Owen Bard earns ticket to Junior Nationals

Written on Dec 7th, 2017 by , Category Marlene Farrell Blog, News

By Marlene Farrell

A lot of runners hang up their shoes in the winter, or at least pare their training back to a maintenance level. Younger runners wrapped up their cross country seasons weeks ago.

Not so for Owen Bard.

This wiry 14-year-old, who calls Leavenworth home after transplanting from Twisp two years ago, has ramped up his running

Owen Bard competes in Seattle.

in November and early December with a lofty goal in mind.

Owen just boarded a plane with his mom Heidi to race at USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championship in Tallahassee, Fla., this Saturday (Dec. 9).

Owen didn’t arrive at this point by a fluke. Rather, he pursued an intentional path of competition. He had an illustrious start with a perfect middle school cross country season in which he won every eighth grade boys’ race he attended.

Next came the USATF Inland Northwest Junior Olympic Championship in Yakima in early November. Owen came in second to his friend Landon Davies, who had finished a solid debut season as a high school freshman. Owen’s younger brother Jasper also earned a second-place title.

The level of competition took a huge step up at the USATF Region 13 Junior Olympic Championship, held at Woodland Park in Seattle, with a hundred qualified racers from Washington, Oregon and Idaho in each age category.

Owen had to race strategically from the gun. “I started in a box on one side, so I had to get a fast start if I wanted a good position. I ran in the lead pack of four throughout the race.” The four boys spread out, and Owen finished third, with a nine second gap on either side of him. The Regional course benefited his strength on hills. His finish time was 13:55 for 4km, fifteen seconds faster than his previous result at Yakima.

Kids often gravitate to team sports more than running because of the social aspects. Likewise, Owen’s athleticism began with soccer, which he’s played since he was 5. He didn’t start running for its own sake until he was in fifth grade. Owen said, “I used to be crazy about soccer. But I’m loving running more and more. They’re about the same now for me.”

“Running for soccer is different. It’s stop and start, though it still requires stamina.” That is particularly true for his position as attack and midfield on a select traveling team. He believes the two sports complement each other, building his strength, speed and agility in different ways.

Owen Bard

Owen prefers cross country to track, because he loves hills. But there’s more to it than that. “I love getting out in nature and being on trails. My favorite time of day to run is in the early mornings, which I do on the weekends.”

Owen can articulate as well as a veteran adult runner about the joys of running. “Running with others is fun. Especially with my dad. Sometimes we run in silence, but we also have good conversations.”

He gives some credit for his success to his dad, Eric, an accomplished trail runner with many victories under his belt. “I get good running genes from my dad.”

Owen, quiet, thoughtful but also quick to smile, comes to his practices ready to work and never complains. So it makes sense when he admits another asset. “I’m mentally tough. I can always keep going up the hills.”

His dad and his cross country coach, Eric Wulfman, helped formulate a plan to prepare Owen for Nationals. He’s been running every day after school, including specific speed workouts. “I practiced my race pace on the track. We did speed about every three days. Like 400’s a bit faster than race pace.”

What does Owen expect in Florida? “I know it will be a cool experience. I hope to do my best.” And when Owen returns, with snow on the roads and trails and a few months until spring, he said, “I’ll be chomping at the bit, but I guess I’ll take a little break and then start getting ready for track.”

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