Austen Apperson isn’t just fast for the 2B classification. The Adna High School junior is just plain fast period.
Usually when a cross country season hits the midway point there’s a handful of runners challenging for the state’s top time in their classification.
“Typically, you will see around four or five runners who are all within striking distance of that number one slot,” Adna cross country coach Karl VonBargen said. “Normally they’re all separated by only a couple of seconds.”
Just how dominant has Apperson been in his division this year?
His seasonal-best time of 15 minutes, 47 seconds is more than 21 seconds faster than the second fastest time among 2B runners, and a full minute or more better than everyone ranked seventh and below on the list.
Apperson’s blur of a time occurred during his victory at the Fast and Flat Invite at Cascade Peaks. Although proud of the accomplishment, Apperson is quick to add an asterisk.
“It’s actually a really flat course and produces some very fast times,” an extremely modest Apperson said as he downplayed the feat. “So, you have to take that time with a grain of salt.”
That being said, Apperson still bettered the next finisher by nearly 90 seconds in the race.
Even if you throw that race out, his resume would be just as impressive.
Apperson opened the season by winning his first five meets at the 5,000-meter distance, but it is the one meet he didn’t win that he is most proud of.
Apperson finished 10th at the prestigious Nike Hole In The Wall Invitational on October 7 at Lakewood High School in Arlington. Now in it’s 33rd year, the event draws some of the state’s best runners from every classification.
Competing against athletes from much larger schools, Apperson crossed the wire in a blistering 15:50.9.
“I think that time means more to me than the (Fast and Flat time),” Apperson said. “You’re competing against runners from bigger programs. That event was on my mind for months.”
One thing Apperson was able to eliminate from his thoughts this season was football.
In rare occurrence, Apperson not only ran cross country his first two years of high school, he also played on the Pirates football team at the same time.
One season – two entirely different sports.
Remarkably, he finished fourth at the state cross country meet in 2016 while at the same time putting on the pads.
“Growing up football was always my favorite sport,” Apperson said. “I really enjoyed track in middle school and when I got to high school, coach (VonBargen) suggested trying cross country because he thought it was something I would be successful at. I wasn’t ready to give up football yet. I was fortunate they let me do both.”
Odds are you would be hard pressed to find anyone else pulling the athletic double duty Apperson was for the past two seasons. Even if you did locate another individual, it is unlikely they were ranked among the state’s elite at cross country.
For two years VonBargen wondered what it would be like if his star runner focused solely on cross country.
Apperson actually began entertaining the thought following last year’s track season where he finished third in the 1,600 and second in the 3,200 at state.
“I was primarily a JV player last year (on football) so I would play a game on Mondays and then run in a cross country meet on Tuesdays,” Apperson said. “The more success I started having in cross country and then in track, the more I was thinking about not playing football and just concentrating on running. I still love football, but it ended up not being that hard of a decision.”
VonBargen now has his answer.
No longer competing in a cross country meet a day after being battered and bruised while playing a contact sport – with no downtime to heal up – Apperson, whose top seasonal time is 27th among all runners in the state regardless of classification, has emerged as the one to beat this year in the 2B ranks.
“Running has really turned into my passion,” Apperson said. “The goal the rest of the season is always to get better and improve your time. On paper we should do very well (at state), but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”
Austen will attempt to defend his 2B Central League title at the league championship meet on October 19 in Mossyrock. The District IV 2B Championship, a race Apperson finished second in last year, will be held at Onalaska High School on October 28, while the 1B/2B State meet is on November 4 at Sun Willows Golf Couse in Paco.