No shirt, no shoes, no problems for Hopkins standout distance runner Joe Klecker earlier this week in practice.
He sported a head band to manage his flowing brown hair against a strong, warm breeze. To strengthen his foot muscles, Klecker ran barefoot on the infield turf for a portion of training.
These final workouts prepared him for the Class 2A state track and field meet held Friday and Saturday at Hamline. Klecker, a senior, is the top seed in both distance races and aims to cement his prep legacy.
Earlier this spring, Klecker posted the nation’s fastest time (8 minutes, 50.1 seconds) in the 3,200-meter run at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays in South Dakota. His 1,600 time of 4:09.81 ranks first in the state.
Fast times begin with a fit body and Klecker is thrilled to be “100 percent.” Injuries cost him the state track meet as a sophomore and the state cross-country championships as a junior.
“Going into this year, I’ve had over a year of healthy running,” Klecker said. “So I feel like I can actually achieve my goals.”
A healthy Klecker finished third at the state cross-country meet last fall. He later qualified for the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore. About 100 miles south sits Eugene, a city known as “TrackTown USA.” The nickname inspired Hopkins boys’ coach Nick Lovas to dub his program “TrackTown MN.” Klecker, who contributed to the Royals’ first state track and field team title last June, holds the title “development and outreach specialist” in TrackTown MN’s fictional city hall, Lovas said.
“He is the perfect example of how to develop into a distance runner,” Lovas said. “If you followed him around like the HBO ‘Hard Knocks’ series and saw what he does the other 22 hours of the day he’s not training — the way he eats, rests and his focus — your jaw would drop.”
Genetics plays a role. Klecker’s father, Barney, holds the U.S. record for a 50-mile ultramarathon. His mother, Janis, ran the marathon at the 1992 Summer Olympics. Older siblings John and Mary were standouts at Hopkins. But Joe Klecker labored to earn a scholarship to Colorado.
The outreach specialist part of Klecker’s title get fulfilled Sunday evenings by working with kids ages 5 and under, including Lovas’s son, Jacob, at elementary school meets.
Klecker’s 3,200 mark has since fallen to ninth nationally but he remains the favorite in both distance events this weekend.
“It would be very meaningful for him to be able to run against Minnesota’s best and to say that he was the best athlete on the track,” Royals cross-country coach Mike Harris said. “His career is four of five years down the road. I would hope that this is just the start for that little nerd.”