Chapman's Modrow has battled through adversity to develop into one of the state's top distance runners
Saying running is a huge part of Aaron Modrow’s daily routine, would be a vast understatement.
As one of the top Class 4A distance runners for Chapman High school, he makes sure to get his mileage in each day. He’s dedicated to staying on top of his diet, getting his proper rest, anything to help him stay on top of his game.
But the multiple time state qualifier in track and cross country considered throwing in the towel, most recently after running a very poor 5-kilometer cross country race at the Rim Rock Farm High School Classic last fall in Lawrence.
His time of 18 minutes, 10 seconds on that September day was more than 60 seconds slower than his race the previous weekend and was his worst mark since he was a wide-eyed Irish freshman.
“I wanted to quit cross country, but my coach brought up what my life situation has been like,” said Modrow, referencing Forika McDougald, his United Track and Field Club coach. “I almost got kicked out of my home, I’ve had to work since I was 13. I’ve overcome far more challenging things than a bad race.”
Like many accomplished young distance runners, Modrow would get overly frustrated when he didn’t hit a goal time or finish where he thought he should, even if in the big picture it was a solid race.
On the first day of last year’s 4A state track meet, he sprinted to the front in his opening event, the 3,200 meters, and led for several laps before fading to seventh in a time of 9:59.05, his best mark of the year. He was visibly despondent on the Cessna Stadium infield afterward.
“I did not want to compete the second day at all,” he said. “I was in shambles. I was throwing fits, I was having a tantrum, running around saying, ‘this sucks, why am I here? I don’t deserve to be here.’ I was just down on myself.”
He did, however, regroup and the following day ran 4:31.93 and placed sixth in the 1,600. He credits his coaches and close friends for forcing him to focus on the positives.
Said Modrow, “I’ve had some bad races since then and I’ve lost my fair share of races, but my coaches say that I just need to close that chapter and put it behind me, I have another race to focus on, that I have another chance to redeem myself.”
He committed, really committed himself to becoming the best runner he could be a little more than a year ago and the hard work has paid off. After the state meet he jumped right into AAU track with his club team, turning in great race after great race, both indoor and outdoor.
“I realized that running was something I could do to get my education paid for,” he said, “because before that I don’t think I took it too seriously my freshman or sophomore years.
“And once I realized I had a shot at winning (AAU) national titles and getting my education paid for by running, that’s when I really started putting in the effort.
“I realized then, too, that my club coaches put in a lot of time and money into me, even when I had had negative things to say and felt like they were wasting their time on me, they were always there to believe in me.”
Modrow has always had a competitive zeal, but early in his schoolboy career, he says his “mental disconnect” was his downfall. Now he feels he’s overcome that bugaboo, which was running to please other people rather than running for his own enjoyment.
“I have to run for me, I have to run for God,” he said, “and that’s been the biggest difference this season.”
Modrow said his improvement the past two seasons came once he put his full faith into McDougald’s system. He began running far more in the off-season and cleaned up his diet.
A huge motivating factor for Modrow was securing the opportunity to run for a college team. He nailed that goal down last weekend when he signed a letter of intent with Southeast Missouri State University, a Division I school located in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
“I was able to get a full ride through my athletics and my academics, so I couldn’t pass up free and working towards an engineering degree,” he said. “I think signing and getting graduation out of the way took a big weight off my shoulders, so I’m as relaxed as I’ve ever been.”
Adding in a huge way to his positive vibe is the electric performance he turned in last Friday at the 4A Region 9 sweepstakes in Abilene. McDougald had penciled in some goal times for Modrow and he shared them with his runner the night before regionals.
Modrow looked at the numbers laid out for the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 races and told his coach he didn’t know if he could pull it off, plus he would be anchoring Chapman’s 4x800 relay.
“I was like, I don’t know, I might be tired and he said, ‘Aaron, I have trained you, I have seen what you can do in practice, you are capable of hitting all those numbers,’ ” Modrow said. “He said, ‘you’re getting ready to be a Division I athlete, do you think you’re going to be able to get by running only one good race to accomplish big things?’ “
All Modrow did was big things, turning in the fastest times in any of the 4A regionals in the 800 (2:01.62), 1,600 (4:34.53) and 3,200 (10:03.36). He anchored Chapman’s 3,200 relay that included Eli Winder, Brandon Colston and Shaun Blocker and punched out a 8:24.55, the quickest 4A time amongst the four regionals.
“I feel amazing right now,” he said, three sleeps before the start of this season’s state championships. “It comes back to me being capable of far more things than I give myself credit for. Man, it’s definitely mental and mental is everything, I’m realizing that now. I’m really excited to see what I can do.”