When Jason Putnam started high school at Southeast Raleigh, he wanted to leave as the fastest distance runner the school has ever had.
He’s certainly making his point.
The senior set a personal record for the two-mile run the JDL Mini-Meet event in Winston-Salem on Jan. 11. He came in first place with a 9:59.5 in the 3,200-meter race, less than a second before the second-place finisher Jacob Gonzalez of South Johnston. Putnam’s previous time in that event was 10 minutes flat.
“It wasn’t that great a PR, but it wasn’t something I was expecting this early in the season,” Putnam said. “Really, the whole week leading up to it, my focus was to win and to qualify for state, which I did. During the race, I just decided to stick to the strategy. A good strategy is to stay behind the person until like the last moment, which is kind of what I did. I had a really, really fast last lap that had put me in front.”
Putnam, who also runs cross country for the Bulldogs, began with that sport in the sixth grade. He said a couple of years later, his parents pushed him into running track, too.
He said when he got to high school, especially in a strong program like Southeast, his track career grew more serious. Putnam then realized his potential.
“Just the fact that coming in and getting involved in the track community more, I saw that I was pretty good,” he said. “I saw that I had a chance in being pretty good in the state and maybe the country.”
Putnam has broken nearly every distance record with the Bulldogs. His most recent was in the 5K run, where he charted a 16:03. The only record he said remains is in the 1,600-meter run. That mark stands at 4:25, and Putnam’s PR in that event is 4:30.
“I’ll be smacking that down this year,” he said with a laugh. “The main thing that’s kept me going is motivation to do better.”
Putnam said being involved in the running programs has helped with his time-management ability, among other things.
“It’s definitely offered a good way to break boundaries, both mentally and physically,” he said. “It’s also helped me a lot with time management, because it’s a crazy schedule. Almost every weekend, we have a meet and almost every weekend, I have to deal with homework.”
While he enjoys multiple running seasons in various sports, he said cross country and track have their differences. He said cross country can be more family-oriented because so few runners get to race and when they do, it’s just that one race. In track, multiple events call for several separate focuses on the team.
“The main differences is the people and the atmosphere of the meets,” Putnam said. “With track ... I’m basically the only distance runner that sticks it out. A lot of people switch to 800 and 400 when they get to track because it’s shorter. Not many people like running long distance.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan
Sport / Event: Indoor track / 3,200-meter
Fun fact: He is the trombone section leader in the school band.