All About Austen Apperson
FOUR GOLDS: Austen Apperson’s Preparation for, and Reflection on, Four State Track Championships in One Weekend
By Aaron VanTuyl
There’s two important things to know about Austen Apperson.
First of all — and he’s answered this question plenty of times — he does, in fact, get tired.
It may not seem like it, given that the Adna junior is, undeniably, the best 2B distance runner in the state. His 1B/2B cross country championship on Nov. 4 suggested it, and his four 2B track titles last weekend in Cheney solidified it.
“Yes, of course I get tired,” he said with a laugh. “After the hard races, the last half to third of the race, it’s pretty brutal. You’re kind of gritting your teeth and trying to run as hard as you can and everything. But yes, I get tired.”
Second of all, what he does before and after the races are more important than what he does on the track.
“The biggest thing is just being consistent. You cannot run one day a week and think you’re going to get fast,” he said, explaining that from winter to spring his weekly regimen features a standard 40 miles of running. “It takes five, six, seven days a week over a period of weeks, months or years. Genetics and talent play into it, but I’ve been working at this since I was in seventh or eighth grade.”
And when he’s not physically running, he’s thinking about it. Since Saturday he’s watched the video of his 1600-meter victory more than once.
“The 1600 is just fun,” he said. “It’s nice to see how everyone’s running behind me and everything.”
He’s seen footage of the Pirates’ 4×400 relay win — he was the anchor — closer to five times.
“It’s fun to watch,” he said. “The 4×4, I think I’m going to get caught every single time, but I don’t. I get surprised every time when I hold on somehow.”
It all added up to Apperson playing a big part in the Adna boys’ second-place finish as a team — though, to be fair, that didn’t come as much of a surprise to the speedy junior. Right after the 2017 state championships wrapped up, Apperson spent a bit of time on Athletic.net, the database for track results, playing with the ‘advanced search’ function to draft up a prediction of this year’s final meet.
“I was just throwing out what the state meet was going to be next year,” he said. “It was a hypothetical meet, and we actually came out on top, so I knew from that point forward we’d have a good chance of scoring pretty high as a team.”
He took his findings to Adna track coach Todd Penman, now in his third year with the Pirates.
“It would have been like this week last year, and he did the whole thing, wrote it all up, and was like, ‘We can win it next year,’” Penman said with a laugh. “I love looking ahead, too, and he’s just very into it and takes it to another level. It’s great to see. He gets kids interested.”
The speed, the preparation, and the mental engagement are all part of the finished product Apperson put on display last weekend in Cheney.
Apperson won the 800, the 1600 and the 3200 — and anchored the winning 4×400 relay — at the District 4 championships to qualify for the State 2B Track and Field Championships, held each year at Eastern Washington University in Cheney. He took third in the 1600 and second in the 3200 as a sophomore, but his sights and the expectations were quite a bit higher this year.
He took the first step to clearing his own bar on Thursday, finishing second in the 800 preliminaries and winning a tight race in the 1600.
“That was his goal going in, was to win, or at least challenge, for those three titles,” Penman said. “Honestly, nothing really surprises me too much anymore with him, but he was actually challenged in the 1600. He (Justin Roosma, from Walla Walla Valley Academy) challenged him on Thursday, and he responded just like we’ve seen him respond.”
Apperson’s time — 4 minutes, 17.31 seconds — was a personal record, and a tough one to notch.
“The 1600, definitely, I’d say that’s … the one I pushed the most in. Going in, I wanted to PR in that one,” he said. “The 1600 was the one I was definitely gunning for.”
The PR came with a price: For the first time ever, he admitted, he puked after a race.
“It wasn’t for a good 45 minutes that I could walk around,” he said. “Me and the No. 2 finisher weren’t feeling too good after that race.”
Still, it set the tone for an impressive weekend on the track.
“He had planned this, and we had planned this as best as you can plan it,” Penman said. “It was his goal, but it was nice that it happened.”
And with the 4×400 relay team — Apperson, Zander Blankenship, Aisan Ryan and Brady Collins — posting the fastest preliminary time on Friday, the stage was set for Saturday.
Apperson’s schedule for the final day of the State 2B championships started early. He was up at 6:30 a.m. and quickly headed down to breakfast, eating a solid four hours before his scheduled 10:30 a.m. race (the 800 finals).
“The big thing is just being consistent, as far as diet and sleep,” he said.
And breakfast? Cereal, but he’s not picky.
“Whatever my mom buys, or whatever the hotel has,” he said.
He was at EWU’s Roos Field by about 9 a.m., and started warming up about 45 minutes before the race — a slow mile jog, then his dynamic stretches, toe running, high kicks, leg swinging and the like.
“That takes a while, and then there’s a lot of going to the bathroom, just because of the nerves and everything,” he said. “Sipping on water, talking to my friends from other schools — just saying hey, good luck, try to do this, whatever — and then 15 or 20 minutes before, heading out to check into your event.”
He won the 800 in 1:58.40, nearly 2 seconds ahead of Kettle Falls freshman Easton Pomrankey, who’d posted the best preliminary time.
That left him with about three hours until the 3200. He had a medium-sized lunch at the track (“They have really good teriyaki chicken with rice, and I’d eaten that before, and it seemed to do a good job,” he said. “I wasn’t hungry or feeling heavy or anything”), stayed loose, and watched teammate Luke Wellander win the 110 hurdles, beating out Kalama’s Tucker Wetmore by .02 seconds (15.63).
He had every reason to be confident in the 3200; he had the best entry time by over 20 seconds.
“I just let the second-fastest guy lead for the first seven laps,” Apperson said. “And he was pretty tired at that point, so I just scooted on by him.”
But given the 80-degree heat, and the fact that it was Apperson’s fifth race, he knew a PR was probably out of the question.
“I was quite a ways off my best, but I was just going for the win in that situation,” he said.
That left the 4×400 relay — the final event of the championships. Apperson, the calculating runner, didn’t spend much of his down time celebrating his three gold medals.
“The three titles in individual events, they were just kind of expectations of mine, so you can’t really celebrate checking boxes off, that kind of thing,” he said. “They were expectations, so I would have been very disappointed if I would have lost.”
He was, however, pumped up for the relay race.
“We kind of hung out in the team tent, and put a lot of thought into the final race,” he said. “It’s so easy to get hyped up for it. It’s one last lap to your season, and there’s kind of a lot at stake at that point.”
Apperson, Blankenship, Ryan and Collins actually hadn’t had a ton of practice together, running the race together for the first time at the sub-district meet.
“They were good. They came together late at the end of the year, so it was fun to see them run,” Penman said. “We knew there were some kids with potential on the team, and it was nice to see them come together as a team and run really well and pull for each other.”
The quartet are all sophomores and juniors, and alternates Ashton Dowell and Jackson Humphrey are a junior and a freshman, respectively, meaning a repeat is certainly a possibility.
It was Apperson’s favorite medal of the meet.
“I mean, the greatest part about it is just thinking back to how everything went exactly as planned, or even better than planned,” Apperson said. “It was great to be able to share those memories with my teammates and everything. It’s a lot better being able to watch the videos, knowing how nervous you were before the race started.”
Running really isn’t all Apperson has going for himself. He’s been elected Adna High School’s ASB President for next year, he’s a near-straight-A student and, during the winter, he was the hot-shooting sixth-man on the Pirates’ third-in-state basketball team.
Even during basketball season, though, Penman would show up to school at 7 a.m. and see Apperson’s truck in the parking lot, its driver out on a 5- or 6-mile run before his first class.
“As far as motivation goes, none of us really have to do anything,” Penman said. “Just try and keep him on the road, and with a kid like that it’s pretty easily done.”
With all the boxes checked and the goals met for this year, motivation might be getting harder to come by for the kid with five state championships. But while Apperson may occasionally get worn out on the track, he never gets tired of doing his homework.
“I’ll definitely have a chance to get three, if not four, of the state 2B records next year. That’s already kind of the goal,” he said. “That definitely keeps me motivated. There’s always guys I’m trying to catch or keep up with, whether from different classifications or if they ran 5, 10 or 15 years ago.”
4 for 4
Austen Apperson’s State 2B Track Championship Events
1. Austen Apperson Adna 1:58.40
2. Easton Pomerankey Kettle Falls 2:00.25
3. Garrett McSheffrey NWC-Lacey 2:01.70
*2B record: 1:55.57 (Christian Laugen, St. George’s, 1996)
1. Austen Apperson Adna 4:17.31
2. Justin Roosma WWVA 4:19.34
3. Tyler Shea NWC-Colbert 4:26.19
*2B Record: 4:13.24 (Stephen Bottoms, Onalaska, 2013)
1. Austen Apperson Adna 9:42.00
2. Tyler Shea NWC-Colbert 9:48.69
3. Noah Phillips NWC-Lacey 9:59.03
*2B Record: 9:27.3 (Mark Lacey, Pomeroy, 1989)
1. Adna 3:28.48
2. St. George’s 3:28.79
3. Asotin 3:31.16
*2B Record: 3:24.41 (Tacoma Baptist, 2006)