Whenever Truman Affeldt competes in a cross country meet this season everything else seems to melt away.
The Black Hills High School senior knows he can only control the next 5,000 meters so he focuses solely on that. The next stride, and the pure exhilaration that comes with it, is the only thing that matters to him.
In the moment with a clear head, that’s Affeldt’s approach.
“He doesn’t put a lot of pressure on himself and he ends up doing pretty well,” said Black Hills coach Tom St. Clair about his top runner. “And I think that’s probably a good strategy for him. He just wants to run for the fun of it which is good.”
The only downside with all of this is his moments of serenity are getting shorter as his times get faster: Affeldt is one of the area’s top cross country runners this year.
“He’s really quiet about it. You’re not going to hear him talk too much about his times,” St. Clair said. “He’s running because running feels good to him and not because he wants to beat everybody and be champion. He just wants to run hard and see what he’s got.”
Which is a lot. A two-time state participant, Affeldt placed 20th at the 2A state championships in 2018 and he’s been even more impressive this season.
Affeldt opened the year by setting personal records at the 2-mile distance then proceeded to do the same at 2.23 and 3 miles, knocking approximately a minute from each time.
However, regardless of who he lines up against, Affeldt’s mindset is always the same.
“Ultimately, it’s you against yourself when you run,” Affeldt said. “There are other people that push you, but it’s you against yourself.”
So far in 2A Evergreen Conference races this season he’s been unbeatable at the 5,000-meter distance. He’s ran four times in conference meets and has posted four victories.
Credit Affeldt’s pressure-free running style for the success, a trait that took some time to fully surface.
“I think it’s always been there, but it’s definitely more in the front of my head this year. In years past I would be more naturally distracted when I ran,” Affeldt said. “This year I’m just going out there, clearing my head, doing the best I can without putting too much pressure on myself.”
According to St. Clair, it’s not as if Affeldt is 100 percent noncompetitive. It does rear itself once the race is on.
“When he starts racing then he wants to beat people,” St. Clair said. “Then he likes to do it. As we’ve moved along this season, he’s gotten more and more excited about it and then he starts looking at who he’s capable of beating and setting his goals.”
Tops on that list is reaching the podium at the state meet.
Affeldt is seeking his third consecutive trip to the 2A state championships on November 9 at the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
But first he must navigate through conference and district championship meets.
When he does race in the postseason, Affeldt looks to surpass his personal-best time of 16 minutes, 33.72 seconds which he ran at last year’s EvCo championships. Teammate Pearse Popchock, a senior on last year’s squad, won the race in 16:25.01. Affeldt was edged at the wire, finishing third behind runner-up Francisco Lima of W.F. West, who covered the distance in 16:33.51.
Affeldt and Lima, along with Tumwater senior Josh Newman, enter as the likely top three favorites heading into this year’s EvCo championship meet, which will take place on October 23 at Stan Hedwall Park in Chehalis.
Affeldt has yet to race against Newman, who set a PR of 16:00.8 at the Bill Kehoe South Sound Invite, this season. He has already squared off against Lima. The two standouts recently competed against each other during the Wolves’ home meet at Deschutes River Ranch. Affeldt was first among the 31 runners with a time of 17:23.72, while Lima collected the second-place finish in 17:48.72.
The top finishers at the conference championship will head to the 2A District IV championships at Lewis River Golf Course in Woodland on October 31.
Affeldt was fifth at last year’s district championships, posting the top mark among all non-senior participants.
“He’s really come along this year not just with his running, but in terms of leading the team and just being really helpful,” St. Clair said “Whenever we ask for help with anything he’s always right there. He’s really taken on that leadership role as a senior.”