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TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior Wilder Boyden won the 1,500 and 3,000 at the 4A track and field state championships at Hayward Field on Saturday.


What is means to be an individual state champion, what it takes to stand at the peak of your craft was never real to Wilder Boyden.

Previously the second banana to Cooper Roach for three seasons with the Valley Catholic boys track team, Boyden never thought of himself as a superstar worthy of shining on his own. A true teammate, he would much rather sacrifice personal glory for that of his surrogate brothers around him. Indeed, Boyden was more than content lending his high-end stamina and speed to the framework of the squad and seeing it succeed.

The thought of winning an individual title, or two, werent really ever on Boyden’s brain; they weren’t, that is, until the Class 4A state championships on Friday and Saturday, May 22-23 at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus. At ease with his own athletic destiny in the last competitive races he’ll ever run, Boyden stepped out of Roach’s larger-than-life shadow, shifted his mindset from second fiddle to star, and took both the 1,500-meter and 3,000 state crowns. In each of the races, Boyden was able to pull away with 150 meters remaining and was able to keep a 25-meter cushion between himself and the pack to seal up the first-place medals.

With Sweet Home’s Jakob Hiett close on his heels in Saturday’s 1,500, Boyden stayed strong, looked up at the Hayward Field scoreboard, threw his hands toward the sky as he crossed the finish and let out a joyous scream to punctuate his superb career.

“That was surreal,” said Boyden, who finished .62 seconds ahead of Hiett with a 4:06.14. “When it hits you, it’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced before. I might as well have been crossing the finish line in a cap and gown because this marks the end of my career. I couldn’t ask for a better way to end it.”

Boyden said most endurance races come down to who has the dogged mentality and determined drive to outlast the opposition.

Pushed by junior teammate Ben Davidson in both races, Boyden was able to bear down and block out the voice in his head telling him to let off the gas. That was certainly the case in Friday’s 3,000 finale, with Boyden closing the race in first at 8:52.53 while Hiett was close behind in 8:53.80.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior Wilder Boyden and junior teammate Ben Davidson took first and second in the 1,500 at the 4A state championship on Saturday.

Together, the Valiants’ two-man team of Davidson and Boyden helped Valley finish sixth with 31 points, just as Boyden and Roach had in 2013. Davidson took fourth in the 3,000 (8:55) and third in the 1,500 on Saturday (4:07)

“These last couple of days I knew it was going to come down to a mental battle,” said Boyden. “It was my mind telling me to take the easy way out, or myself thinking about the person I could be. It really came down to trying to do away with rationalizations and reminding myself that I could do it.”

With Roach graduated and running for Santa Clara University, Boyden was forced to shift his focus from subservient to leader this season, both in track and cross country. No longer one of the young guys listening to inspirational pre-race speeches, Boyden was the one guiding training runs, pulling teammates to the side for encouragement and acting as a positive example for the runners around him. Those subtleties weren’t visible to the public eye, but helped morph Boyden into a competitor worthy of taking the state mantle.

“This was something I was ready to do,” said Boyden. “This was the year to do it. When I was a freshman, I knew this was a program I wanted to be in. Being a part of this program and momentum shift has been great, but it’s not like I’m the one leading the charge. It’s something that everyone was a part of. It was a team effort that was almost tangible. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences of my high school career.”

In the girls meet, Valley Catholic senior Sara Connelly and junior Ellen Koukel were the only Valiants to qualify for state in Valley’s first year at the 4A level. Connelly took sixth in the 100 by running a 12.86, and Koukel cleared 4-8 in the high jump for eighth overall.

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