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Eastern Oregon University’s Isaac Updike set a school record in the steeplechase with a time of 8:56.16. (Observer file photo)
Isaac Updike ran into the Eastern Oregon University record books en route to capturing a national title at the NAIA outdoor track and field championships in Marion, Ind., Saturday.
The junior set a school record with his time of 8 minutes, 55.16 seconds in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, helping the Mountaineers finish 11th as a team.
“It feels good,” Updike said. “Nothing has really changed.”
Updike’s rise to NAIA champion isn’t the typical one, as he ran track sparingly in high school.
“What a performance for a fine young man who only ran two track meets in high school, and those as a sophomore,” EOU head track and field coach Ben Welch said.
Updike entered the championships with the fastest time in the steeplechase in all of NAIA. He had mixed feelings on whether that helped him perform better or if it weighed on him beforehand.
“A little bit of both,” he said. “It did give me confidence.”
Updike jumped to the front of the pack at the start of the race, and after the first mile he started to pull away.
Down the stretch he had a comfortable lead in front of the pack.
“Before the race I talked to my coaches about going out and running at the PR pace of the (runner) with the second fastest time,” Updike said.
He admitted he was a little surprised with the outcome.
“It went quite a bit better than expected,” he said.
“When I crossed the finish line it was a little overwhelming.”
Updike plans to redshirt
Updike said he met with Welch on Tuesday and is leaning toward redshirting next year in order to work at improving his time toward Olympic standards.
“(Redshirting) would be good,” he said.
“It helps focus on some of the technical stuff and you don’t have to worry about competing each weekend.”
Welch likes the thought of Updike sticking around an extra year.
“With Isaac having a full year of competition remaining — and a redshirt year if he chooses to use it — he can continue to grow as an athlete and a team leader,” Welch said.
With one national title already in hand, Updike has plenty of time to seal his legacy as one of EOU’s best runners.