High School Sports

Shiny on the outside, competitive on the inside – that’s Bellarmine runner Jack Yearian

Jack Yearian with his Gatorade Player of the year award that won last year, in back, looks toward the upcoming state track tournament at Bellarmine Prep on Tuesday, May 24, 2015. The University of Oregon commit and reigning Gatorade state track and field athlete of the year is going for back-to-back state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 after coming off a 4A state cross country title in the fall.
Jack Yearian with his Gatorade Player of the year award that won last year, in back, looks toward the upcoming state track tournament at Bellarmine Prep on Tuesday, May 24, 2015. The University of Oregon commit and reigning Gatorade state track and field athlete of the year is going for back-to-back state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 after coming off a 4A state cross country title in the fall. Staff photographer

Two things get Jack Yearian really jazzed during track and field season at Bellarmine Prep:

▪ Shiny bling.

▪ And someone to zing.

Yearian is a fun-loving wisecrack who has a taste for fast times and first-place medals.

After his career at Bellarmine Prep finishes up Saturday at Star Track, the state championships at Mount Tahoma, he will don the brightest uniform in NCAA Division I for the next four years — the luminous yellow of the Oregon Ducks.

Yet, Yearian doesn’t lug around all those sparkling gold medals from winning races. Those are kept stored away by his mother, Mary Pat.

He does carry one of special significance with him in his track equipment bag. It was from the finals of the Class 4A boys’ 1,600-meter run in 2014.

Yearian was then an up-and-coming sophomore. He had opened eyes earlier in the season by winning the Rising Star Mile at the Arcadia Invitational — a prestigious in-season meet in California. His final kick in a run of 4 minutes, 17.48 seconds was astonishing — 200 meters in 25.6 seconds.

“That was the first time I thought, ‘This kid is at a different level,’ ” Bellarmine Prep boys coach Matt Ellis said.

In the state 1,600, Yearian ran with the lead pack. Then unexpectedly, he got tangled up with Eisenhower senior Drew Schreiber, who was built as much like a linebacker as he was a mile runner.

The Yakima standout landed an elbow flush to Yearian, who was thrown off balance. Whether it was intentional or not, it served its purpose. Schreiber won in 4:07.32. Yearian came in second at 4:08.50.

So when Yearian now looks into his bag and sees that second-place medal, all the emotions from that defeat flood him.

“When I reach for my spikes, I see that red ribbon (attached to the medal),” Yearian said. “I get angry, or motivated — or both. It gets to me.”

The two-time Gatorade state boys track and field athlete of the year has lost few races since then.

Yearian swept the 1,600 (4:12.14) and 3,200 (8:59.94) at the state meet last season as a junior.

The times he has posted as a senior have been blistering: He ran the 400 in a dual meet in 50.42. His best 800 mark was 1:52.97 at the Mount Si Invitational. And his 9:06.29 is one of the fastest 3,200 times in Washington.

But it is what he did in the mile run at Nike/Jesuit Twilight Relays that shows his true upside. He recorded a 4:06.33 to finish second to Idaho prep star Michael Slagowski of Rocky Mountain High School (3:59.53).

Yearian’s 1,500 split in that race of 3:48.87 ranks sixth all-time in Washington high school history.

“One of the things he shares with the other greats we’ve had — Brie (Felnagle) and Nicole (Cochran) — is that when he goes to make his move, he is fully committed to it,” Ellis said. “That is something young runners with a lot of talent have to learn to do.”

Ellis said Yearian is especially good at making people laugh.

“Distance runners can be uptight,” Ellis said.

That arguably is the best trait Yearian inherited from his father, Phil, who was a former standout runner at Port Townsend High School (1982), Bellevue College and, finally, the University of Portland, where he ran the steeplechase.

Phil Yearian grew up in a community where running mattered and had history. However, when he went to high school, the boys did not have a cross country squad.

So one day late in the fall of 1981, student-teacher Jeff Coulter, who ran competitively at Western Washington University, suggested that Phil Yearian enter the state cross country meet unattached.

“My mom was flat-out against the idea,” Phil Yearian said.

Wearing a makeshift jersey, Phil Yearian entered the state meet at Evergreen High School. He placed 13th — unofficially.

And he ran right off the track and into the back of Coulter’s van. The two drove off, hoping WIAA officials would not catch them.

Down the road, they decided to pull a prank on his mother by calling her from a pay phone to tell her that the teenager had been caught and was facing serious WIAA sanctions.

“Man, my mom was mad,” Phil Yearian said. “Heated up.”

Jack Yearian is fond of a good prank, joke or well-timed one-liner. Especially if it’s at the expense of a teammate.

“Where there is a weak spot in somebody’s armor,” Yearian said, “I go for it.”

Yearian can straddle the line between gutsy comic and ruthless jokester. One of his daily targets is Lions 800 runner Cameron Wyman, a junior and state favorite this weekend.

“Sometimes I’ll just be quiet on our runs to deal with the way he acts,” Wyman said. “But he is definitely a fun teammate. He is also a mentor to me. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am running. I owe him a lot, so it is worth putting up with his (jokes).”

Yearian says he kids because he cares (wink, wink).

“Running is a huge part of my life,” he said. “But keeping myself on an even keel, and being balanced is important. I want to enjoy being a teenager.”

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