Evan McClellon’s first time trial wasn’t anything special.
Armstrong sprints coach Scott Wieker estimated he’s worked with 40 or 50 athletes who beat McClellon’s first 200-meter-dash time. The sprinter, joining the team as a sophomore, then dropped 1.5 seconds in a week.
He didn’t stop there.
“It just kept coming down,” Wieker said.
Soon McClellon’s athleticism began to emerge as he learned how to race. He made it to the state meet as a sophomore. He finished as the state runner-up in the 100- and 200-meter dashes as a junior.
Now, as a senior, he’s out to own records. The Class 2A meet record and overall state record in the 200 is 20.92 seconds, set by Mankato East’s Jon Boyd in 2004. McClellon, who ran a 21.36 at the Hamline Elite meet on April 29, thinks he can get there by June.
“I’ll feel like I’ll have actually accomplished something if I beat that,” McClellon said. “[I’m] really close, I just have to keep pushing myself to get to that time.”
McClellon did not pursue track until 10th grade, recalling his mother telling him to “get off my butt.” He always played football in the fall, mainly as a running back, but as a freshman he didn’t do much all spring and summer. He gave running a try the following school year, thanks to his mother’s encouragement.
“I think this is going to get you somewhere,” he remembers her saying.
His speed, which made him a big-play back in football, didn’t show up on the stopwatch at that first time trial. He quickly learned there was a difference between running and racing.
“My first race … I didn’t know what to do, how to pace myself or anything,” McClellon said. “And then I got tired and thought, ‘I’m kind of getting sick of this.’ For my second meet I trained, I got better, and then I actually started winning.”
His training was stunted his sophomore year because of a hip injury that caused him to sit out practice for a month. The injury partly occurred because of sloppy technique, including his habit of quick-stopping after crossing the finish line and not gradually slowing down.
“We really trained him on a bike that year,” Armstrong coach Derek Fisher said.
McClellon was able to keep racing in meets and finished third in the 100 at the state meet. But his hip flared up before the 200 and he couldn’t run. He didn’t have any problems with it his junior year, and lost his two races at state by a combined 0.9 seconds.
That same year McClellon also picked up a rival in sections in Eden Prairie sprinter Denzel Brown. The two pushed each other training on the Park Flyers club team last summer and are expecting to see each other at the state meet on June 10-11 at Hamline.
“I probably wouldn’t have been training all year if I hadn’t met him that day,” said Brown, a junior. “I felt like I skipped a million levels to get to where I am now, just to get to his level.”
The training also paid off for McClellon on the football field. He had a breakout senior season and led the Falcons in rushing.
“I knew he had the speed and if we could get him the ball in the right spots, no one could catch him,” Armstrong football coach Jackson Negen said. “He was a big home-run hitter for us.”
McClellon then showed up for track season ready to go, and his times are already improving. If they drop just a little more, state records will be within reach.
“You think about how we train; we’re not training for that state record right now or for him to PR right now,” Fisher said. “He’s hitting [these times] because of what he’s done in the offseason, which makes it more attainable when we get to June.”
Benjamin Gotz is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.