As Timpview senior runner Aidan Troutner prepared for his first national competition at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon, on Dec. 2, he had a secret weapon.
Thunderbird cross country teammates Ammon Brock and Carter Norton had made the drive from Utah to be there for their friend.
“Having them drive up was amazing,” Troutner said last week. “It made the race feel more like a normal race I have during the season because they warmed up with me there at the race. It kept that continuity that I had had throughout the season. They helped calm me and I was super happy that I was there.”
Meanwhile, back in Provo, the rest of the Timpview cross country team planned to support Troutner in their own way.
“They live-streamed it, so we watched it as a team at one of the kids’ house here,” Thunderbird head coach Jaimie Ribera said. “It got super-loud. We had all of the boys varsity and the girls varsity there. Everyone was yelling and jumping up and down. I think everyone in the whole room cried after he won.”
Troutner ended up surging into the lead as he won the national title, finishing the course in a time of 15:03.9.
Troutner hadn’t been highly touted like some of the other runners in the race but said he liked flying under the radar.
“I liked it because there wasn’t a target on my back,” he said. “All I had to do was run my race and I knew I could give everyone a run for their money. It made it a lot easier for me. I felt no matter how the race went, I felt like I could put myself in contention to win.”
Ribera said Timpview had complete confidence in Troutner’s ability to go all the way.
“Our perspective inside the team was different than the outside perspective because we had seen him race all season,” Ribera said. “We had a lot more confidence in him and his ability to win a national championship. Before he left, we all told him that when he came back, he would be a national champ.”
Troutner said that he had been working for the opportunity for a long time.
“Last year as a junior, I ran at the Southwest regionals but I barely missed it by one spot,” Troutner said. “I didn’t make it to nationals. Then two weeks later I went to Foot Locker regionals and I kind of choked there, so I wasn’t about to go to Foot Locker nationals either. This year I knew I was going to make it, but it was redemption. I wanted to make sure I performed to the best of my abilities to make up for that lost time.”
He said that he had used the goal as motivation.
“It was a thought in my mind every single day,” Troutner said. “I was definitely more aggressive with my training and how hard I was working. I made sure I didn’t take any days off except for Sundays, putting in the necessary work so the results could speak for themselves.”
He knew that it wasn’t going to be easy and as the race got under way, he ran into an early setback.
“The course is pretty tough because it was super muddy and really wet out there,” Troutner said. “Because of the mud, I slipped at the very beginning. I got right back up and sprinted to get back to the front. I had to weave through a lot of people but there was a large pack us for the first 2 miles.”
Back in Provo, his teammates were hanging on every move as they watched the streaming video.
“Aidan played it really smart,” Ribera said. “In the last few minutes of the race, he started make his move and the four of them started to pull away.”
As the leaders pulled away, Troutner remained lurking from just behind.
“The pack of four of us broke away, but I kind of hung a meter or two back for the next 1,000 meters,” Troutner said. “I started to kick with 600 meters left and then at the top of the two hills with about 200 meters left, I was even with them. Then I kicked past them to win.”
He said that moment was one he will never forget.
“When I first started to kick, I realized I was reeling them in really fast,” Troutner said. “I was covering a lot of ground over a short amount of time. I realized they were hurting pretty bad and that I had an amazing shot to win. It was an incredible feeling to know in the last 50-100 meters that I was going to take the title.”
The Thunderbirds were going crazy as they watched their friend win the national title. Troutner said that, although he didn’t see the video until a couple of days later, he was thrilled with the reaction.
“I knew that they were going to have a watch party because they had talked about it,” Troutner said. “I didn’t see the video they took of them watching until a couple of days later. It was awesome to know how much they cared about it, seeing how much they were freaking out about it. They were freaking out a lot more than I was personally. It’s amazing to have that support and have them care about your running that much.”
Ribera said she enjoyed seeing Troutner win the title.
“He was really happy with the way things went and so I was really happy for him,” Ribera said. “My first year coaching the boys was his freshman year, so we’ve been together his four years of high school. He came in already a great runner and a true lover of distant running. He took a lot of the boys under his wing and taught them that love.”