Weatherford high school senior Austin Christmas knew he had to do all that he could to improve his running skills in his last year in high school. So he decided to join the local running club, and it made all the difference in the world.
Austin Christmas didn't wait until December to give himself a present.
The Weatherford High School senior distance runner realized time was running out for him to experience the postseason. So, the summer before his final year of high school, instead of taking a break from competing, he increased his competition load and rejoined Mach 1, the local summer track club.
"Last summer, when I went back to Mach 1, I decided it was time to be the best that I could be," Christmas said. "At the very end of my junior year of high school I started to take running more seriously than ever before. It had become a lot bigger than I thought."
Christmas ran with Mach 1 when he was much younger, but that was about a decade ago. At the urging of a pair of senior friends last year who ran with the club, he decided to return.
As a result, Christmas qualified for the 6A Region I Meet in cross country with a fourth-place finish in district. Now, in his final high school track season, he reached the 6A Region I Meet in both the 800-meter and 1600, which took place at UTA last weekend.
And, he recently signed a letter-of-intent to run for Abilene Christian University next season - both cross country and track.
"He knew it was time to get serious," said Lupe Torres, Mach 1 coach. "We talked about that. I told him we have a good program, and most of our kids who stick with it get scholarships."
Not only did Christmas run last summer, he qualified for the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics in both the 800 and 1600.
In the fall he finished fourth in District 3-6A in cross country. This spring he won the district championship in the 800 and was second at the Area 3/4-6A Meet. He was third in district in the 1600 and fourth at area.
And, for good measure, he ran the 3200 once this season in a meet in Granbury. He won.
"It helped greatly going back. It was difficult not having that summer break, but I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't," Christmas said.
"He has unlimited talent that hasn't really been tapped into yet," said Weatherford distance coach Ty Comstock. "Taking that into ACU, where the program is so incredible, who knows what he can accomplish?
"He made a smart decision. For a distance kid, it is a year-round thing."
But then, Comstock added that Christmas is really more than a distance runner, and that is a big part of why he's going to be competing in college.
"He has such good speed. A lot of times your distance kids don't have his speed. He can run the 800 to the 10K, and being able to use in both seasons is a big thing," Comstock said.
Christmas said given his choice, he prefers the 800 as his favorite race.
"It's the hardest race in track," he said. "It's a two-lap sprint, pretty much."
His least favorite? The 3200.
"That's the most boring race. It's 16 left turns," he said with a laugh. "In cross country you have scenery, and not all those left turns.
"But knowing I can run a 400 in 50 seconds and a 3200 in under 10 is a great feeling, and whatever they ask me to run in college I will."