One of the NAIA’s most talented middle-distance runners, Jared Hixon, is finding his rhythm on the track once again. After a rough opening to his season, Hixon used a powerful kick to take the win in the 1500m last night, with a time of 3:51.24 at the Chico State Twilight Meet. The win builds on an improved outing at the San Francisco Distance Carnival for Hixon, where he anchored the Raiders winning DMR relay team with a 4:13 1600m leg.
Hixon is a 3-time All-American (1x cross-country, 2x track). He has career bests of 3:46 in the 1500m and 14:18 in the 5k. He ran those times during his redshirt campaign in the 2015 track season. It appeared the success of the previous season was going to continue into the fall for cross country, when he ran 24:18 in the 8k at the Stanford Invitational in September. That time remained one of the fastest times in the NAIA for the entire cross country season. But a bout of norovirus at the NAIA Championships in November rendered him too ill to compete. Hixon was devastated. “You put four years toward the one goal; your senior year and you don’t get to race in the National Meet. I don’t really know how to explain it. Felt like you’re in a dream. One of those bad race dreams you have before the race.”
Redemption was on his mind. Fast forward to February, and it’s indoor track at the Husky Invitational. Hixon is entered in the men’s mile (where he owns a 4:05 mile conversion personal best). He ran 4:16.33, placing 25th out of 27th. Something just wasn’t exactly clicking. “They say running is 90% mental, and it is 90% mental … I guess I like putting pressure on myself, which I shouldn’t do.” Hixon also attributed a changing of shoes as a contributing reason for his early-season struggles, calling it “the biggest mistake I’ve ever done.” The shoe change caused constant soreness in his calves, and eventually led to achilles tendinitis. Combined with the mental fatigue, that officially ended the indoor season for Hixon.
Even after some time off from racing and switching shoes, things still weren’t hitting on all cylinders like Hixon wanted. A lackluster performance (relative to previous times) in the 800m at the Hornet Invitational didn’t help his confidence. Hoping to find his niche, Hixon ran the 5k at San Francisco State Distance Carnival, a race where he has recorded a 14:18 lifetime best. 14:48.77 was the official time for Hixon, 30 seconds off his PB. Then came the 2nd day of the SF State meet, where he anchored the DMR team to victory. That’s where Hixon felt like something clicked.
Last night was when everything finally came together for Hixon. “Finally. Got the monkey off my back,” he said following the race. Running a tactically sound race, Hixon used his speed to overtake the lead with 150m to go and never looked back on his way to the victory.
Hixon wasn’t the only shining spot during a rainy night at the Twilight Meet; sprinter Julius Shellmire posted the second fastest 100m time of the day (10.84). Shellmire ran that during the preliminaries, and look poised to contend for the win, but was disqualified in the finals. Shellmire is enjoying a prosperous season, owning the top time in the CCC for the 100m (10.74) and the third fastest time for the 200m (22.12). Behind Shellmire, teammate Zac Hannan recorded the third fastest time in the 100m (10.88). The 4x400m relay consisting of Cedric Quartey, Joseph Doctson, Christian VanSise and Gary Fanelli placed 4th with a time of 3:23, which places them atop the CCC list.
The Lady Raider sprinters were not to be outdone by their peers. In the 100m, Rakayla Tyler and Margaret Hamman (#1 and #2 in the CCC for the 100m) ran 12.78 (12th place) and 12.63 respectively (7th). Multi-event athlete Loghan Sprauer turned in a successful effort, placing 5th in 200 (26.40), and 4th in the high jump (4-7 ¾).
Next up for Raider Track and Field is the Oregon Relays on April 15-16.