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College track and field: Apperson experiences full healthy season for Broncos

Jun. 4—It was getting to the point where Austen Apperson just expected it to happen.

The pattern was clear: Return from Boise State University to be home in Adna for Christmas break, pick up the winter training and feel pain in his left knee.

This wasn't a one-year occurrence. It happened the majority of his collegiate career.

"Second time, it was frustrating," Apperson said. "Third time, I couldn't believe it. I do look at it as a sense of I'm willing to laugh about it."

When the fifth-year senior came back to Adna this winter, he figured the pattern would continue and another outdoor track and field season would be plagued by injuries.

The exact opposite happened.

And it resulted in perhaps the best season of Apperson's career to date.

The distance runner finished as the Mountain West runner-up in the 3,000-meter steeplechase this spring in a lifetime best of 8 minutes, 46.65 seconds.

"It was super rewarding," Apperson stated. "You run so many miles, do so many workouts. I wasn't sure what I was going to do last spring; stay or transfer for academic reasons. To come back to the school I really love and to set personal bests, it felt really, really good."

That time puts him as the fifth fastest in Boise State history and he still has one more year of eligibility remaining. That is, to this point, the only guarantee Apperson has for 2025.

He is trying to get a sixth indoor season on an appeal. It would be based on the injuries that forced him to miss the 2020-21 season.

Apperson stated this fifth season was his COVID year. He does not have a sixth year for cross country.

"My first four years, I was doing my undergrad civil engineering program," Apperson said. "In the MBA program this year, I was able to sleep more and not be under a lot of stress. That's as good of a guess as I have."

In talking with the coaches when Apperson was first recruited by the Broncos, there was a mutual understanding that the steeplechase would be an event Apperson thrived in.

He called it a "no-brainer."

"We have an athlete that competed in lots of different sports for trying the steeplechase," Apperson recalled from the conversation. "We were in agreement from the start."

The first time he did the event was the 2021 Mountain West outdoor championships and he turned in a ninth place finish. Then he finished 11th last season and dropped over 10 seconds in time to register second this spring.

It is the only top-three finish in his career to date.

"I had the confidence going in," Apperson said. "Race played out exactly how I wanted it."

The added benefit was being able to run at the NCAA West Preliminaries in Fayetteville, Arkansas with a chance to qualify for the NCAA championships.

Increased competition led to him finishing 38th and ending his season. Still, it provided a valuable learning experience.

"A lot of guys are tired, running on fumes. It becomes a mental game," Apperson said. "It (was) hot, humid and it (didn't) feel all that fun to run in."

Without question, the primary benefit in Apperson's mind was going the fall cross season to the last track meet in May without a hiccup.

Goals and expectations have been reset for 2025 with at bare minimum one more try at NCAAs.

"In my mind, I just have to stay healthy," Apperson said. "Along with the increased experience in these steeplechase races is quite valuable. You can knock off time just by being more confident."

While track will continue, Apperson's cross country career is over. His best finish at the Mountain West conference championships was 30th a season ago. Yet that isn't the moment he remembers the most.

Rather, it is the improvement of the team that made Apperson faster even if he didn't register in the scoring lineup.

"Our team has gotten more competitive with more depth," he said. "I've always found myself between our seventh and 12th position. I was 10th consistently, but I was better."

As a prep at Adna, Apperson was a dominant force and he maintains his top spot in the record books in most of the distance races. The latest chapter of his running career is nearing an end, but not without gratitude.

"If you told me as a sophomore in high school, waking up early, that would pay off 100 fold in the experiences in my five and six years at Boise State, two degrees and countless moments, I wouldn't have believed you," Apperson said.