WHITEHOUSE — As soon as the school year started, Whitehouse junior Troy Hayden hit the ground running.
After juggling long distance events with soccer, Hayden put more focus into pacing, hence racing.
The decision to focus on running continues to pay dividends. After reaching state in cross country, where he finished 14th, Hayden made it in the 1600 and 3200-meter runs.
The Whitehouse standout competes at the 4A state meet on Friday at Myers Stadium on the University of Texas at Austin campus.
“Last year it was (about) just going to state,” said Hayden said. “This year I was expecting to go. All my training was based around being the best at state.”
The soccer season cut into Hayden’s track preparation last year. The extra time afforded him more time, leading to better times on the track and high marks inside the classroom as well.
“This year I’ve had track offseason and no soccer,” said Hayden, who ranks 10th in his class with a grade-point average over 98. “I’ve been busy with homework but ran every day. I can get more practices in.”
After growing more than three inches, Hayden dropped nearly a quarter of a minute off his personal best in the mile, now at 4 minutes, 21 seconds. His best in the 3200 remained at 9:40.
At regionals, Hayden placed second in both distance events, getting him to the meet he planned to be at in mid-May.
The competition figures to get stiffer for Hayden, due to a fast venue and quicker runners. Hayden finished ninth at state as a sophomore with a time of 10:29.93.
“I remember it was warm,” said Hayden, who is also a member of the Whitehouse drum line and the Eagle Scouts. “It was pretty spectacular. We got to warm up in (Memorial) Stadium. It was fast, a hard race. I went out too fast and couldn’t stay with them.”
Hayden plans to pace himself better for the second go-round, even more in the two-mile race.
“I have to run my own race because I’m used to going out at a certain pace,” said Hayden, whose father Danny Hayden was also a distance runner. “I might start out at the end of the pack and work my way up toward the front at the end of the race the best I can.”
Familiar names dot both events. Three of the runners qualified in both races for the second straight year: Friendswood’s Ryan Teel, Frisco Liberty’s Brady Turnbull and Kingwood Park’s Michael Lindberg.
Turnbull boasts the top qualifying marks in the 1600 (4:17.16) and 3200 (9:13.62) after taking sixth in each event a year ago. Tell claims the third-best mark in the 3200 after taking fifth in the same race last year, and checks in third in the 1600, an event he left with bronze in 2011.
Hayden holds the eighth-fastest entry mark in the 1600 (4:25.59) and ninth-best in the 3200 (9:43.11).
“Hopefully I’ll break 4:20 (in the 1600) and get down toward 9:30 (in the 3200),” said Hayden, who trains with Bishop Gorman’s Grady Frazier. “Hopefully it’s not too hot. I like the cold better.”
Whitehouse head track coach Don Garlitz gave Hayden two thumbs up in the preparation department.
“Troy made a personal commitment. Since Dec. 2 he’s only taken two days off,” Garlitz said. “Even the day after the regional track meet he ran 10 miles. He’s dedicated and has paid the price and is reaping the benefits of his hard work.”
Squaring off against Turnbull in both events at regionals, coupled with last year’s experience at state, Garlitz likes Hayden’s odds. Hayden competes in the 3200 at 9 a.m. on Friday morning and in the 1600 at 8:55 p.m.
“I think he’s got a great chance,” Garlitz said. “In the two mile he’s only been pushed once — at regionals. He ran a great race for half (the distance).
“In the mile, I think he has a better chance. He’s very competitive, no matter if it’s in the classroom or on the track. He’s been a pleasure to work with. (The good thing is) he gets to come back another year.”