Track and field: Step by step MHS senior Moore develops into one of top AZ distance runners

“Running is my drug; it’s my way of getting away from things - I let my mind flow [and] things just seem easier.” - Travis Moore, MHS senior

Back in November during a season-ending banquet, Maricopa High School cross country coach Duane Anderson told the story of his first encounter with Travis Moore.

It was more than four years ago, and Moore was a lowly freshman running on the side of the road, wearing three layers of clothing and trying to drop as much weight as possible to prepare for the upcoming wrestling season. Anderson saw something in the wrestler that he tried to convince him to try enlist in cross country and run a little more than he was accustomed to. Moore ended up joining Anderson’s cross country team the following fall and began his running career with a pair of old sneakers and wearing two layers of clothing instead of three, which was still far too much clothing for the August heat. Struggles ensued during the first few days of practice; he had trouble enough running too far beyond the confines of the high school campus, let alone keeping pace with established runners Chris Collett and Gary Webb.

Since the end of those early days of trudging on the sun-soaked asphalt, Moore has acquired a better pair of shoes, has shed the extraneous levels of clothing and has turned into one of the top high school distance runners in Arizona.

It’s an evolution Moore said came in three stages: the first, during his sophomore year, was to get started, while the second, which came last year, was to get going.

“This year has been more like buckle down and get to work,” he said.

Thus far – and with much of the season yet to come – Moore has taken possession of the school record in the two-mile, has come one second to owning the record in the mile (a record coach Ronnie Buchanan said via e-mail Moore will attempt to surpass on April 7) and, according to times listed on the website, has posted the fourth best time in the two-mile and ninth-best time in the mile among all Division II runners this season.

Among the reasons Moore listed for his improvement was his willingness to focus on distance running and only distance running; he dropped wrestling from his slate after his sophomore year – even though he qualified for the state championship – and did not join any other sport.

“It wasn’t like I was going to play football with my stature,” he said.

Along with that came an appreciation for an activity he first dipped his toes into but began to enjoy and even crave to the point of quasi-addiction; he said he gets “antsy at night” when he doesn’t get his run in.

“Running is my drug; it’s my way of getting away from things … I let my mind flow [and] things just seem easier,” he said.

He upped the number of miles he ran per week as he progressed as well; it was as high as 70 miles in February, although he began reducing it when track season came into sight. His current regimen includes one long run, which accounts for “20 percent of the weekly mileage,” and one slower run to ensure he does not burn himself out as the season progresses. It took him a little while to get used to the slower run, and is something he still has to checks, because it runs anathema to the inherent nature of the sport.

But he has been willing to kill the tempo when needed because, as he put it, he has developed “the confidence to go slow.”

Confidence is another reason he cited for his improvement this season, which has gone from a mindset of “it’s possible I could win” to “whenever I step on the track, I want to win.”

“If you don’t believe you can do it, it’s not going to happen,” he said.

His increased confidence is reflected by the improvement in his times since his sophomore year; which have improved from an 11:13 in the two-mile as a sophomore to a 10:12 and a 12th place finish in the 4A-II State championship as a junior to a 9:46 time two weeks ago.

Then there was his most recent race on Saturday night at the Chandler Rotary Invitational, which lures the best high school runners from all four divisions in the state, including Tuba City runner Billy Orman, who has posted the best mile and two mile times this season and finished nearly 20 seconds ahead of the second place finisher in the two-mile on Saturday.

Moore was the sole Maricopa athlete to qualify for the event and had the fifth best qualifying time – including the second best Division II time – heading into it.

The fifth place slot fit Moore for most of the race; he spent the first several laps approximately 10 meters behind the top four runners and five meters ahead of the rest of the pack.

As the last lap started, he began to fade and was overtaken by eventual fourth place finisher Jake Wynn from Saguaro; in the last 100-meters, a couple of extra runners snaked around him and pushed him back to eighth overall. Despite missing out on the top five, Moore shattered his previous school and personal record by five seconds.

A moment of post race nausea came and went within a half a minute, which was followed with the trek off the field and into the stands to see the three coaches and four friends who drove to Chandler to watch him run.

His night in Chandler ended with a certain level of satisfaction with his performance and one final cool down lap around the field’s bleachers.

Those final steps in the dark are an indicator of what could be the most significant reason for his metamorphosis from stumbling novice to top-10 runner. His final run reflects a number of descriptors – drive, devotion and passion among them – that add up to love for a sport that shows him how much faster he is now than he was the last run, reveals how much further he has to go to beat that next benchmark and provides him proof the miles and hours he has and does put into this are paying off with better and better results.

“And I’m really happy about that,” he said.