Kolton McCrossen couldn’t take his eyes off the medal he earned for finishing in third place in the 400-meter run in last Friday’s Central Coast Section Championships at Gilroy High. For a good three to four minutes, McCrossen held the medal in his hands, commenting on the weight of it—”I can’t believe how heavy it is,” he said—with one of his coaches, Omari Carr, beside him.
McCrossen, a Live Oak High junior, ran the best race in the biggest race of his career—so far, at least—to qualify for the CIF State Meet on Friday at Buchanan High in Clovis. He clocked a personal-record (PR) time of 48.64 seconds, a nice improvement off his previous PR of 48.84 he set six days prior in the CCS Semifinals.
“There are no words to describe how I’m feeling,” he said. “No words. I absolutely pushed it this season. I worked everyday pushing myself until I was puking, until I was on the ground gasping for air. Every moment counted.”
Did it ever. At the start of the season, McCrossen talked about having a goal to make state at the start of the season. But a lot of young athletes talk and fail to back it up. McCrossen not only backed it up, he did it in impressive fashion. The race played out just the way most of McCrossen’s races end up going—with him in fourth or fifth position entering the final curve and having a superior kick in the final 100 to 150 meters.
This was no different, as McCrossen held off the fourth-place finisher by a comfortable margin to earn his trip to state. McCrossen was in Lane 2—not exactly the ideal lane position—and by the time he came off the first turn to the back straightaway, eventual winner Omodiaogbe Oboh of Santa Teresa was already a good 20 to 25 meters ahead of him.
“I came around the turn into the home straightaway and saw him flying away, and I’m like, ‘You’re kidding,'” he said. “Then as I was coming around the final turn, I started grinding and pumping my arms and said, ‘This is it man, this is to go to state.’ On the final straightaway I stuck to my form and finished strong.”
McCrossen had a strong warm-up and felt great as he got onto the blocks. He knew a PR was within reach, and as the gun went off, he got off to a good start. However, McCrossen said the back straightaway—from around the 100 meter to 200 meter mark—wasn’t exactly his best.
“I definitely can improve on the backstretch,” he said. “That’s why I know I can go faster because I let that get away from me today. Going into state I want to work on my form and stay smooth.”
McCrossen said Carr has helped push him to a higher level.
“From tapering to pushing me in workouts, he’s given me good steps for success,” McCrossen said. “He’s helped me build my lactate (threshold), and motivated me to go beyond what I think I can do. Every time I finish one of my workouts, he says, ‘You’re not tired, champions don’t get tired.’ Then I go back for another repeat.”
McCrossen’s meteoric rise—this is only his second full year of competing in the 400—shows no signs of ending soon, as long as he stays humble and keeps on working hard. To wit: A year ago, McCrossen was running the in the mid-50 second range for most of the season until he peaked at the end and started producing multiple times in the low 50 range, capped by a 50.86 mark in the CCS Semifinals that was good enough for 11th place.
It wasn’t a fluke. McCrossen has followed that up with a spectacular junior season, highlighted by seven wins in the 400 and no finish outside the top four in any meet. The fact that Oboh competes in the same league as he does motivates McCrossen in a variety of ways.
“Omo is insane,” McCrossen said. “He is amazing. I literally learn from that guy in meets seeing what I can improve on. Definitely the arm (carry and motion), I learn about that from him. The guy has absolutely motivated me as I push myself to beat that guy everyday. Maybe next year.”