Demars making steady strides as miler
By Mike Vlahovich
What does it take to become a school record-setting distance runner? Passion, hard work - and a ukulele.
Central Valley junior Briton Demars is not yet 17 years old and is already part of two state cross country team trophy winners. But his preference is track and field and the shorter 1,600 meter race which melds distance runner's endurance with sprinter's speed.
"I like to consider myself a miler," he says. "You need to be up on your toes and ready to go - head, heart and guts."
At the end of March in the wind and cold at Wenatchee, Demars set the Central Valley junior class record time of 4 minutes, 22.87 seconds and now has his eye on the school record (4:15.17) set by Sean Coyle in 2007.
"In terms of potential, if you drew a stair step to show kids how to progress," Bears track coach Chuck Bowden says, "he would be the poster child. He's been successful at each level - freshman, sophomore and junior. He's also been as patient as he's been determined."
Demars was an alternate to state cross country as a freshman. His sophomore season, he was CV's No. 4 finisher. Last fall, running the 5,000 meters in cross country, he was CV's second finisher and placed ninth among all Class 4A juniors.
The Bears were disappointed in their third place team effort after winning state the year before, but, said distance coach Kieran Mahoney, in any other year it would have had CV runners jumping for joy.
The race definitely inspired Demars. His time of 15:59 was nearly 15 seconds faster than the previous year.
"After cross country, that set a fire in me," Demars says. "I just was not at my best and wasn't going to stand for less than my best. Over the winter, I ran every day and put time in the weight room. And you know? I think it's starting to pay off."
The new weight training is another piece to the puzzle essential for distance running success. Setting the early season junior class record at 1,600 meters offers proof. Last season, his times hovered in the 4:30 range.
Over the winter, Mahoney went online and learned that Galen Rupp, silver medalist during the 2012 Olympics 10,000 meters, had a sport specific weight training regimen that enabled him to overhaul the field, save one, with a blistering last lap.
"I looked and analyzed where he got his speed and strength," Mahoney explained. "Coach Bowden has incorporated quite a few things in the weight room that really focuses on core. It's the next piece of the program I wanted to put in. I have seen a big improvement."
A life-long resident of the area, Demars, like many, had been involved in other sports before the running bug bit in middle school.
"I think it was my freshman year that I started to break out and realized the potential I had," he says. "Cross country started my fire, and ever since then I realized I could set the school (1,600) record. That's what I'm working on."
On the way to the Eastmont Invitational in Wenatchee, Bowden noted he had the school record written on his hand.
"I don't think he noticed that I noticed," Bowden said. "I was telling the other coaches, ‘he's really dialed in.'"
The multi-faceted youngster keeps active in myriad ways. He is involved with Associated Student Body leadership class at CV, and says scouting, church and time spent with family and friends is important.
Though running has become his muse, it's not been his only moment in the sun. As a freshman, he had a singing part in the drama department's production of "Singing in the Rain."
"It's the first and only play I've done," Demars says. "The director asked if I wanted to do other plays and I said, ‘you know? Running is my thing now and I want to be good with it.'"
He's a musician who played saxophone and clarinet during two years in the band and has dabbled with piano for four or five years, he said, "just to try something out."
The ukulele? It's his constant companion and plays a part in his distance success. On bus trips, Bowden said, he entertains teammates.
The soothing sound helps prepare him for competition.
"I sit in the tent with a blanket and play," Demars says. "I like the vibe it brings, kind of peaceful and calm before a race."
It may be the most important puzzle piece in his record running quest.