By Michael Kinney
The old saying goes “records are made to be broken.” But what it doesn’t explain is how hard it is to do it.
That is something high school senior Gabe Simonsen is starting to discover.
Simonsen, a long-distance runner in Oklahoma, is on the verge of closing out an accolade-filled prep career before heading off to Oklahoma State in the fall where he will compete in the collegiate ranks. In cross country and track and field he has accumulated several individual state titles and has been part of a championship team.
However, there are still a couple of highlights Simonsen wants to add to his resume before it’s all said and done. That includes breaking the state record in the 3,200-meter run.
The record is currently held by former Norman North standout Ben Barrett. He set the record in 2015 at the Oklahoma Meet of Champions.
The problem is Simonsen’s team was only scheduled to compete in a total of five total track meets in the regular season this year. After not even competing in the event in the first two meets in early March, that left him with very few opportunities to go after the record.
That is what was on Simonsen’s mind April 8th when Mustang competed in the COAC Conference Championships in Yukon. He headed into the event looking to break the Oklahoma record of 8:59.97.
Unfortunately for Simonsen, a few things were not in his favor on the day. Despite destroying the rest of the competition and winning the 3,200-meter conference title, he was 14 seconds off the time he was aiming to hit.
“I’m definitely not happy,” Simonsen said. “Very disappointed. I wanted to go under nine minutes. I think I ran a 9:14 (9:13.88). Definitely not even close to where I wanted to be.”
One of the biggest factors that were working against Simonsen on the day was the high winds that were consistently blowing in his face and against his body.
Another problem was the sheer lack of competition. Simonsen pulled away from the pack during the first two laps of the eight lap race. From that point on he was basically competing against himself and the clock. He finished 23 seconds ahead of Westmoore’s David Boulanger, who took second overall.
Simonsen was the back-to-back Gatorade Oklahoma Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year for a reason. Even though some of the top runners in the state were on the track that day, none could give him the needed push.
However, Simsonsen put the blame on his shoulders for not reaching his time.
“I went in a little tired,” Simonsen said. “I’ve been training really hard lately and it just kind of caught up with me. I just need to restart and get everything going again.”
Despite the setback, Simonsen hasn’t given up on his goal. Mustang has two more scheduled meets during the regular season before the postseason arrives.
“I just need to be more ready for the race. I didn’t taper a lot for this race,” Simonsen said. “I just need to stay healthy and keep training. I know I’m fit enough to do it. I just need a good day, good weather. It’s hard to do that in Oklahoma with all this wind. But I will definitely be going for it again.”
Simonsen came back on April 14 and shaved 8 seconds off his time and as he ran a 9:05 in less windy conditions. Hs next opportunity will be April 21 when he heads to the Edmond Memorial Invitational.
Simonsen could still break the record in the postseason at the regional or state meets, but he would like to accomplish the feat before then and keep his focus on winning titles in the 3200 and 1600 meter runs.
“That’s definitely the goal,” Simonsen said. “I just want to leave my mark before going into college. I know I can do it. I just need a good day and feel good going into the race.”
Copy & Photos by Michael Kinney Media