2024 Times Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year: Ottawa’s Weston Averkamp

Pirates junior earned 3A sectional title, 6th-place medal at state

Ottawa junior Weston Averkamp is the 2024 Times Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Although any event in boys track and field brings with it its own challenges, running either the 100- or 300-meter hurdles would be ranked pretty high on the list of most demanding.

Let’s take the latter, for example. The athlete runs 300 meters as fast as he can while, along the way, having to jump over eight 3-foot-high hurdles spaced 35 meters apart.

So why would someone want to do that?

“I actually have a really good reason,” Ottawa junior Weston Averkamp said. “I would say that I can run pretty fast, but not crazy fast. If you want to run the 100 [dash], you have to be genetically gifted and put some work into it. I feel like in hurdles, while it takes some speed, it’s also an event that you get to decide how good you are going to be at it. It’s not the most popular event for a reason.

“I think for those who run hurdles, it’s about the adrenaline rush. Before a race, it’s such a great feeling and a horrible feeling all at the same time, but after the race it’s so rewarding, especially when you know you’ve put up a fast time or personal best.”

Averkamp captured a Class 3A sectional championship in 300 hurdles and also earned a sixth-place medal at the state finals with a clocking of 39.11 seconds. He was also a sectional runner-up and qualified for state in the 100 hurdles, but fell 0.26 seconds short of a berth in the finals.

For his accomplishments, Averkamp has been named the 2024 Times Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

“When I started hurdles [as a freshman], it wasn’t good,” Averkamp said. “I was just jumping over them, I had no form at all, and to be honest, I hated the sport. But I had faith in my coaches, and they felt like I could be a very good hurdler, and they pushed me.

“I just kept telling myself,’ ‘What if I can get good at this?’ I just kept working on my form and balance, those are the two biggest keys. I’m still not where I want to be as far as those two things go, so I’m just going to keep on working.”

During the regular season, Averkamp combined to finish in first place in 14 of 18 races, including winning both hurdles at the Illinois Valley Invite, the Metamora ABC and the Interstate 8 Conference Meet.

“The 300 is such a mental event to a point,” Averkamp said. “You just have to trust your steps, and that trust comes from practicing them over and over and over. Once the race starts, it really comes down to what and how you practiced.

“When the race starts, I can’t hear anything, not the crowd, not my coaches, nothing. I’m locked in and just in a flow state of mind.”

There is sometimes a moment that pushes an athlete’s goal bar a little higher. Averkamp remembers his moment well.

“My sophomore year in the 300 [hurdles] at the Sterling Relays,” Averkamp said. “There was a kid from United Township, and we both came into that race with similar times, but he was a little better than me. I feel like I run my best when I’m the hunter and not the hunted. I ran a huge PR in that race, beating the state-qualifying time by half a second. Right then and there, my goal was to make it to state.”

Averkamp said that while his trip to state later that sophomore season didn’t go as well as he hoped, it was invaluable experience for his appearance this past spring.

“I went to state in the 300 as a sophomore, and it was very overwhelming,” Averkamp said. “I didn’t place the greatest, I thought I could’ve run better, and it was really because I was just too nervous. I just wasn’t ready. So I had ever since then to think about what I could do to change that this year.

“This year, with the experience, I went there calm and confident. I was just in a great mental state this time around.”

Also a member of the Pirates’ football team, Averkamp said he’s found his true calling on the track.

“I don’t feel like anyone chooses track; I feel like track chooses you,” Averkamp said. “You don’t have to be the fastest or the strongest, you just have to find the event that you are passionate about and want to put the work in to be the best at.

“I’m already geared up to see what I can do in my senior year. My goal of just making it to state is much higher than that.”

Ottawa’s Weston Averkamp finishes the 300-meter hurdles race in first place during the Sterling High School Night Relays this past season.
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