Thomas Boyden of Skyline High ran the second-best 1,600-meter race of his life the day before springs sports were shut down in Utah due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was March 13 and he had to drive all the way to St. George for an invitational at Snow Canyon High. It was one of the only places still taking distance runners for the event.

Boyden ran the race and beat the state record with his time of 4 minutes, 5.16 seconds. At the time, it was his personal best.

But a couple months later, just as restrictions began to lift all over the country, Boyden ran a race in California with just seven other competitors and beat his previous time. He finished third with a 4:04.50, a new personal best.

Boyden’s performances in those two races — plus another personal best performance in the 3,200 race at the Snow Canyon event — proved enough to net him the Gatorade Utah Boys’ Track and Field Player of the Year award. He found out on a recent rainy morning before meeting a few of his friends for a run.

“It was a good start to the day,” Boyden said.

Boyden, a two-time Foot Locker All-American in cross country, is going to run at Stanford University. A Bay Area native, he said Stanford’s combination of academic and athletic prowess made it the right fit for him.

Boyden ran track and cross country for four years at Skyline. But when he first started at the school, his physical features didn’t exactly portend a successful career there.

“When he came in to the program as a freshman, he literally looked like he was in fifth grade,” Skyline track and field coach Tom Porter said. “But you could tell he was a competitor right from the very beginning. Just someone who wanted to run as hard as he could and do well.”

Porter said between track and cross country seasons during Boyden’s sophomore year, the soon-to-be phenom grew about four or five inches.

“His running just exploded,” Porter said.

Boyden didn’t do much other than run during the shutdown, and even then it was more difficult to find places where he could do so. Still, he ended up performing well.

Boyden is the first boys’ track and field athlete to win the Gatorade award for Skyline. He said he will always remember the bond he created with his teammates and what he learned about himself during his high school career.

“I got to figure out why I run and kind of how to get better,” Boyden said. “It was all a really long process, but it’s kind of like a journey and it was really fun. [I] just got to meet a bunch of really cool people and have a great coach. It just a really fun community to be a part of.”