Rory Linkletter knew he was a troublemaker. He concedes he craved attention.
Herriman distance track coach James Barnes wasn’t at all surprised when he started to receive calls from Linkletter’s teachers about the teen’s behavior in class and his slipping grades.
On the right track
Herriman sophomore Rory Linkletter was a troublemaker before joining the cross-country and track-and-field teams. The disciplined sport has transformed him into a varsity athlete and an honor-roll student.
In the past year, Linkletter has shaved over a minute off his 3200-meter personal best and is in a battle with friend and current school record holder Chuck Mitchell for a spot on the record board.
But Linkletter didn’t mind the labels. In fact, he preferred to be noticed for his antics than any real accomplishment.
"When I first met him, he was a pain in the butt," Barnes said with a laugh. "If there was a problem, he was in the middle of it. He was almost cut from the [cross-country] team because of it."
"I was a little kid with a big mouth," Linkletter said.
Then Linkletter decided he was a runner.
Though slight in stature — a growth spurt pushed him to 5-foot-6 over the summer — Linkletter had played many sports, including football, basketball and hockey, before lacing up his first pair of running shoes. At first, he joined the cross-country team as a way to better condition himself for other sports.
Before long, Linkletter found he’d fallen in love with the miles and, with the encouragement of his coach and distance teammates Connor Jones and Chuck Mitchell, he threw himself into the sport in hunt of a coveted varsity spot on Herriman’s fledgling cross-country team.
That’s when it clicked.
Linkletter realized that getting into trouble during class meant he wouldn’t be able to go to practice with his friends. If his grades fell, he wouldn’t be able to put in the grueling, starchy track workouts that would help him reach his lofty goals.
So, he decided he’d rather be noticed for his speed than his smart remarks.
"His attitude has seen a complete turnaround. He’s fun to be around now. He’s really a completely different kid," Barnes said.
So far, the results speak for themselves. Linkletter’s has earned his varsity spot and improved his 3200 meter time to 9 minutes, 52 seconds — over a minute off his previous personal best. His 1600 personal best of 4 minutes, 35 seconds is respectable and getting better. As just a sophomore, he’s developing into a state contender.
Now, that’s all the attention he needs.
"I don’t need to be that way anymore," he said. "I’ve accomplished things that speak for themselves now."
As Linkletter’s times continue to drop, his grades have soared. Mitchell, the current school record holder in the 3200 and the steeplechase, has seen a similar improvement in grades since he took up the sport.
"I can see him being one of the top runners in the state, if only because he wants it so much," Barnes said.
"Running just puts everything into focus. It attracts people that want to work hard, but it also makes you that way," Mitchell said. "I’ve seen that happen to Rory — he’s just more mature."
Linkletter still isn’t sure if he found the sport or the sport found him. Either way, the result is the same.
"It’s just another thing that will keep me focused and on the right track," he said.
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