Sabino cross country runner Sawyer Sprung. -- Credit: Chris Real / For the Arizona Daily Star

As a freshman, Sabino cross-country runner Sawyer Sprung finished 89th at the Division III state meet in 18 minutes 39.05 seconds. Two years later, as a junior last fall, Sprung completed the 3.1-mile course in 16:38.98 and improved to 15th.

Now, as a senior this year, Sprung is ready to go out a winner, and his ultimate goal of being a state champion is already in full swing.

Sprung has finished first at the Sue Fletcher Invitational and two local tri-meets. He is looking to continue his success today when Sabino hosts Tucson at McDonald Park for a 4:30 p.m. meet and then again Saturday when the Sabercats run at the Old Pueblo Invitational at Lincoln Park.

The Star recently caught up with Sprung, to find why he could have a big season.

More miles

This summer, Sprung has increased his weekly mileage, despite the blistering summer heat, in hopes of becoming one of Tucson’s elite runners — or more importantly, a state champion.

“I started running around 80 miles per week,” Sprung said. “After that point, I started working in speed work. I’ve just been training every day to my fullest extent, and it has helped me.”

Another factor for his success is first-year Sabino coach Matt Adami. Sprung said he tries to implement what he learned from his previous coach, Doug McSpadden, and what Adami has been telling him. It’s been working.

“Coach Mack, our past coach, was extremely experienced and an old-time cross-country coach,” Sprung said. “You do lots of miles, and it’s all about the miles. Now we’re focusing on speed after our miles. But I like mixing in both kinds of training methods.”

Just like his backyard

The state championship meet is held at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix.

Sprung and other runners describe the course as very hilly. But for Sprung and and his fellow Sabino cross-country teammates, being situated at the bottom of a hill and near Sabino Canyon allows them to practice on hills as often as they want, an advantage preparing for the state meet in November.

Adami said the team practices twice a week doing hill work, and Sprung said he does an extra hill session over the weekend.

“The state course is extremely hilly, it’s really tough,” Sprung said. “We do lots of hill work, and I think the hills actually help me get ahead of my competition during the race.”

coming together

Sprung understood everything he was told as a freshman but said he just didn’t put it together. Now, however, everything is clicking, and he understands what he needs to do to accomplish his goals.

“Each year I take what I know and put it into effect more, and I train harder than I do in the previous season,” Sprung said.

Also, in his first year with the team in 2011, Sprung had the chance to watch Taylor Stamp, his teammate and idol, finish as the Division III state runner-up. After seeing the kind of runner Stamp turned out to be, Sprung said he wanted to mirror his ex-teammate.

“I saw him win all of his races; he was the guy in cross-country, and it was cool because he was on my team,” Sprung said.

“I told myself, that one year I’m going to be as good as him; one year I’m going to be as fast as Tyler, and I’ve kept that in the back of my mind.”