ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The fastest human in the history of Hillsboro High School.
Few humans who could carry such a pretentious title so unpretentiously as Alan Yoder does.
As the school record holder in the 100 meters (10.8 seconds) and 200 meters (22.8), and as a contributor to the 4×100 relay mark (44.1), the mild-mannered Trojan senior has earned that distinction.
“I’ve thought about it a couple of times,” he admitted when pressed. “But then you just kind of think…. Well, I don’t know what to think, actually.”
Then he shrugged and added with a self-conscious chuckle, “It’s just kind of like, ‘Good for me,’ I guess.”
Yoder credits love of track and field-as well as his modesty-to his parents, Evan and Becki Yoder. Evan was an outstanding distance runner in high school and college while Becki has taken up road racing since their marriage.
“I’ve grown up with it,” Alan said. “Then with that, I’ve been fairly successful with it, so that always makes things a lot more fun.”
Success came early and often for him. Yoder said he first realized he was a gear or two faster than his peers in elementary school.
“I noticed I tended to win the races fairly easily,” Yoder said. “Or it could have been when I was just playing around with (twin younger brothers) Aaron and Danny-just running away when you do something bad.”
The twins-now juniors at HHS-have turned into outstanding middle-distance runners, much like their father.
But for Alan, it’s always been sprints.
“I must have got something from Mom-the quick-twitch muscles,” he said. “Ever since elementary school, I’ve always liked the shorter races. I remember doing the 400-and it is was OK. But the 100 was always better. It was quick and done.”
At the age of 8 or 9, Yoder began competing in summer AAU meets.
“My parents just said once, ‘Would you guys want to go to a track meet to run in?’ Yoder recalled. “It was like, ‘Oh sure, why not?’ And if you have a chance to win some medals-that was always nice.
“I usually did fairly decent in long jump, especially in the first meet. Then you go to state and there’s a little more competition. I usually got one or two medals a year.”
Since those early days, Yoder has won his share of medals and ribbons-which he tosses into a box under his bed for cataloging at some later date.
It didn’t Yoder long to make his mark in high school. As a freshman, he tied C.J. Vogel’s 100-meter record when he ran an 11.2 at Smoky Valley. A week later, he tied the mark again at Halstead.
At regionals, he ran an 11.5 and just missed qualifying for state by finishing fourth-he would have qualified with that time at any other regional.
The disappointment only made Yoder more determined.
“He came to me at the beginning of the next year and told me it didn’t matter what the event or how hard he needed to train, he wanted to be in the state track meet,” coach Dennis Boldt said.
That sophomore season Yoder broke the school record with a time of 11.0, and qualified for state in that event as well as the long jump. He went on to place fourth in the 100, but won the long jump.
“I don’t think a lot of people expected me to win,” he said. “I just had a good day that day. That was pretty exciting.”
More exciting was winning the team title that season-which ranks No. 1 so far on Yoder’s list of athletic accomplishments.
“That was great, that was a lot of fun,” he said.
Coming off such a great sophomore year, Yoder had high expectations as a junior-and he did lower his record in the 100 to 10.8 early in the season. But just as he was finding his stride, he pulled his hamstring.
“It’s really frustrating,” he said of the injury. “The first thing after I pulled my hamstring, it’s like, ‘OK, I’ve got to get better as fast as I can and hopefully get back into running shape.’
“That didn’t really happen because they take a long time to heal. I don’t think it was healed until the end of summer.”
Even so, Yoder returned to the track and ran fast enough to qualify for state again in the 100-and placed fifth.
Last summer, Yoder attended a track-and-field camp at Fort Hays State, where he learned that better running form would help him to run faster and avoid injury.
“There were quite a few things wrong with my form,” he said. “A lot of people wouldn’t think that, but there was. I worked on that a lot and try to focus more on form-I don’t want to pull my hamstring again.”
Yoder has combined that new form with a longtime commitment to weight training. In fact, he is a league and state powerlifting champion this year.
“The one thing that has helped me the most is probably the weight room,” Yoder said. “I’ve always enjoyed lifting weights. You can just tell every year that you’re getting stronger. It’s just a good feeling.”
The combination of hard work and attention to form is paying off in this his senior season. In the past three major meets, Yoder has been clocked in the 100 at 10.78, 10.79 and 10.72 seconds-all of which have been rounded up to 10.8 because the timing was not fully automated.
Not only has Yoder’s work ethic made him better, it has made the whole team better, according to Boldt.
“I view Alan as a leader by example,” Boldt said. “He is the one who is always at practice, he is the one who works hard every day, he is the guy in the weight room after practice making himself better.
“The other athletes see that, and when you couple that with his easy-going demeanor, they respect what he has to say.”
How much Yoder’s example has influenced this year’s team is hard to measure, but the boys’ team has won every major meet this season in comfortable fashion.
Nothing-not even more individual records-could make Yoder more happy. His No. 1 goal this season is to be part of another state title.
“That would be awesome to be a senior and win state as a team,” Yoder said. “That’s the main goal. The other goals would be doing whatever it takes to win that state championship.”
Those priorities don’t surprise Boldt.
“Alan is very much team-oriented,” he said. “He loves to do well in his events, but more than anything, I believe he loves being a part of a positive, winning track team.”
That doesn’t mean Yoder doesn’t care how he does, personally.
“You always want to win,” Yoder said. “I just want to get a personal best. If I get a personal best, I will be doing just fine. If I can do that at state, that’d be great.”
Whatever happens this season, Yoder plans to compete in track and field at Fort Hays next school year.
“I’m kind of curious how I’ll match up at the (NCAA Division II) level,” he said. “I’ll just try to do the best I can and work hard, and I think good things will come from that.”
They certainly have to this point.