Autumn in Washington state features an array of travel destinations, nearly all of them flourishing with a distinctive patchwork of seasonal colors.
For a certain group of high school student-athletes, the first priority on the sightseeing agenda is a visit to the Tri-Cities on the first Saturday in November. Along with the kaleidoscope of fall foliage, the setting represents the pinnacle of middle-distance running known as the State Cross Country Championships.
Travis Thorne of Ferris High School in Spokane was part of the select multitude in Pasco last year, a red, white and silver blur racing through a forest of yellow and orange. As a junior, he completed the 5K (3.1-mile) course in a personal best time of 15:50, placing 18th in a 4A division that included the top 148 runners from throughout the Evergreen state.
This year, Thorne has continued to establish himself as one of the top competitors in the Greater Spokane League, acknowledged as the premier high school running conference in the Western U.S. He runs for a program that, beginning in 2004, captured four straight state titles and is rivaled only by fellow Spokane schools Mead and North Central in its rich history of cross country excellence.
Thorne, who has served as captain of the Ferris squad the past two seasons, said he appreciates running because it contains elements of both team and individual sports while placing a premium on effort and commitment.
“There are no benches or politics,” Thorne said. “It’s just a very pure sport. I love that running teaches discipline and hard work. There is no miracle alternative, no easy way out. In the long run, you can only do so well with just talent.”
As a sophomore, Thorne achieved accolades beyond his home state as he was named to the Footlocker All-West Freshman/Sophomore team and placed 16th in the Footlocker West Regional Cross Country Championships.
An accomplished guitar player, Thorne is also adept at the mandolin, piano and drums.
Photo by Liz Thorne.
Travis gives credit to his brother, Adam, a standout runner at Ferris who graduated in 2010, for setting a stellar example of dedicated training. Travis was in his first year at Ferris when his older brother was a senior. The team won the state title that year, outdistancing schools like Jackson and Issaquah. Adam went on to sign with Stanford University in track and cross country and is currently serving a two-year LDS Mission in Alaska.
“My freshman year, I was on the team with him and I saw first-hand the kind of work he put in and what it took to be good,” Travis said. “You have to go out every day and put the work in. It takes a lot of self-discipline and mental discipline. Especially with racing and tough workouts, you really put your mind to the test.”
A member of the Spokane Sixth Ward in the Spokane Stake, Thorne currently serves as first assistant in his Priest quorum. He says his spiritual foundation continues to have a positive impact on his outlook as a runner.
“My faith greatly helps my efforts as an athlete,” Thorne said. “A major principle of the gospel is to work hard and develop talents, and that’s what I try to do in running. Also, my faith keeps things in perspective for me and ensures that I don’t get too caught up and carried away with running. If I have a bad race, I know that in the end, my Heavenly Father loves me, and he will make sure things work out in the end one way or another. It is assuring to know that Heavenly Father knows me personally and wants me to succeed and to be happy.”
When summoning up the courage prior to a critical race, Thorne is more likely to turn to the scriptures than an iPod. His favorite passage is from 2 Timothy, 1:7 – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind”
“Nothing quite cures the pre-race jitters as well as a good scripture session and prayer,” Thorne said. “Running helps me keep the faith by teaching me consistency, hard work, and endurance. In order to be successful in running, you need consistency. In order to live the gospel, you need to practice consistency. Running has taught me that things aren’t easy and that there isn’t a magical cure. That’s the same way with living the gospel. It is tough, and you are constantly under assault by the adversary. We have been commanded to endure to the end, and being a distance runner, I can relate to endurance and its importance.”
Thorne will compete in the Washington State Cross Country Championships on Nov. 3 in Pasco.
Photo by Craig Howard.
While Thorne will experience the hype and clamor of post-season events like the Regional Championships this Saturday in Richland and the state meet the following week in Pasco, the majority of the time he spends as a runner has nothing to do with cheering crowds or media coverage. When it comes to that solitary jog on a sub-freezing day in February, he says it’s a matter of dwelling on the long-term rewards of consistent training.
“As for motivation, I always try to keep things in perspective,” he said. “I know that if I want to do well at the end of cross country or track season, then the base, the miles and the work have to be put in during the off-season. I try to keep my goals in mind. If I don’t want to go out for a long run, I think about my goals, and I know what I need to do to achieve them, especially when I can count on my competitors for putting in the work as well. But really for me, training hard doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice because running is something I love. When you love something, it doesn’t seem to be as much of a sacrifice.”
In addition to his accomplishments in cross country and track – where he is also team captain – Thorne has set a winning standard in the classroom, compiling a 3.97 grade point average, achieving the rank of “AP Scholar with Honors” and serving as senior class president.
When not out on a training run or studying for a test, Thorne can usually be found generating music of some kind. An accomplished piano and guitar player, the senior is also adept at the bass guitar and mandolin and has participated in some form of school-related percussion program since the fifth grade. He currently participates with the Ferris Advanced Percussion Ensemble.
“Music is a huge part of my life,” Thorne said.
As for setting an example of gospel-inspired living, Thorne echoes a theme that is similar to the approach he has adopted as a runner and student – Be prepared and you will succeed.
Along with serving as senior class president, Thorne is part of the Ferris Advanced Percussion Ensemble.
Photo by Liz Thorne.
“It’s a tough to maintain my standards in the high school environment, but what helps me is to constantly be reinforcing my decisions on what I will not participate it,” he said. “I find it easier to resist temptation if I have already made the decision beforehand and already know what my answer is. If I can decide early that I won’t do this or that, then denying temptation becomes much easier. Also, I always keep in the back of my mind that I do not want to close any doors in my life by making bad choices. I want to make sure that I remain temple and mission worthy.”
Thorne said his family has always been his most influential booster club in all aspects of his life.
“My family is the most important thing to me,” he said. “They’ve provided me with everything. They are my biggest fans, my best friends and the people that I love the most. I can’t really say enough about how great they are and who much they mean to me.”
While Thorne plans to continue his running career on the college level, his focus after graduation puts a full-time mission at the top of the list.
“My mission is such a priority to me because I know that nothing in my life at this point will be as important as serving a mission,” he said. “I know there is great work to be done and I want to be a part of it.”