Miles to track
By Adin Parks

Runner Asher Mattox awaits workout instructions from his high school cross country coach, Drew Perraut. Asher runs cross country to keep in shape for the track season.

"Iam just going to run as fast as I can. The whole way. Fight through all the pain," says Asher Mattox, planning his strategy to run the hurdle event in track, his favorite sport.

Asher, a junior at Bourbon County High School, has run cross country and track for three years. His interest in running has matured into a passion over time.

"I felt like it was inevitable," says Jennifer Mattox, Asher’s mother, remembering his first desire to run track. “He was always running in soccer, and coaches were pursuing him.”

Jennifer admits to worrying about Asher’s running early on. “Asher is well-known for clumsiness,” she adds. “That was my only worry, that he was going to have 'an Asher fall.'" Asher’s parents support his commitment to running, driving him to practices and meets.

This year, Asher is adapting to a new life focused on running. He’s dropped marching band and soccer and is focusing on his grades, hoping to pursue track in college. “I’m trying to get a 4.0 GPA this year," he says. "I’ve done pretty well so far."

Completing early-morning practices before school and returning to practice late in the evening wears him out, but Asher loves it. His coach, Drew Perraut, confirms his dedication.

“He's one of those people who listen to everything you say,” he says. "If you ask him to do 20 intervals when he’s only going to need to do 10, he will do 20. If you ask him to do 100, he'll do 100. He's got great athletic ability."

Though Asher prefers track to cross country, he acknowledges that running and competing in the fall helps him progress in his track career.

So far, Asher has made his mark in track. He has set three school records, holding the fastest outdoor time in men's 400-meter hurdles (59.55), indoor 400-meter dash (52.92), and indoor 60 hurdles (10.11). It hasn’t been easy. Pre-race anxiety has often plagued him. Before one race, Asher remembers, he curled up on the ground in a ball. “I just didn’t want to race,” he says.

Frequent running practice and getting more competitive experience helped him. Though he’s proud of his successes, Asher doesn’t plan to slow down.

“I’ll continue to strive to do even better,” he says. “I want to go to the next level.”

Living within a mile of his high school and having no driver’s license, Asher often walks to school. He gets up earlier than most students, especially if he has a 6 a.m. practice.

Asher runs the eighth of 10 sprint intervals at early morning practice. Asher trains twice most days, both times on the track. “I literally wake up, get dressed, and get out the door for the 6 a.m. practices,” Asher says.

Asher works to perform well in school in hopes in hopes of qualifying for college athletic scholarships.

After school, Asher and his girlfriend, Harley Frazier, relax while taking turns playing a video game.

Asher leads The Bourbon County High School cross country team on a warm-up run. “We usually do a mile warm-up and then dynamic stretches,” he says.

Asher and Bryce Watkins enjoy a joke from teammate Jesus Mendoza. Bryce, a college freshman at the University of Kentucky, often helps out with the team.

Coach Perraut has the team circle around and stretch together before running a light hill workout. “I want you guys to go slow on the uphill and faster on the downhill,” the coach says. “Do three loops. Let’s go!”

Asher runs an easy three miles to keep his heart rate high to prepare for an upcoming state meet. “I want you to be fresh for this meet,” his coach says. “We haven’t raced a meet fully fresh.”

Asher decorates his room with racing bibs. “I’m hoping that by the end of next year, I can have enough to wrap all the way around the room,” he says.

After eating breakfast with the cross country team, Asher begins his walk home.