyone wants a fairytale ending, but that’s not the way that running works. I went out there and gave it my all. And when I’ll look back on this race I’ll won’t remember getting 5th place, but I’ll remember the announcer calling out my name about my bold move into 1st place trying to run San Jose State to the National Championships for the first time in over 30 years. I’m honored to have had the chance to train under Coach Wick, Coach Layten, Coach Sarver, Coach Petersmeyer, and Coach Reimer over these past 5 years. I’ve grown so much as a runner in my time as a SJSU and would be remiss without also mentioning my family, especially my parents, for supporting me throughout my tenure as a Spartan. My career has never been perfect, but pushed through it all and kept my eyes on what the future held for me.
“No retreat, baby, no surrender.” – Bruce Springsteen
To 5 years of never surrendering.