• Austin Sprague
  • St. Pius X Catholic High School, senior
Austin Sprague
Austin Sprague

In middle school, Austin Sprague decided to try running. His parents are runners and, like his brother, he must have inherited the running gene.

In Austin’s freshman year, he beat his brother’s school record. Since then, Austin has focused on running cross-country and track. This past summer, he ran more than 700 miles.

The work paid off. Austin was named the 2013-2014 Gatorade Georgia Boys’ Cross Country Runner of the Year, which honors the state’s top athlete in the sport, St. Pius X Catholic High announced in January.

Winning the Georgia title puts his name in a hat for the national title. “That is a lot harder to achieve, because I am going against the top 50 in the nation,” he said.

Last year, Austin raced to his second consecutive AAA individual state championship, pacing the St. Pius X boys’ team to its fourth consecutive AAA state crown, the school said in a press release. Austin also was named co-Runner of the Year by the Atlanta Track Club after a season which saw him finish fourth in the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast Regional. He placed 32nd at the NXN Final national race and has finished in the top 30 at both the 2011 and 2012 Foot Locker South Regional Championships.

“Austin is a very dedicated athlete, and despite making some sacrifices early, we were able to still help him accomplish his goals, so the season definitely ended on a high note,” said St. Pius X’s head boys’ cross-country coach, Ryan McClay. “He has four individual state titles, and five team state titles in cross-country and track and field. He’s looking to get three more this spring. He also has the rare accomplishment of placing in the top 10 at state all four years of high school.”

McClay called Austin “the fiercest competitor that I’ve ever coached.”

“He’s a very talented athlete, obviously, but his work ethic is second to none,” McClay said. “He does everything right, and takes care of himself in every way. I’m so proud to have coached him and will miss him as an athlete.”

After cross-country season is over, Austin usually takes 1 or 2 weeks off and then moves into training for track season. “I do both indoor and outdoor track and field,” he said, “but while the weather is cold, it is nicer to race indoors.”

His first race is in Kentucky on Feb. 22, where he hopes to qualify for the indoor track nationals in New York City.

When Austin is not running cross-country or track, he spends his time working at a program for kids with occupational therapy needs. “During the summer I work with kids and do different activities, like bowling and laser tag.”

He discovered the program through a former gym teacher. “He invited me out to one of the hikes, then invited me to one of the summer camps,” Austin said. “Ever since then, I have fallen in love with it.”

What’s Next:

Austin plans to attend Furman University and run cross-country there.

Felipe Schmidt, a student at the Atlanta International School, prepared this article.