Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Catching up with Los Gatos sophomore, Aydon Stefanopoulos

Today we catch up with Los Gatos HS sophomore, Aydon Stefanopoulos. This past season, Stefanopoulos emerged as one of the top sophomores in the country as he recorded times of 4:10.55 and 8:57.99 for the 1600 and 3200 respectively (both times set at the CA state meet). His 1600 time ranks him #7 in the nation for all sophomores while his 3200 time has him as the #5 sophomore in the US. Stefanopoulos at Central Coast Section final finished 2nd place in the 1600 and won the 3200 and was the only distance runner at the state meet to podium in both events as he finished 8th place in the 1600 and 4th place in the 3200. His 3200 time broke the section sophomore record previously held by Crystal Springs course record holder, Mitch Kingery (9:06.35).

1) How did you get your start in running? How old were you? What was your running experience before high school? Track PRs before high school?
After having a skiing accident where I had fallen off a chair lift, I was told running would help me recover. I ended up joining a local track team called Joy's Jackrabbits (I was around 8 at this time), and would go on to train with Willie Harmatz at around the age of 10. Willie is truly the man I owe much of my success to, even today I find myself asking him questions about workouts, what event to run, or even what shoes to buy. He owns an amazing store in Los Gatos called Athletic Performance which I would recommend to anyone. Before high school, my PRs in the mile and 800 were 4:40 and around 2:10 respectively. I had never run the 3200 before high school.

2) Highlights from your freshman cross country season? Who were the runners that you looked up to that helped you as a new high school runner?
Freshman year was definitely a learning experience more than anything. The cross country season had gone well with Mitty and then I transferred to Los Gatos high school and had an alright year there too. I think the biggest thing I learned in my freshman year, is if you want to be good at something, you must first learn to enjoy it. That's where I looked to people like Lex and Leo Young. They offered me a different view of the running world and something to chase and look at for inspiration.

3) You started out at Mitty HS and then moved to Los Gatos HS. How was that transition for you as far as school and for sports?
The transition from Archbishop Mitty high school to Los Gatos high school went well. Neither school had training that was too different from the other, so my body quickly adjusted to this. As much as I miss my Mitty teammates and coaches, I have many many new friends here at Los Gatos, along with an amazing coach to guide me along the way.

4) Is there a race during your freshman season whether it was in cross country or track and field where you feel you gained the confidence that you can compete with some of the best runners in our section and potentially at the state meet?
I think seeing people, up there on the podium, made me want something more than I had before. Every failure I have had, I have looked at and taken something from that, and freshman year was full of these. While there aren't any particularly GOOD races I have to look at, there are many bad ones that have helped me to become who I am today.

5) Did you do anything different this past summer to get ready for your sophomore cross country season?
I have always run pretty low mileage compared to other people in my class. Over the summer, I was mainly focused on speed work more than anything. Freshman to sophomore year summer, I had never gone above 30 miles a week. While my speed was there, it was the anaerobic stuff I was really lacking. Even today, I'm usually doing < 30-mile weeks, and believe I still have much to improve anaerobically.

6) You had a great finish to your high school track season at CCS and state. What do you remember about those races? What was your plan going into CCS? What about the state meet? What did you learn from your experiences at CCS and state?
CCS and states were both such fun events to take part in. I was pretty nervous to double at CCS, actually almost dropping out of the 3200. In my head, I was thinking “There's no way I could double at both CCS and states, and then to podium at both? That'd be crazy.” And a week later, I’m walking out of the meet with two medals. It was almost a surreal experience, having not even made CCS for track my freshman year. What I learned from this is that I shouldn't underestimate my ability to run. GO into every race, like you know you can win it.

7) Who are the coaches and adults that have had the biggest impact on your running career and what have you learned from them?
Obviously, as I have been running for a few years now, I've come across many coaches and people who align the way. I believe Joy Upshaw, owner of Joy's Jackrabbit running club, was definitely the catalyst for my competitive running journey. She would eventually introduce me to Willie Harmatz, who still coaches me today. I wouldn't be at all where I am without Willie. He's truly the one who made me the athlete I am today, and I can't thank him enough for it. My high school coach, Paul Lawryk, has helped me to stay fit and develop me as a high school athlete. He manages to keep practices fun, while also making all of us barf. His positive attitude always helps me stay calm on race day!

8) What does a typical training week look like for you during track season? How long is your longest run? How many workouts during the week?
A week of training in the life of Aydon Stefanopoulos, is pretty light if I'm being honest. A bare-bones schedule would be, Monday: hard, Tuesday: Easy, Wednesday: Steady, Thurs: Easy with hills, Friday (if no race on Saturday): steady run, Saturday: Easy long run. While that's nice, I'll give you something a bit more detailed. Monday: 10x400-1 min rest at 3200 pace, Tue: Easy day (3-5 miles), Wednesday: More intervals, Thurs: Easy day (3-5 miles), Fri: Steady run 4-6 miles, Sat: Race, or long run (7-9 miles). That's what the training schedule of Aydon Stefanopoulos could look like during track season. The longest run I have ever done, was roughly 15 miles? I did it with my friend Sarina, and we never expected to go that far. I think that day, I was supposed to do around 8, but that clearly didn't happen.

9) Favorite cross country course? Favorite cross country invitational? Favorite cross country workout? Favorite track event? Favorite track invitational? Favorite track workout? Favorite long run? Favorite free time activity?
So many fun memories during the XC season. Of course, the Clovis states course is always an amazing option, I’m going to have to go and say Crystal Springs is my favorite. It's always scenic, and I have run it many times so I know the course pretty well. The Clovis Twilight invite takes the cake for my favorite invite. As we hadn't done any big races last year as a team, the Clovis Twilight meet seemed to have great competition. It was also a night meet, because who doesn't love that right? Now my favorite cross-country workout isn't as easy of a pick. As much as I enjoy longer intervals, threshold sessions are just such an amazing way to get fit. I would recommend them to anyone who is trying to get faster, especially if they are doing 16-32. Moving forward to track, I do love a good 1600. It's where I started, it's what I'm best at, and it's what I’ve run the most times. Don't get me started on the track meets, while XC can get pretty hype sometimes, nobody does a race just like Arcadia. The whole vibe of the meet is just so great, and the competition is even greater. If you want to have a big PR, you go to Arcadia, ist just how it works. For track workouts, I have a big love-hate relationship with 400m intervals. While they are such great indicators of fitness, they kind of make you want to die, but that's what track is all about right. Pushing yourself to your limits, seeing how far you can go. For runs, I tend to just go really wherever I want, it really is my secret to having a good time while running. Every long run is just an excuse to go off trails, jump in a lake, or even run back to my old house. Long runs are a place to just relax and be yourself, if I'm running for an hour, it better at least be fun. In my free time, I really enjoy friends and eating. Everyone is starting to get their license, so it's always fun driving around to places we’ve never been before.

10) Looking ahead to your next two years in high school, what are some things you are most looking forward to, and can you share some of your goals?
Goals in running, I find often hurt success, as you may see that certain goal as a barrier, or if you don't reach it you may feel discouraged. Although a few things I've been working towards within the last couple of year is breaking 4:00 in the mile as a junior, breaking 8:40 in the 3200 sometime in high school, and possibly breaking 1:52 in the 800. Obviously, everybody wants a state title, but NXN has always been such a big goal for me. Ever since watching the YT: New Generation track and field video on NXN, it's been a motivator for me to run faster.

Thank you very much for your time Aydon. 

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