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‘Generational talent’ Tostenson sets national record in Eugene

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Josiah Tostenson was feeling pretty good heading into his June 30 run at The Outdoor Nationals in Eugene.

The weather report for race day only confirmed that feeling.

“When I woke up and it was 66 degrees, I couldn’t have asked for anything better than that,” Tostenson recalled with a laugh. “I was feeling really good.”

The 14-year-old Tostenson, an incoming freshman at Crater High School after attending Scenic Middle School in Central Point, ran a national boys middle school record of 4 minutes, 23.98 seconds in the mile. He just sneaked in under the previous record that was set all the way back in 1974 by David O’Conor of Montgomery, New York, who ran the mile in 4:24, as well as crushing the previous meet record by more than six seconds.

“It was a bunch of emotions going through my head,” Tostenson said of how he was feeling after the race. “My coach, he told me that it was possible that I could do it, but I wasn’t thinking that I could do it. So when I heard that I broke (the record), it was crazy.”

If Tostenson’s last name sounds familiar, it’s because it is.

He’s the younger brother of former Crater standout Jantz Tostenson, a former Class 5A state champion now running collegiately at Georgetown University. His older sister, Gracie, also ran at Crater and then at the NCAA Division I level at Boise State from 2014-19.

Josiah is just the latest Tostenson to make a name for himself — and he did it even before running a race in high school.

“I coached his older sister, I coached his brother, and there was a little bit of a time there when I was working with Jantz at practices and Josiah would come along to those practices,” Alex Grover, Josiah’s coach at Scenic Middle School, said. “There’s a pedigree in that family, they’re all gifted runners, and it seems like each just picked up where their older sibling left off and took it to another level. And I think Josiah is doing the same thing.”

His name is all over the Scenic Middle School record book, something that he set out to do this spring before his middle school running career came to a close.

But it was the Eugene race that not only got his phone buzzing with texts and calls from family and friends but also impressed even those that have watched him the most.

“Quite honestly, I didn’t know if he could beat that record or not,” Grover said. “I know he’s thrown down some records in practice that were commensurate with running under 4:25. But I think what’s neat for me was when he pulled ahead of that field, he left no doubt with 400 meters to go in that race that he was not just the guy to beat but that there was a chance no one was going to catch him at all.”

Grover and Tostenson put together a plan for the race that allowed the latter to use his strong closing ability to his advantage.

The plan, Tostenson said, couldn’t have been executed any better, as he pulled away from the pack on the final lap and showing off just how strong of a kick he has.

He finished 10 seconds ahead of his closest competition.

“My legs were feeling really good,” Tostenson said. “I’ve been pacing and going for 64s each lap, and the first lap and the second lap were both 64s, so I was being paced perfectly throughout the 400s to be able to set off on that last 400.

“I think I ran it great. That was my exact plan to go out there and stay in with the pack until the 400 or the last 100. That worked out perfectly. I’m definitely proud of my racing strategy.”

Tostenson had two months to prepare for the race in Eugene after hitting a qualifying time during a meet in Portland.

“Preparation was to train hard then go out there and do my thing,” Tostenson said. “That’s what I did, and I just had to make sure I didn’t slack in the two months before nationals.”

Watching Tostenson do his thing is something Grover knows well.

“I’ve been coaching him since he was in second grade and he’s constantly had a plethora of incredible runners around him and he’s just part of the litany of great runners that continue to come through our program,” Grover said. “So him being around those types of kids, those types of athletes that are excelling at their sport and he’s in the mix with them and training with them, it’s just part of his resume.”

The physical talent is there, but Grover says that Tostenson has made big leaps with his approach and mindset during a race.

“He’s used to competing,” Grover said, “but in the last year or two he’s figured out how to put it all together in a race.”

A big reason of that has come through conversations between Tostenson and his older brother, who has passed down some valuable lessons as well.

“He’s really taught me how to race smart,” Josiah said. “Just to go out there, stay with the pack, run my race and then win at the very end. That’s something he’s definitely taught me.”

All of that has equated to what Josiah did in Eugene and what he has his eye on once he gets to run his first race with Crater’s cross-country team in the fall.

“I’m excited,” Tostenson said. “I feel I’ve been waiting for forever to come up and have my times count more than middle school times.”

The expectations for big things to come were there even before Tostenson set a national record.

That might be even more of the case now.

But Tostenson will do the same thing he did after setting the record in Eugene: simply get back to training.

“Josiah knows he’s going into high school with a very high level of expectations for him, but he knows what it’s like to put in the training and put in the time,” Grover said. “It’s pretty incredible his mindset and he doesn’t let the accomplishments inflate his ego or inflate his confidence. He has a pretty quiet confidence that comes with his belief in himself and his belief in the training.

“You put that stuff together and you put that dedication piece in there, and he’s a generational talent.”

Reach Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneJosiah Tostenson works out on the Crater track in Central Point Friday morning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneJosiah Tostenson works out on the Crater track in Central Point Friday morning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCoash Justin Loftus reads spilts for Josiah Tostenson as he works out on the Crater track in Central Point Friday morning.