Cross-country student gets creative during pandemic

Sep 24, 2020

Though many athletic activities have been negatively affected because of COVID-19, one first-time Newman student didn’t let that stop him from staying active.

Freshman Austin Fullerton was active in track as well as cross-country during high school. As the years went on, he became more skilled and more passionate about both fields of athletics. When it came to his senior year, he would learn that one of these opportunities would not be available to him.

“I was absolutely devastated when I learned that I would not get a chance to compete in track for my senior year,” said Fullerton. “After all my hard training throughout the winter, I was desperate to lace up the spikes for some races.”

His passion for running — and athletics in general — began when he was young, as it does for many athletes.

“I’ve always been obsessed with sports and exercising since I was very young. I was the kid in elementary PE class that would treat every game as if it were the Olympics. Cross-country wasn’t always my first sport, I primarily focused on soccer from ages 6 to 15. I fell in love with distance running as I found it to be the most difficult among any other sport. There is also a direct correlation between how much work you put in and how much better you get. I love that principle.”

As one might imagine, someone so invested in sports was incredibly disappointed after hearing his high school senior track season was canceled. In fact, Fullerton’s disappointment was so immense, it moved him to action.

“I created a group chat with the most elite runners in the Wichita area. We brainstormed ideas and ended up racing every week, alternating between the 1600 meter and 3200 meter races. Typically we had seven to 14 guys show up at each race. From Kapaun, Andover, Wichita East, Wichita North and more, we had a very diverse sample of athletes.”

Working with this hand-picked legion of fellow athletes in Wichita, Fullerton was determined to continue his track experience in spite of the pandemic.

“We all trained as if it was a regular track season, and almost all of us ran personal best times in these races. I personally dropped my 3200 meter time from 10:06 to 9:48 and my 1600 meter time from 4:32 to 4:27. I built many unexpected friendships, making this ‘Corona season’ more special than any other.”

Looking ahead to the next finish line, Fullerton is now excited to run with Newman athletes, as he has joined the cross-country team.

“The last two years of high school, I never had anyone to push me in practices, so it changes the game to have guys to train with who are much more experienced than I am. Metal sharpens metal. (I’m) excited to see how much better I can get training with these elite athletes.”