Successful distance runners embrace hard work. They run mile after mile hoping to shave seconds from their time and require an abundance of mental toughness to win. Robinson senior Johen Deleon understands what it takes to succeed as a distance runner. He qualified for the 4A state track meet in the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter races and is also a cross-country athlete.
“I’ve seen people have great talent and waste it,” Deleon said. “God blessed me to be able to run like I can so I have to do the best I can. The goal of the season is to win the state gold medal, so being at the top is what drives me.”
An easy day to Deleon is running eight miles. The Robinson track team often runs laps around the baseball field to train. They start running when baseball practice starts and are often still running when it ends.
“The baseball coach thinks we’re crazy,” Deleon said. “But I tell them, `you guys think training is hard, but losing is pretty tough.’”
But Deleon knows it takes more than running laps to win state. He qualified for the state meet last year but wasn’t mentally prepared for the meet.
“I went in and I was nervous,” Deleon said. “That atmosphere was new to me and I didn’t perform like I could have. I won regionals in the mile and I was top seat going in but I just couldn’t get anything going.”
Deleon learned from that experience and doesn’t think it will be a problem this year. He decided track was his future and gave up soccer in order to focus on his running. The decision paid off and he earned a track scholarship to Tarleton State University.
“I thought about my future, and what I wanted from college,” Deleon said. “Track was just the better decision. My training was specifically on running and it just turned out pretty good.
“I go into every race thinking nothing is guaranteed, so I just try to win,” he said. “Because if you go out there and think you have it in the bag, something is going to happen. So much can happen in a distance race. And once your confidence is gone, you’re done.”
Deleon said his coach, Jeff Nuner, believed in him from the start and was the linchpin of his development. He remembers the moment his coach gave him the confidence he needed to succeed.
“It was last year at the area track meet mile and there were like 250 meters left,” Deleon said. “I heard coach’s voice telling me I could win, and I did. It gave me a confidence boost and I started believing I could win.”
Deleon’s qualifying times were 4 minutes, 25.8 seconds in the 1600-meter and 9 minutes, 55.92 seconds 3,200-meter. Both times were nearly five seconds faster than the second place runner, but Deleon’s can do better. He ran the 3200 in 9 minutes 26 seconds, his personal best, at the Woodlands track meet earlier this season. He believes he can run that again and bring two gold medals back home.
“That would be the perfect way to go out as a senior,” Deleon said. “I think I’m way more prepared than last year. I think I’m a little more relaxed, focused and fit than I was last year. This year could be the year that I bring two gold medals back to the 254.”