Austin Upmeyer isn’t alone anymore and he likes the company.
A 2013 University High graduate was one of the best sprinters in the state during his prep track and field career, placing second in the 400 meters at his final state Class 3A state meet and helping the 4-by-400 relay team to a seventh-place finish.
He left U-Hi owning the fastest 400 time in school history, breaking a 16-year-old record by circling the track in 48.86 seconds.
The 400 meters isn’t an everyday specialty for a sprinter. Unlike the 100 and 200 meters, which are all about speed, the 400 is a test of speed and will. More than a few describe their approach to the distance is to “run as fast as I can for 300 meters and then hang on for dear life for the final 100.” It’s as much a race against oxygen debt as it is against the clock.
“The challenge for me in the 400 in high school was that there wasn’t anyone there to push me to get faster and stronger,” Upmeyer said. “It was all about me pushing myself.”
Upmeyer reached the finals of the event in each of his final three years at U-Hi, but his breakthrough in the event was borne out of frustration.
“I wasn’t getting the kind of results I was looking for in my senior year,” he said. “I just decided I was going to go out and run as fast as I could the whole race. That worked.”
That’s remained his strategy, he said. Just run hard as long as you can.
The difference now, after a season on the Eastern Washington University track team, is that Upmeyer now has company.
“The biggest difference for me is that I now have guys pushing me hard every day in practice,” he said. “Especially the Green twins (Collin and Kramer, both White River graduates). That makes a huge difference.”
There are other major differences with college track, he said. There are two seasons in college, indoor and outdoor – making the sport a year-around undertaking between training and competition.
Moreover, coaches work with each athlete to customize a weight-training program designed to get the most out of each race.
“When you’re stronger, you can run harder longer,” he explained. “But I think the most important part of weight training is that it helps me be more explosive out of the blocks. We’re working to be stronger out of the blocks.”
Upmeyer turned in his fastest personal time during the indoor season, running 400 meters in 48.72, and ran a top time in the event of 49.03 during the outdoor season. He also ran a 22.52 time in the 200 meters indoor, just off his personal best time from high school of 22.30, and lowered that time to a personal best 22.14 during the outdoor season.
Upmeyer ran the 55-meter sprint in 6.8 seconds during the indoor season and ran the 100 meters in 11.29.
“The indoor season is interesting,” he said. “The biggest difference, besides being out of the elements, is that the corners are tighter. I like that.”
College track, he said, has been a positive experience.
“I had some pretty high expectations for myself when I got here,” he said. “So I haven’t really had that kind of breakthrough moment. I like the results I’m seeing from the weight room and I like the competition.”