Luke Houser, a 7th grade student at Timbercrest Jr. High, placed 11th out of 391 competitors in the 11-12 year old age group at the USATF cross country Jr. Olympics on December 14th in San Antonio, Texas. He achieved "All-American" status for the third time in his young career, placing in the top 25 of runners nationally.
Houser ran the 3k course with a personal record time of 10:25:27, with a one-mile split time of 5:13:11. His team, the Bellevue-based Cascade Striders, placed third in the nation.
The 12-year-old Woodinville resident knew going into the race that he needed to turn on the jets as soon as the starter’s pistol popped.
"There was like a huge starting line, so you had to get a good start in order to be out front," Houser said. "I got off to a pretty fast start ... The course wasn’t that interesting. It went out, had a little detour and then came back in. It was grassy and flat. (Texas) was not like here. It was drier, with more shrubs and stuff. It was a bit hotter at this time of year than compared to up here."
As the 391 boys worked their way through the course, Houser settled into position and prepared to make his move.
"I ran in around 20th place for most of the race," he said. "We were all running close to each other. And then I passed about six people in a sprint. I didn’t feel too tired, so I felt like I could go past a few more people."
Toward the end of the race, Houser felt cautiously optimistic.
"I wasn’t sure what place I was in, but since the course was so flat and straight I could see the golf cart that was leading the way, so I felt pretty good about it."
In the final tally, Houser finished 11th while the Striders captured third place.
"We went to SeaWorld for an awards ceremony," he said. "I was on the stage twice – for individual and for the team’s award. I felt pretty good."