Prep track: Elite Davis runners work to stay motivated
Kaysville • For Brad Nye, five seconds is a world of difference.
A 4:08 mile might not sound much faster than a 4:13 mile. But measured in how much harder his heart pounds, how much more his legs burn and how much more the Davis senior has to focus, it might as well be a different event altogether.
"You have to keep making up a little more than a second every lap," Nye says. "The oxygen debt just keeps growing, and the lactic acid builds up. I'm totally maxing out."
Those five seconds are the difference between being an elite high school runner and being the No. 1 high school miler in the country a distinction Nye now owns.
Last week at the Arcadia Invitational in California, Nye recorded the best outdoor mile time of any prep athlete in the country with a time of 4:08.80, besting his nearest competitor by only half a second.
BYU-bound Nye says he got a push from his competitors. Running against the nation's best draws adrenaline. Fighting through the pack brings its own thrill.
"I like to think at big meets â¦you're really running to win it all instead of get the times," he says. "If you race to win, the times take care of themselves."
But there are a limited number of events featuring runners who can race at Nye's level. Even when he runs 10 to 15 seconds slower than his best, Nye can usually top his in-state competition.
It's a similar situation for teammate Shea Martinez. The junior has raced the 800 meters dozens of times, but she's never lost a race in the state dating back to when she started running in junior high. Her time of 2:10.37 is good for fifth-best in the country, according to ESPN's track rankings.
But even when she wins, she doesn't always meet her goals.
"Especially this year, I've had to work at staying motivated," Martinez says. "I don't really care about where I finish. If I win but I run a 2:16, I know I have to work harder."
In a sport where individual performances mean so much, it can be hard for the Davis stars to push themselves to keep competing at a national level. Winning takes on less importance when the races that matter are the ones against their own best times.
Nye and Martinez, like a few other elite Utah runners, address the issue by focusing on specific goals during their races. On a particular event, coach Corbin Talley might have them concentrate on running with the pack, or staying strong through the middle, or finishing with power.
"They might only run for [personal records] about three times in the season," Talley says. "We try to take the long view of it. We want them to work on those specific things, then at state or this summer at nationals, they'll try to put it all together."
Nye and Martinez do get a high degree of personal attention, and Talley runs with both to help push them to their individual best. But the two are captains on the team, and both show their dedication to the Darts as a whole by earning points in other races that might not be their favorite events. Just because they're the fastest doesn't mean they get days or races off.
The payoff is that they'll keep progressing, keep getting faster and stronger. That five seconds won't seem as tough to shave off. And even when there's no one in front of them, they know they're not alone.
"My teammates really help push me," Martinez says. "We're all really close. And working with them definitely helps me stay focused."
Utah runners are among the national elite
These Utah athletes have cracked ESPN's top times in the nation:
Brad Nye, Davis • No. 1, Mile (4:08.80), No. 2, 1500 (3:53.31)
Shea Martinez, Davis • No. 5, 800 m (2:10.37)
Ashleigh Warner, Mountain View • No. 2, Mile (4:52.10), No. 4, 1500 (4:36.17)
Natalie Shields, East • No. 7, Mile (4:55.95), No. 9, 1500 (4:38.92)
Jamie Stokes, Ogden • No. 9, Mile (4:56.28)