Each day after school, Trinity Lutheran freshman AJ Goecker doesn’t stop running for three to four hours.
After the final bell of the school day, Goecker laces-up his running shoes and meets with the cross-country team to run five to 7 miles.
Goecker then trades his sneakers for cleats and shinguards, heading straight to the soccer field for practice.
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On the field, Goecker is a blur — moving from one end of the field to the other in seconds.
The freshman’s speed is unrivaled, as he frustrates opposing team’s with his relentless pursuit of the ball.
Unlike most dual-sport athletes, Goecker’s primary sport is cross-country.
In the first cross-country meet of the season, at Bedford North Lawrence, Goecker garnered third place in 17:35.8.
More recently, Goecker cut his time down to 17:26.24, for 89th place, at the Eagle Classic in Nashville.
“He’s very talented and a hard worker,” Cougars cross-country coach Chris Crenshaw said. “He has a lot of self motivation. He goes out and paces himself well in practice every day. He has the drive to do well.”
Last year, in eighth grade, Goecker said he placed sixth among small schools and 14th with the larger schools at the state middle school cross-country race.
“Cross-country, and running in general, is his thing,” Crenshaw siad. “He wants to concentrate on running, and from a coaches perspective that’s what you want to see: someone who wants to run. In his case, and the other kids’ cases on the team, they like what the sport bring to them.”
Crenshaw said that he sometimes has to tell Goecker to slow down in practices because he’s always trying to push the pace, even in slower workouts.
“Overall, he’s a good kid with a desire to run,” Crenshaw said. “I don’t have to be on him about running. All I have to do is mention (running), and he will do it. he’s done great so far this season. In my two years (of coaching) we haven’t had anyone place as high as he has in meets. It’s good to see and I think it’s good for the program. Hopefully it will draw others in, and his love for running gets passed on to several other students.”
While Goecker’s running performances have translated to the high school level, he still has big goals.
“I would like to make it to semistate and do well there this season,” Goecker said. “I want to be one of the top placing freshman among the small schools.”
Goecker said that soccer and cross-country offer different running challenges.
“It’s a little different — with soccer, you’re usually sprinting and stopping,” he said. “During (soccer) practices, it’s kind of a change of pace. You use different muscles for the different sports.”
On the soccer pitch, Goecker has amassed four goals and a pair of assists for the Cougars.
“We’re worried that if we ever win the state tournament that he’s going to fail for illegal steroids,” Cougars coach Brandan Tabeling joked. “The kid just goes and goes and goes. He will run seven miles, come to soccer at 5 p.m. and be the one going the hardest in a team scrimmage. I don’t know if it’s pent-up, or if it’s just pure energy he has but he never stops going.”
Tabeling said that Goecker adds another dimension to his offense.
“I’ve not seen anyone that has the endurance, stamina and speed that AJ has after running miles,” Tabeling said. “We like to keep him outside on the wings and have them out-run the kids to the ball. Once he gets the ball, we try to have him to try to beat the defender with pure speed. He covers 90 percent of the field 90 percent of the game.”
Cougars senior teammate Luke Onken also runs cross-country, but his stamina isn’t seen on the field as he typically plays goalie.
Gocker said he’s played soccer since the second grade with the Seymour Cyclones travel team.
“My strength would be speed,” Goecker said of soccer. “I need to work on getting more touches and passing. I think I’ve been able to keep up with my speed, but some kids are a lot stronger.”
Goecker said he plans on playing sports throughout the entirety of the school year.
“It’s just really fun playing two sports right now,” Goecker said. “It keeps you in really good shape for other sports, too. I’m going to play basketball and track, also.”