May 5, 2005
by Andre Bayard
Jordan Boase has been running track for barely a year. He has little previous experience. For him, each meet is a learning experience, a chance to improve his skills and become more competitive.
This hardly sounds like a recipe for success for a freshman sprinter in the blazing-fast Pac-10 Conference, but fortunately for Boase -- and for the Huskies -- his learning curve has been remarkably fast.
The 18-year-old Bothell native currently ranks second only to former World Youth Championships gold medalist Davaon Spence among UW runners in the 200 meters this season, his outdoor best of 21.71 seconds from April's the Sun Angel Classic in Tempe, Ariz., just one-tenth of a second off of Spence's UW season-best. Boase has also been a key figure on Washington's top relay squads, leading both the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays to NCAA Regional qualifying times, the latter's best of 3:08.37 the sixth-fastest time in UW history.
A place in the Husky record books seemed a distant dream 12 months ago, when Boase first stepped onto a track competitively midway through his senior year at Bothell (Wash.) High School.
'My high school had a pretty good 4x100 team, and my friend who was on the team told me that he thought I was faster than one of the guys on the relay, and that I could help the team win state,' Boase recalls of his first foray onto the track. 'So that was pretty much it: I just started running to win a state title in the 4x100.'
As his college exploits have proven, Boase is not one to waste time in reaching his goals. Not two months after joining the Bothell squad, Boase led the relay to the 2004 state title in the 4x100 meters, before adding a relay crown at the Meet of Champions in Oregon, defeating state finalists from both sides of the Washington-Oregon border.
Boase's efforts were an eye-opener for former Husky All-American and Bothell head coach B.J. Dawson, who saw an opportunity for his alma mater to capitalize on Boase's relative anonymity, and nab a prospect who with a little more experience, might have been more sought-after by Division-I schools.
Dawson placed a call to first-year UW sprints coach LaMonte Vaughn, Jr., but not before sharing his thoughts with a surprised Boase.
'I was kind of blown away, because I didn't really think that I could run for UW,' Boase says.
Fortunately for Boase, Vaughn thought otherwise, and agreed with Dawson's recommendation to offer Boase the chance to walk on to UW's track and field squad in the fall. Boase was informed of the opportunity in August, and immediately scrapped summer plans that included hanging out with friends, relaxing, and enjoying his last month with high-school friends before heading to college. A challenge had been placed before him, and Boase was going to make absolutely certain he was ready.
'I worked out with Coach Dawson for a little bit,' he says. 'I tried to build a core, so that I could have good endurance when the season started up.'
With just a half of a season of high-school track under his belt, Boase found it even more difficult than most to make the transition from the high school to collegiate level, where workouts are longer and harder, and the competition is literally world-class.
'High school track only took me about two hours a day after school, but now I have practice, weight room, the training room, and I have to do things now to take care of my body,' he says. 'It is definitely a lot different, but I think I made the transition pretty well, considering what I did in high school.'
Least among Boase's adjustments was an introduction to the concept of indoor track, where the straightaways are shorter, the crowds closer, and the climate controlled.
'I have never seen an indoor track before,' says Boase. 'This was my first year ever, and I liked it a lot. Living in Seattle, you get a lot of wind and rain. It was nice running somewhere where you know what the weather is going to be like. I definitely liked it more.'
The indoor season for Boase was his first chance to show coaches and teammates what he was capable of on the track. Six months of training, or rounding into shape, building up speed and endurance, and gaining confidence came to a head in January, when Boase took to the track for his first collegiate race. Barely 49 seconds later, Boase was across the finish line in the 400 meters, having earned a second-place finish and, more importantly, the respect of any who might have doubted his ability to compete with scholarship athletes at the Division-I level.
Over the next two months, Boase lowered his 400-meter best 47.76 seconds -- sixth-fastest ever by a UW runner indoors -- and clocked a 200-meter time of 21.81 seconds, equaling the school's 10th-fastest indoor mark all-time.
'It was surprising,' says Boase as he looks back at the beginning of the indoor season. 'I wasn't really expecting this so soon. I knew I could run these times, because last year I wasn't in very good shape, and my times were still pretty decent. But being one of the top runners just blows me away when I think about it.'
Before the season started, Boase had prepared himself for what his role as a walkon would entail. Just four months later, though, Boase's thoughts have shifted instead towards what it will take to continue running with the best the Pac-10 has to offer.
'Being a walk-on freshman, not many people expect you to do anything,' he says 'So to be able to contribute to the team as a freshman, especially as a walk-on freshman, feels good. I know a lot of people are happy to see me do this, and now I know that just because I am a walk-on freshman, doesn't mean I can't do anything.'
So far, Boase has done just about everything -- clocked times among UW's fastest ever, led the team's relay squads to NCAA-qualifying marks, and solidified himself among the top sprinters on the UW roster. The challenge to Boase now is to be consistent, and improve upon the base he has established in these first few months.
'I put a lot of pressure on myself to improve,' Boase says. 'I want to keep going, and keep representing for the University of Washington. I am hoping to train harder, get stronger, and to never get out of shape. I definitely want to keep running -- I don't want to stop.'
That shouldn't be a problem for Boase, whose track career has fired out of the blocks, with the finish line still several turns of the track away.