Sunday profile: GSHS sprinter Gavin Olson chases school history
A competitive environment breeds success, and that success is something Glenwood Springs High School senior sprinter Gavin Olson has been chasing for four years.
As a standout in the 100m, 200m, and 400m dashes, Olson is attempting to become the first Glenwood Springs male track and field athlete to qualify for the state track meet in all three events.
Amy Feinsinger was the only Glenwood Springs female track and field athlete to accomplish that feat when she qualified in all three and won the state championship in each race in 1994.
Now, Olson — ever the competitor — is attempting to get the boys on the board.
Currently, Olson is qualified for the state meet at JeffCo Stadium, May 16-18, in the 200m dash, but he’s just outside of the top 16 in the 100m and 400m with two meets to go. Achieving his goals are right there in front of him; now it’s time to see all of that hard work pays off.
“It would mean so much to me to qualify for all three events,” said Olson prior to a recent practice at Stubler Memorial Field in Glenwood.
“I’m really confident that I can do this; my times should drop this weekend,” he said. “I would just be so proud of myself if I can accomplish my goals, especially after everything I went through in the winter. Knowing all of that hard work would all pay off would be incredible.”
Olson’s senior year has been one of personal ups and downs. The sprinter came off of a terrific season in football in the fall and looked to build into his senior campaign in track under veteran head coach Blake Risner. However, an illness sidelined Olsen for two months, knocking him off of his training regimen while putting his final track season in jeopardy.
back on track
After a sophomore and junior season that ended in injuries at the state track meet, the possibility of missing his senior season due to an illness was mentally draining for the Glenwood senior.
But Olson stayed positive and hoped for the best, which eventually allowed him to return in mid-March. It happened to be a blessing in disguise for the Glenwood product.
In recent years, Olson had a heavy workload for the Demons under Risner, which often resulted in him being bogged down physically by the end of the season. The illness, though, helped Olson stay relatively fresh throughout the long track season, which has allowed him to start peaking in his performances in early May, whereas others in the state have seemingly already peaked.
In a sense, Olson has fresh legs. That can be a problem for state athletes in Colorado at the 4A level.
“I’m still building into who I am,” added Olson. “I still have a little bit to go, but I’m feeling good. Usually, I’m pretty tired at this point in the year, but my legs are feeling great right now, so I’m pretty excited about what’s to come.”
Last year, Olson qualified for the state meet in the 200m and 400m, but had to pull out of the meet due to a hip injury.
Knowing that one of his top sprinters had to sit on the sidelines for the state meet after a year filled with hard work and a number of intense races really bothered Risner all summer long. The plan coming into the season was to take some of the workload off of Olson’s shoulders, but the injury did that for him, in a sense, allowing the Demons to bring along their star sprinter slowly.
“We had to take a much slower progression with him this season,” said Risner. “We had to watch very carefully how many intervals he was doing in training, and at the same time monitoring how many races we were letting him do at meets. The fortunate side is that he didn’t overdo it this season. I think his body is in really good shape and he’s ready to really go after these goals.”
leader by example
Those goals were born out of sheer competitiveness and the ultimate goal to be the best he could possibly be.
Coming up through the middle school system under Risner’s watch, Olson chased his dreams, whether it was in the famed fenceline run at Glenwood Springs Middle School (which he won in 8th grade) or a 5-minute run in the gymnasium during the winter. There was always a common denominator in those situations for Olson: to be the best.
That’s carried over into his high school athletics career, from football — where he was a first-team all-conference running back in 2018 — to track and field, where he has aspirations of not only qualifying for state in all three events, but winning the state championship in each.
“I’ve always been very competitive, even as a little kid,” said Olsen, as a smile creased his face. “I just simply hate to lose, whether it’s in sports, in the classroom, anything. It’s just a staple of who I am as a person and it pushes me to achieve the goals that I’ve set for myself.
“The goal to qualify for all three events was something that just sort of hit me one day a few years ago, and I knew once I was thinking about going for it, there was nothing that was going to stop me from going all out to accomplish that goal.”
Through his desire to be the best, he’s helped set the tone for the Glenwood Springs track and field program.
Wanting to perfect his craft, from block starts in sprints, to the proper techniques used when pumping his arms, that work ethic and dedication to the sport has helped lift up not only his senior classmates, but has also set a great example for the underclassmen as well.
“He’s not a vocal kid at all, but he’s a great leader by example,” said Risner. “The best example I can give you is that when he runs the 400, he runs it like no other sprinter around. When he runs it, he runs all out right out of the block.
“People know he’s going to be hurting at the end, but at the end of the year it’s going to be pretty spectacular because he’ll been in that kind of shape. Overall, his intensity out there on the track sets an example for the younger kids for sure, and it’s also something that his peers admire.”
HELPING HAND off the track
Away from athletics, Olson is as committed to the community and his school work as he is to perfecting his craft in track.
Since entering high school four years ago, Olson has worked with the Pals Mentoring Program through YouthZone. The program is a voluntary one-on-one community based mentoring program, which focuses on providing children in kindergarten through eighth grade with support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement, positive role modeling and activities.
Olson meets with a pal once a week, lending a helping hand whenever he can.
“You just help out as much as you can, because it’s a situation where the kid’s parents might not be around as much,” said Olson. “It always makes me feel good to help someone in need because, if it’s something I have that they don’t, I want to give them that and make their day a bit better.”
Aside from his work with the Pals Mentoring Program, Olson came through in a big way last spring, stepping up with a number of other GSHS athletes to show support for a middle school student who was being bullied, leading to the child’s mother reaching out for help on social media.
“It felt great to just be able to help out in any way that I could,” said Olson. “Everyone should be treated the same, no matter who you are. The kid deserved to be treated like everyone else, and it was great to see that outpouring of support from the community.”
Thanks to his commitment to athletics, as well as the community in which he lives, his coaches and teammates are hoping things work out the way they should for Olson, who is coming down the final backstretch of his Glenwood career.
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