Over the last 38 years, the Archie Roe Invitational track meet has consistently been a highlight of the track season. Depending on the year it can be the largest meet in the state, and one of the most competitive. The records set inside Legends Stadium since 1974 rank near the best in Montana history.
Despite a little wind and rain, the remarkable tradition shined once again last weekend. Glacier senior Lexy Boschee tied the meet record in the high jump set in 1992, clearing 5-foot-9. Flathead senior Tess Brenneman, in her final home meet, dominated like she has the last four years, winning three individual events and helping both relay teams win.
But the day’s outstanding event, as tradition would have it, turned out to be a distance race. Three of the best runners in the state, who are also good friends, met on the track for their final prep race against each other. It turned into one of the fastest 1,600 races in recent years. Columbia Falls senior Derrick Williams eked out a victory in 4:18.63, the top time statewide this season and better than the Class A state record of 4:19.43 set in 1995. Flathead junior Zach Perrin, who won the 3,200 earlier, finished in 4:20.29, the state’s second-fastest mark. Glacier junior Troy Fraley came in at 4:23.42.
The runners, along with Bigfork freshman Makena Morley, who missed Archie Roe to compete at Bloomsday in Spokane, represent the latest long-distance talent to emerge from the Flathead Valley.
Morley appears to be on her way to blazing past Class B distance records. Williams has already staked his claim as Columbia Falls’ fastest high school distance runner. The same goes for Fraley at Glacier.
And then there’s Perrin. Since winning a state title in the 3,200 as a freshman, Perrin has shown a potential for greatness. That fully materialized this April, when he ran the fastest 3,200 ever for a high schooler from Montana. Perrin clocked 8:55.24 at the Arcadia Invitational track meet in Los Angeles, Calif. It’s the eighth-fastest time in the nation this spring, according to MileSplit, an online national database of high school track and field results.
The Beacon caught up with Perrin last week to talk about running, motivation and the great Brave runners before him.
Beacon: What goes through your mind during races and practices?
Perrin: In races, I try and stay focused and run with a competitive spirit. Sometimes I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on me. I definitely feel like each race I’m expected to win. However, before every race I just pray and thank God for everything he has done for me, and ask that he help me to glorify him with my running, and all the anxiousness goes away.
In practice, it depends on the day. On hard days, I try and focus on completing the workout and following it as closely as possible. Coach J (Paul Jorgensen) has been around for a long time and definitely knows what he is doing, so I just try and run like he tells me to.
I love the easy days just because of the great runs I’m able to have with my teammates. Our distance team is really close this year and I can honestly say I’m good friends with everyone on the team. It’s great to unwind after the school day with a long easy run and be able to talk and laugh with such interesting and great people who I’m lucky to call teammates.
Beacon: How did you get started running? Was there an experience or event that pushed you to begin piling up the miles?
Perrin: My mom came to my brother and I one day and told us we were going to go do a “fun run.” We ran a one-mile race after one of the local 5K’s in Polson. After that run my mom told me she was going to do a 5K in a couple of weeks and asked me if I wanted to join her. I said yes. I ran a few times with her before the race and it was the worst. I couldn’t run far at all and my mom was ahead of me by a lot. It seemed as though it was easy for her. I was always a pretty stubborn kid and always wanted to do things my own way. Running just made me so angry because not only was I awful at it but also my mom was faster than me.
For some reason, I continued to run almost every day though. I’m not sure if it was because I wanted to prove to myself I could defeat the pain and discomfort of running or just that I wanted to defeat my mom. But eventually it got easier and easier and I started to enjoy the sport.
Beacon: What motivates you? Why do you like running and what do you get out of it?
Perrin: When I was introduced to running I was surrounded with a feeling of accomplishment. Running gives back a feeling that is hard to describe. It is one of the most fulfilling and addictive feelings one can experience. This, I believe, is what most people refer to as the “runner’s high.”
I’ve always loved that you get as much out of running as you put into it. Finally a sport where success was not dependent only on your genetic traits. I love that running is so progressive and that it gives me an opportunity to see how far I can physically push my body.
As far as motivation, there are several things that have motivated me to run. As a kid it was just trying to keep up with my parents on a run. As an eighth-grader I remember watching the state championship track meet in Kalispell and hoping that I’d make it to state the next year.
Currently, as far as training goes, I don’t really need motivation. I just love the idea of working toward something and the feeling hard work gives me. That’s good enough for me to get out the door each day.
When it comes to racing, it’s been the record book that motivates me. Flathead has such a strong distance running tradition and so many of our former distance runners hold the state or overall records in distance events, such as David Vidal, Seth Watkins and Kevin Clary. It’s so motivating to be able to run for a school with such a rich tradition and strive to be part of that legacy.
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