Good times on the track



Good times on the track

This story was published Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

By Rene Ferran, Herald staff writer

Some things were just meant to go together.

Peanut butter and jelly.

Rock and roll.

Aaron Wafer and track and field.

It's not just because Wafer, a Moses Lake senior, is one of the fastest kids in the region, the defending state champion in the 200 meters who's qualified for state in seven events the past two years.

No, the reason this is the perfect marriage of athlete and sport is because Wafer may be the most gregarious person you'll meet, and with plenty of down time between events, he has many opportunities to strike up conversations in the infield.

"I'm definitely a social butterfly," he said. "I like the fact that when you're warming up, you can talk to all the other athletes, just talk and have fun."

A three-sport athlete who also plays football and basketball, Wafer seemingly charms everyone he meets.

"He's just such a fun kid to be around," said Chiefs football coach Greg Kittrell. "He's high energy, always upbeat, very social. He's just a very friendly young man."

Wafer gets his quickness from his parents, Alvin Wafer and Lucinda Valdez (they separated when Aaron was in fourth grade; Alvin now lives in Seattle), both of whom competed in track in high school.

Aaron began running competitively in seventh grade, and right away the sport appealed to him.

"I like how everything is on you," he said. "I know I can depend on myself to give it all that I've got. If you put the work in, you're going to get good results."

He can say that now, but he had to think he was snakebitten when it came to Edgar Brown Stadium until last year's 200 final.

Two years ago as a sophomore, Wafer qualified for the state meet in Pasco in all three sprints but failed to make the finals in any, including a disqualification in the 100.

Then last year, after winning regional titles in the 200, 400 and long jump and taking second in the 100, he arrived at Edgar Brown and had a bit of bad luck right away.

"I ripped a pair of spikes in the long jump prelims," he recalled. "My coaches went right out and bought me a new pair of spikes. I got them right before my 400 prelim."

Which, of course, Wafer finished in fifth, failing to advance to the finals. The next day, he added a sixth in the 100 to his fifth in the long jump, leaving him with just the 200 final to go.

"Coming into the meet, I thought with my qualifying time, I was the top guy there," he said. "But then they put me in Lane 7 (for the finals), and I felt like there was no way I can pull this off because I'm not going to see anyone."

Turns out he was right on one count -- he didn't see anyone. That's because after he made up the stagger on the two runners to his right, Wafer led the whole race, winning in 22.08 seconds -- just two-hundredths off his season-best time.

"I was like, 'Whoa! Did I take first?' " he said. "And when I found out I did, I couldn't believe it."

Wafer's victory opened some doors for him he previously may not have thought were there.

WSU assistant coach Mark Macdonald, who works with the sprinters and is the program's recruiting coordinator, stopped by for a visit last week with Wafer.

His first choice is to sign with the Cougars -- although Wafer has already applied to WSU, his grades (around a 2.7 GPA) and ACT score (20) could be a challenge. "Coach Macdonald said he would work with the admissions department to see what they could do," Wafer said.

If WSU doesn't work out, Wafer also is looking at EWU or the College of the Siskiyous, a junior college in Weed, Calif., where he would run track and play football (he was a second-team All-CBL 4A running back this fall).

No matter what he does, though, you can be sure of one thing.

He'll have plenty of friends to keep him company.

InDepth with Aaron Wafer

Favorite TV show:CSI.

Favorite movie:Clerks 2.

Favorite class: 21st Century Literature and Film.

Favorite food: I can eat any kind of Asian cuisine.

Favorite animal: Cheetah.

Dream date: Scarlett Johansson.

When I grow up: I want to do something in communications -- radio or broadcasting.