Chinchar no run-of-the-mill athlete


Chinchar no run-of-the-mill athlete
By Sandy Ringer
Seattle Times staff reporter

Little matter whether he is the chaser or the chasee. Just give him a race, and the Kentwood High School senior thrives.

"It's the thrill of the race," he said. "I don't really enjoy practice and all of the running by myself, but I love to race. It's awesome."

And Chinchar can be amazing in close races.

"The better the competition, the better I run," he said.

Chinchar enjoyed some epic cross-country races with Joe Churchill of Auburn Riverside last season, including one where he dove at the finish line and still had to settle for second. At state, he used a late surge to shoot into second place behind Jeff Helmer of Jackson.

At the Class 4A state track-and-field championships last spring, he finished second behind Churchill in the 1,600 meters and took third in the 3,200, where Lake Stevens sophomore Joey Bywater was the upset winner.

Chinchar established himself as one of the state's elite distance runners and also became known as quite a character, a guy as quick with a smile as a sprint.

"The other kids really respect him not only as a runner, but as a personality," Auburn Riverside coach Bill Sumner said.

"A lot of runners when they get ready for a race are very uptight and won't talk to you and you're the enemy," he said. "That's kind of ridiculous to me. I'm friends with all the guys. It's fun for me. During a race, I won't talk to you, but after the race I'll joke around and have a good time."

Chinchar was a riot when it came to taking team pictures last year. He did a handstand in one and was dressed as the super hero Flash in another. His mom, Vicki, could only shake her head when she saw them.

"I asked him, 'What kind of picture is that?' and he said, 'I don't want my kids in 30 years to think I was boring in high school.' I told him there's no fear of that," she said.

Chinchar, who has a 3.65 grade average, is a campus favorite.

"I don't know any student or teacher who doesn't like him," coach Michelle Fyfe said.

Chinchar's quirky side comes out as he walks the Kentwood halls, touching one locker after another. One day Fyfe watched as he walked around the Kentwood weight room and ran his fingers across every piece of equipment.

"It's a habit," he said. "I'm touching stuff all the time."

Few might be able to touch Chinchar this cross-country season, especially when the big meets roll around.

"He's got a knack for peaking at the right time," Fyfe said.

His ultimate goal is to win the state title and he is the preseason favorite, with guys like Helmer and Churchill gone via graduation. But he has other priorities as well.

"What I'm really focusing on is having the team do well," said Chinchar, who made a recruiting trip to Iona, N.Y., last weekend and has others planned to Georgetown, Arkansas, Portland and Northern Arizona.

Chinchar was a reluctant participant when his father first prodded him to try running. His early athletic passion was soccer, but later changed to basketball and then, by the time he was a Kentwood freshman, to running.

And now Chinchar is racing to the top.