As Austin Epstein prepared to head to soccer practice Monday afternoon, he took a few moments to reflect on what has been a stellar high school cross country career.
Steadily improving throughout the season, particularly over the final few weeks of it, Navarre’s top runner saved his best performance for last, taking 23rd overall at the state cross country meet Saturday morning in Tallahassee with a personal-best time of 16:32.07.
It was his second consecutive trip to the state meet and the difference between the two years is like night and day.
Epstein took 60th at state as a junior, clocking in with a time of 17:09.55, but was a much different runner this time around on the very same course at Apalachee Regional Park.
“I ended up being like 37 seconds off last year and 37 places better than last year,” Epstein said. “It’s a little weird, but it’s pretty cool. It doesn’t feel real yet. It doesn’t feel like it was my last race at all.”
Epstein was in no shape to run in early October, battling a heel injury that forced him to miss the county meet in Milton.
He recovered quickly and never looked back, winning his first district championship with a time of 16:41.46. A week later, he finished the regional race in a time of 16:40.80 to take 14th and punch his ticket to state.
As he prepared to run this past weekend on a cool November morning, Epstein felt confident and ready to roll.
“I think with it being the same course as last year it gave me an advantage,” Epstein said. “The main obstacle is the hill that they tout as the wall. It didn’t seem as big as last year, and maybe that has to do with increasing my endurance or my size. I was able to get up it a lot easier, but they definitely call it the wall for a reason.”
Read more in the Nov. 10 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.