After a quick grab at his neon orange and yellow shoes and a massage on the inside of his knees, Whitehouse senior Troy Hayden took his position in lane 1, inhaled and took off onto the first curve.
Dodging football players getting a quick water drink, Hayden covered two laps in 2 minutes, 22 seconds. His breaths came in quick, but controlled gasps from the sudden increase of pace.
With only 200 meters’ rest, Hayden took in another deep breath, clicked his watch and sprang into the next interval of the workout.
On the warm-up, he went through all of the six-week tests he had to take. Even during his short rest during the workout, he talked about having to miss the Whitehouse and John Tyler football game.
The state meet was only days away, but Hayden gave no sign of being overly excited or worried about a chance to race for an individual state title.
“He is so coachable, he will train himself as hard as you let him,” Hayden’s coach, Warren Brown, said.
Brown, a national qualifier for UT Tyler in 2008, met Hayden during an adventure camp in Maine. Before his junior track season, Hayden approached Brown to be his personal coach.
“I would have appreciated having someone who was experienced and successful working with me, so I thought it would be great to give Troy that opportunity,” Brown said.
Hayden began training with Brown and Bishop Gorman’s Grady Frazier.
Frazier said the partnership helped both of them develop as runners. They were able to push each other on hard workouts and keep each other company during the long runs.
Brown’s approach with training the duo was a cliché philosophy of being slightly undertrained instead of pushing the limit and risk injury from overtraining.
“It has been shown that so many people have made remarkable progress doing a little less than the typical school of thought,” Brown said.
Frazier is continuing his running career at Adams State University in Anamosa, Colo. He is redshirting his freshman season.
With Frazier gone and Brown working and living in Austin, Hayden had to take on the fall training schedule solo.
Another conflict was Hayden’s active involvement in the school’s band.
“I knew it would take away from his running if he did band because band is very time consuming,” Brown said.
Brown told Hayden to consider not playing, but didn’t want an answer for a week so the senior could weigh the possibilities.
Hayden told Brown he enjoyed band and the instructors were encouraging role models.
“We made some compromises on missing some stuff so he could make it to meets,” Brown said. “He was organized enough to make it all work.”
Hayden’s band instructor said having him in the band is critical because he is such a great student leader.
“He is always doing what he is supposed to be and doing it well,” Denny Whitley said.
Whitley said the Whitehouse coaching staff has always done a great job scheduling with athletes so they can also be involved in the band.
It has paid off for the band as well. For 22 straight years the band has earned an “I” rating at the state marching contest.
Hayden is a squad leader in the percussion session and a senior leader on the school’s drum line.
“He is so diligent, almost like a task machine,” Brown said. “It just shows how well his parents have raised him and how straight his head is on his shoulders.”
Brown said seeing someone so successful and so hard working was a motivation for him as a coach.
From the drum line to the starting line at the state meet, Hayden will face off against the defending state champion in Class 4A.
Ryan Teel of Friendswood broke the tape for the state title last season in 15:42 for the 5K course.
On paper, Brown said the advantage is with Teel, but said there are so many factors that could happen on race day.
The afternoon start time and temperature will not be conducive to fast times, so positioning and strategy will be critical.
“For him to make the best of his senior year, he needs to be happy and enjoying it,” Brown said. “It’s not about the end result, it is about the journey. As long as you have done everything you were supposed to, you will get the results.”
His old training partner is expecting big things out of Hayden at state.
“I feel like he is ready for a breakthrough at state,” Frazier said. “He is a hard worker and he has won most of his races leading up to it.”
The 4A boys’ race begins at 1 p.m. in Round Rock at Old Settlers Park.