Gavin Haut’s potential pursuit at the Jamestown High School track and field record book was put on hold this spring.
Having already logged a personal best in the cross country 5K last fall and tallying a pair of goals and six assists as a defenseman for the 16-win Blue Jay boys hockey team over the winter, the JHS junior is keeping the lost track and field season in perspective.
The 2020 high school state track and field meet would’ve taken place this Friday and Saturday at the MDU Resources Community Bowl in Bismarck. The meet, along with the North Dakota High School Activities Association’s entire spring sports calendar, was canceled May 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was obviously pretty sad, but it’s not the end of the world,” Haut said. “It could be worse than this. Just try to remember that there’s still future races and there’s more to life than track and field.”
Haut is attempting to run down Jeff Dick’s JHS record of 9 minutes, 10.98 seconds in the outdoor 3,200 meters. Haut ran a personal best 9:37.83 in the 3,200 at the Howard Wood Relays held last May in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and has cut more than 2:14 off his time since his freshman season.
Haut didn’t become a distance runner until spring 2018 and has competed in just a pair of cross country seasons after spending his freshman year on the football field. JHS boys track and field coach Ken Gardner recalls being able to successfully persuade a freshman Haut away from the throwing events to distance running two years ago.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘That’ll last two days,’” laughed Gardner, who also coaches Jamestown's cross country teams. “But it’s been fun to watch him. Just a great attitude -- dedicated -- and those times just keep dropping by chunks.
“If it went that way for everybody, everybody would be a distance runner.”
Haut put himself on the distance map last year as a sophomore, running to sixth-place finishes in both the 3,200 and the 1,600 at the Class A outdoor state meet in Bismarck. His personal best 5K of 15:33.20 came last November at the NXR Heartland Regional Championships in Sioux Falls, down from a 17:47.10 he ran in September 2018.
“I really think that my sophomore track season was my breakout season for running,” Haut said. “This year I was hoping to get around a 9:10 (in the 3,200). Somewhere around there.”
With roughly 27 seconds now separating Haut from Dick’s 36-year-old record set in 1984, Gardner said Haut’s improvements should become more gradual. But he added it wouldn’t be a shock if Haut someday got there, even as his improvements become measured more in fractions of seconds rather than full seconds or minutes.
“The thing about Gavin is, as coaches, we keep thinking he’s gonna plateau sometime,” Gardner said. “But his times keep dropping and dropping.
“So I think it would’ve been a challenge (this season), but I don’t think it’s just a pipe dream that he’d be able to do it, either.”
Haut’s personal best in the outdoor 1,600 is 4:27.51, over 13 seconds behind Sam Larson’s school-record 4:14.24 set in 2007. Larson’s time is within two seconds of the overall state record of 4:12.76 established at the state meet in 1987 by Williston’s Rob Heen.
“Sam’s 4:14 mile ... I think I’d have to have a pretty crazy race to pull that off,” Haut said. “I’m just trying to stay positive and keep training as hard as I can, and improve as much as I can, to be ready when we start running again.”
Jamestown High School sent 21 boys and girls to last year’s state track and field meet. Junior Meghan Ford is the defending Class A girls 1,600 and 3,200 champion, while Kameron Selvig and Anthonett Nabwe were looking to again reach the podium in the 300 hurdles and the shot put, respectively.
Selvig placed eighth in the 300 hurdles one year ago, while Nabwe nabbed seventh in the shot. Seniors Selvig, Jessica Walter, Jessica Paulson, Daven Russell and Zeb Willer all qualified for the state meet in 2019 and won’t get the chance to give it their all one last time.
“They missed out on all that,” Gardner said. “Whether it’s school or all their activities, you do feel for them.”
A spring without track and field has been eerie, to say the least, for the Blue Jays’ veteran coach.
“I’ve got alerts coming up on my phone that I put in way back in February for this week,” Gardner said. “I think it was this morning (Tuesday) by 10 a.m. or something, I had to declare which events kids were gonna be in if they’d qualified for more than four events. So, I got that alert this morning.
“I don’t sit and dwell on it all the time, but every once in a while there’s a little reminder.”