OCEAN — Elliott Kleckner’s record-breaking time at Fort Macon in the cross country season opener surprised many in attendance … including himself.
The Croatan sophomore obliterated the previous Elliott Cous Nature Trail course mark by nearly 30 seconds, clocking in at 17-minutes, 48 seconds. West Carteret’s Frank Rushok had held the record of 18:16.
“I came into it wanting to break the meet record but I didn’t think I was going to break it by that much,” Kleckner said. “I was shooting for 18 flat. I was pretty excited that I broke it by that much.”
His time was even more impressive considering it was the first meet of the year, the Elliott Cous Nature Trail course is a difficult one, and the conditions were tough with temperatures reaching 92 degrees at the start of the meet.
The season opener continued a special summer for Kleckner.
In June, he proved that he’s one of the best freshman distance runners in the country at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals.
The Croatan standout took ninth in the freshman 2-mile and 18th in the freshman 1-mile at N.C. A&T State University’s Irwin Belk Track on June 13-14.
“It was exciting,” he said. “It was an honor. I felt pretty good about my performances. Those were basically my PR’s. I ran as fast I as I ever have.”
In the 1-mile, he was 1.17 seconds away from a top-10 finish in the 37-runner race, toeing the line in 4:34.66 to give North Carolina its top finisher.
Marco Langon of Bridgewater-Raritan High School (N.J.) won the event in 4:23.19.
Kleckner was 3.84 seconds away from a top-five finish in the 2-mile, checking in at 9:51.55 in the 31-runner race.
Only one other North Carolina runner finished ahead of Kleckner with Pinecrest’s Adrian Archer taking fifth in 9:47.71.
Sam Rich of Lakeside High School (Ga.) won the event in 9:42.03.
Kleckner prefers the 2-mile to the 1-mile and likes to run even more if he’s offered a chance.
“I prefer longer races,” he said. “The longer the race, the more comfortable I am. The 5K is my favorite race. My goal is to break 16 minutes in the 5K. I’m hoping to do it this Saturday at the Jungle Run (in Hope Mills).”
Kleckner was a revelation in his first year at Croatan, registering a fantastic freshman campaign despite dealing with the halted cross country season in the fall due to Hurricane Florence, and a painful knee condition known as Osgood-Schlatter disease, which develops as a result of growth spurts.
He won the 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference in 16:19, took sixth at the 2A regional in 17:03 and gave his team its best finish at the 2A state meet with a 29th-place standing in 17:25 in the 165-runner race. The Cougars won the conference, placed second in the regional and took fifth at the state meet.
“I was surprised with how I did as a freshman,” Kleckner said. “This year, I’m hoping to win conference and maybe regionals and get a top-five at states.”
He’s also looking for big things in the future from a young squad that features his twin brother Cooper Kleckner, fellow sophomore Colten Rodriguez and junior Thomas McCabe.
“Not this year, but next year, I think we will be able to win states in cross country,” he said. “I think we’ll be in even stronger when we’re upperclassmen.”
He’s already been a member of one state championship team.
He joined Connor Hogan, Cooper Kleckner and McCabe and at the 1A/2A state indoor track and field meet to grab a bronze medal in the 3,200-meter relay in 8:29.82, which helped their team win its second straight state championship.
In the spring outdoor season, he won Coastal 8 Conference championships in the 1,600 meters in 4:44.66 and the 3,200 meters in 10:31.43.
He went on to capture the 3,200 in 10:10.27 at the 2A regional and placed second in the 1,600 in 4:30.56.
At the 2A state meet, he finished fifth in the 1,600 in 4.33.19 and 11th in the 3,200 in 10:30.85.
The Cougars won conference and regional titles and were the state runner-up.
Kleckner hopes to earn a running scholarship to N.C. State where he hopes to participate in the 10K. He’s not sure about a field of study quite yet.
Here are a few of Kleckner’s favorite things, as well as his ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse and the five items he would take with him on a deserted island:
Favorite Movie: “The Sandlot.”
Favorite TV Show: “Stranger Things.”
Favorite Cartoon: “Tom and Jerry.”
Favorite Band/Artist: Queen.
Favorite Song: “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.
Favorite Book: Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.
Favorite Team: Seattle Seahawks.
Favorite Athlete: Russell Wilson.
Favorite Vacation: New York.
Favorite Hobby: Surfing and running.
Favorite Subject: Science.
Favorite Quote: “There is nothing impossible in this world.” – Eliud Kipchoge.
Favorite Food: Cheese-It.
Favorite Drink: Chocolate milk.
Favorite Restaurant: Red Robin.
Favorite Season: Summer.
Favorite Sports Memory: Winning states in indoor track.
Favorite Teacher: Coach Bean (Johnathon Rigsby).
Favorite Sport: Cross country and track..
Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: Eat a lot of pasta.
Favorite Website/App: MileSplit.
Favorite Follow On Twitter/Instagram: WSL and NCRunners.
Ideal Dinner Guest List: Russell Wilson, Gabriel Medina, Kelly Slater, Usain Bolt and Eliud Kipchoge.
Ideal Group To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse: Colten Rodriguez, Cooper Kleckner, Luke Reardon, Thomas McCabe, Jake Daffron and coach Andy Bulfer.
Items For A Deserted Island: Surfboard, my dog, fishing net, tent, first-aid kit.