Paul Begins makes his presence known quickly. The tall, muscular Skyview senior has spent the past two track seasons cutting a swath through first distance, and then sprint, competition.
Although he placed second in two solo events at the season-opening Kenai dual meet last weekend, his coaches say Begins should have no trouble making his mark through hard work and determination.
"He's got one of the best work ethics you can find in an athlete," said Skyview coach Rob Sparks. "He puts in the best effort he can. Even when we tell him to go 80 percent, he still goes at 90."
To improve his already considerable efforts, Sparks said, Begins has been doing a lot of weight training this winter.
"The strength training has helped him develop explosiveness," Sparks said.
Begins agreed that the extra work has paid off.
Place Skyview High School.
Teams invited Homer, Kenai, Nikiski, Seward, Soldotna, Cook Inlet Academy, Ninilchik, Seldovia, Skyview.
Schedule Field events start at 10 a.m. Saturday, while running events begin at 1 p.m.
Order of field events Team high jump, team shot put, team discus, team long jump and team triple jump.
Order of running events 100-meter low hurdles shuttle relay, 110 high hurdles shuttle relay, 1,600 relay, 1,600, 400 relay, shot/discus throwers 400 relay, 3,200 relay, 800 relay, mixed distance medley relay.
"It really helps on the sprint level," he said. "It makes it a lot easier to explode. I definitely recommend it to anyone who sprints."
Sprinting isn't all that Begins can speak knowledgeably about, either. Until last year, when nature stepped in, he was a long distance runner.
Developing a sturdy muscular frame and a slight case of asthma closed that door for him.
"I decided to sprint because it didn't require as much training in the winter," he said.
Begins said there are some advantages to each style of running.
"Both require a lot of training," he said. "Both offer their own levels of challenge. (Distance runs) require a lot of endurance. (Sprints) you have to be able to explode with intensity."
Originally, Begins took up running at 10 while his father, Ron, was training for a marathon. Ron said running gave Paul something to direct his naturally focused personality toward.
"He's been focused since he was little," Ron said.
Paul's mother, Lil, agreed.
"(Running) gave him a devotion to something," Lil said. "It's given him something to work towards."
In seventh grade, Paul joined the track team in his hometown of Stevensville, Mont. Once he started, his parents said, there was no turning back.
Ron said the two went out to carefully measure distances for Paul's training. After that, Paul ran as much as he possibly could.
"He had to run five miles a day, or he wasn't happy," Lil said.
Joining track in school was a natural fit, joining two things he loved, his parents said.
"He's really team-oriented. He enjoys being part of a team," Ron said.
Paul said he enjoys it in part because it gives him a chance to be around people with the same interests as him.
"I like being able to interconnect," he said. "Everybody's interconnected on the team."
"It's a good challenge," Begins added. "You want to strive to do your best. I think it makes you realize more of who you are as a person.
"I just really like the atmosphere. It's a really fun experience."
In addition to running and working out, Begins spends much of his free time studying.
"If he doesn't know something, he'll read and read and read until he learns it," his father said. "If he's not reading, he's working out."
Begins has been accepted at Oregon State University for the fall semester, where he plans to major in chemical engineering.
Begins said a combination of factors influenced his decision.
"It's the environment that I like," he said. "They have a really good chemical engineering program. They have one of the best track teams.
"They have a nice weight room," he added with a smile.
Sparks said the Skyview team will miss Begins when the time comes for him to move on.
"Just about every good quality you could ask in a human being, he has," Sparks said. "He's sincere, respectful, kind, caring. He's so encouraging, so positive."
Sparks said Begins would almost rather lose a race, despite his competitive streak.
"Paul would want someone to beat him. He'd be happy for that person," Sparks continued.
Begins also makes the coach's job of teaching young runners easier, Sparks said.
"We don't have to teach some of those things because they see them in Paul. He adds such a positive quality, on top of his work ethic," the coach said. "That's who he is as a person."
Assistant coach Joe Trujillo said Begins and fellow senior Jerrod Reynolds are a good influence on the younger sprinters.
"They bring an incredible amount of leadership," he said. "They're giving them a great example. They're very dedicated, very serious."
Sparks said Begins tends to be more concerned for others than himself.
"The thing that sums up Paul is he has never left a day of practice or a day of school without saying, 'Have a good day, coach and thank you,'" Sparks said. "It doesn't matter what kind of day he's having."
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