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He’s running Down Under

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He’s running Down Under

Sierra High’s Josh Spooner competes in a cross-country race last fall.

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POSTED May 12, 2013 11:57 p.m.

By JAMES BURNS

The Bulletin

Josh Spooner has built a strong portfolio in the world of California high school distance running.

The Sierra High junior has all the necessary benchmarks: He’s qualified for the CIF State Cross Country Championship and recently placed second at the Valley Oak League Track and Field Championships in the 3,200 meter.

But even he acknowledges the bottom-line truth. When looking back on a cross country season that finished in Fresno among the state’s best, others covered the 5-kilometer course faster.

Spooner was part of a pack; another face in the crowd.

“There were so many good runners this year in cross country; the competition was tougher,” Spooner said. “I wasn’t even the top runner in our section.”

He has potential, though, and that’s what Down Under Sports saw in Spooner. The International Sports Specialist invites high school athletes from around the world to compete in basketball, cheer and dance, cross country, football, track and field, volleyball and wrestling.

The hand-selected athletes will spend 12 days abroad - seven days in Australia, two full days in Hawaii and three days traveling between countries. Spooner’s trip is set for July 2-July 13.

In Australia, he’ll train, sight see and compete in two tournaments. On Day 5 of his itinerary Spooner is set to run in the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, covering 5.7 kilometers. On Day 8, he’ll run in a cross country race.

“I’d like to see the world one day, but that’s not necessarily the main reason to go to Australia,” Spooner said. “The main reason is to run. ... My priority is to compete.”

Spooner was recruited for the adventure.

A representative with Down Under Sports told the Spooner family he was selected to represent California based on his current times and potential to go even faster and longer, courting him just as a college would.

When the invitation arrived by mail, Spooner, who hopes to run in college and eventually graduate into marathons, was immediately sold.

“I wanted to go. At first my parents were like, ‘I don’t know.’ They didn’t know if they wanted to pay the money. I told them this was once in a lifetime,” said Spooner, whose trip was made possible by donations from family, friends and contributions from Crystal Downs State Farm, Dr. Trueb Dentistry and Jack’s Pizza Cafe.

“I was going to meet other good runners and probably going to learn a lot from it.”

Mom and Dad eventually relented. Lori and Jim Spooner’s only child has never traveled this far from home. The extent of Spooner’s solo travels: California-based cross country camps, including a transformative experience at Humboldt State last summer.

 “His ultimate goal is to be a marathon runner. When he went to Humboldt, his final run was a 17-mile run through the redwood forest. The kid was so happy you could not believe it,” Lori Spooner said. “The longer the distance, the happier he is.”

His next trip will whisk him around the world, from Australia and to Hawaii and back to California. Spooner won’t compete in Hawaii. There he’ll satisfy his inner history buff, visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial.

“It will be tough to deal with being halfway around the world,” Spooner said, “but I think I’ll be able to deal with it.”

Spooner still has business to finish stateside.

The Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV-V meet begins on Tuesday at Sierra High. There he’ll compete for a berth at section Masters in the 3,200. The ultimate goal: To tap into that potential and reach the CIF State Track and Field Championship.

Once the high school season has drawn to a close, Spooner will turn his attention to his summer getaway.

“I was pretty surprised at first, but I’m excited that I got chosen,” Spooner said. “... This is about getting to run with people I’ve never run with before. This will be more about the experience.”



To contact James Burns, e-mail jburns@mantecabulletin.com.

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