Recent Newman graduate Austin Lavin has been training for months to prepare for the local Prairie Fire Half Marathon — and his dedication and determination paid off.
Lavin won the race, which took place May 6 in Wichita, Kansas, missing his personal goal by only eight seconds.
"It felt great — like I accomplished a big goal," said Lavin of his win. "I haven’t run a race in awhile, and I won this one by almost four minutes. My personal goal coming into the race was 1 hour, 11 minutes, which is a minute less than my finish time at last year's half-marathon."
Lavin grew up in Glendale, Arizona, and has been running since he was in fifth grade. An injury during junior football caused him to switch his sport to track. He said he couldn't do both sports at the same time, but since he broke his arm while playing football which prevented him from finishing his season, he made the move to cross-country.
He said he's pretty sure it was meant to be.
"I won my very first race ever with my arm in a cast. And from there, it's history."
Lavin held three championships while in middle school. As he aged, he continued running. He heard about Newman through his dad's friend.
"My dad's co-worker had a daughter who was already at Newman and on the cross-country team," explained Lavin. "I decided to visit Newman the January before I enrolled. I liked the campus because of its size, and I really liked that the class sizes were small, allowing me to have some real one-on-one time with the professors. I met the cross-country team, who were really helpful. It was a really good fit."
Lavin earned his associate's degree from Paradise Valley Community College before transferring to Newman as an applied mathematics major and said his experience at Newman couldn't have been a better one.
He said being a student-athlete throughout his collegiate years helped him gain great time management skills not to mention providing him the opportunity to form some solid friendships.
As for his academic experience, he said the biggest impact Newman leaves him with is the impression his professors left, especially Associate Professor of Mathematics John Vogt.
"He really taught me to think outside the box," said Lavin. "He taught me not to think normally, to do a lot more research and put more time into what I'm going to do. Coming to Newman was a big jump compared to other educational experiences I've had, and I had to put in more time studying. He (Vogt) played a huge part in my Newman academic career."
Athletically, Lavin's cross-country coach at Newman, Josh Schepis, provided him with some leadership experience during his senior year.
"Coach, during that last year, really wanted me to step out and take on a leadership role as a senior. He said I thrived in it, whether it was practice or helping get through a workout, it always was a positive experience."
Lavin said he wants to work in the life insurance business and is on his way to becoming an actuary, studying for a series of exams he'll need to take in order to do so. But before he does that, he's going to get in one more big race — the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.
"Physically, I run between 70 and 90 miles per week, depending on the time I have, and doing things such as staying hydrated and eating the right things. Mentally, considering this is my first marathon, I'm trying not to go in with too many expectations. That could be a disadvantage. I'm just going out there with an open mind and a goal to complete the distance. It will be a new barrier because the most I've ever run is 23 miles."