The booming cheers of the thousands of fans at Franklin Central High School roared as runners made their way out of the tunnel to the charcoal-colored track.
Seymour senior Daniel Hauersperger confidently strutted out of the dark tunnel and high-fived nearly 30 friends, coaches and alumni lined up on either side of the track, prior to taking his mark over the thunderous ovation.
The energy was emphatic — something special was about to take place.
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How could it not? The fastest milers from across Indiana, as well as some out-of-towners, had congregated.
Following the gun, Hauersperger went to work.
Hauersperger, a tenured distance runner, floated around second and third place for the first three laps, but was out-kicked in the final stretch as he crossed the finish line in 4:25: three seconds behind first.
While Hauersperger didn’t place as high as he would have dreamed, he did cut his mile time down a whopping 8 seconds in the race — an astronomical drop for any long-distance runner.
The “Flashes showcase,” a yearly event, at the Ray Skillman Franklin Township Athletic Center, featured the fastest runners in the Midwest this past weekend.
With a number of events one stands out above all others: the “Miracle Mile.”
Hauersperger was invited to participate because of his qualifying times in the indoor and early outdoor seasons. He is currently ranked in the top 25 in the state in the 3,200 run with a time of 9:37, and in the 1,600 run with a time of 4:31.
“It was a huge personal record for (Hauersperger),” Owls coach Randy Fife said. “That ‘Miracle Mile’ gets you fired up. Daniel really dropped a lot of time. I think that’s part of why he ran so well, as well as having such tough competition. The fastest milers in the state are there and it can bring out the best.”
Following a successful cross-country season last fall, highlighted by a first place finish at the Hoosier Hills Conference meet, Hauersperger went right into winter workouts in preparation for track.
For Hauersperger, everything is coming together at the right time.
“There’s a lot of different factors that have all started falling together,” Hauersperger said. “For one, the coaches have been having us do more core. The workouts have been a lot longer. At the same time, I have tried to get my diet and sleeping schedule better. Part of it is just getting faster as I reach my 20’s.”
The journey hasn’t been easy to this point. During his junior year, when Hauersperger battled a stress fracture in the fall and sprained ankle in spring.
“It feels good because the hard work he’s putting in is paying off,” coach Fife said. “(Hauersperger) was very dedicated over the winter months with his distance training. He really came into the season in good shape which helped, then we could focus on some speed work. I think he’s going to continue as the year goes on.”
During that time, Hauersperger focused on his mental approach to racing.
“In previous years I would start fast and try to drop everybody,” Hauersperger said. “Last year I was injured, but wasn’t able to because I was injured, so I learned how to kick. Now, I’m able to really combine the two.”
Five Seymour runners have competed in the “Miracle Mile” in the past, and Hauersperger’s time is second best at the event in school history.
Nolan Fife, who holds the current school record in the 1,600, ran near a 4:13 and some change at the state meet in 2010, on top of a strong finish at the invite.
Last week, Hauersperger was offered a spot on IUPUI’s cross-country team: his dream school and running program.
The final details will be ironed out in the coming weeks.
But that’s the future, and Hauersperger is concentrated on the now.
The state cut for the 1,600 should be between 4:20 to 4:25, perhaps a 4:28 if it’s a slow year, and it will take all he has to get into the field.
“We probably need to look at the second and third lap,” coach Fife said. “I don’t think he needs to be any faster on the first and last lap. I don’t want him to run that first lap too fast because it will take some strength out of him. I think the experience will help him when he needs it.”
Most of the top runners in the state will run around a 4:13 at the state meet.
“Down the road we will kind of have to decide what he does in tournament to try and get a chance to get to the state meet,” coach Fife said. “It’s a tough thing to figure out because you never know what the other runners are going to do: are they going to focus on the 1,600 or the 3,200. We’ve yet to figure out what is really his best: he’s very solid in both.
Coach Fife believes that Hauersperger’s influence to his other boys runners is immeasurable.
“It influences our younger runners,” Fife said. “When they see the progress that Daniel makes they think ‘I can do that.’ Especially the really young runner who know Daniel’s times as a freshman. Those really young runner are trying to beat Daniel’s freshman times. Having successful runners out in front of you in the program really pays dividends with motivation for the younger kids.”