Joshua Rauvola’s introduction to competitive running, in a convoluted way, is an illustration of the Archbishop Murphy senior’s cross country career.
Rauvola’s talent is undeniable.
He ran a 5,000-meter race in 15 minutes, 44 seconds as a freshman. He once ranked among the top 10 in the nation among sophomores in the 1,600, running a 4:17 that track and field season. Murphy coach Paul Turner for 14 years has coached gifted runners, and he put Rauvola at the top of his list.
Beyond Rauvola’s talent is an unrelenting desire to be great — an unmatched competitive drive that extends beyond cross country courses and high school tracks. But that sterling attribute, which Turner billed his greatest strength, has also proved to be the senior’s most glaring affliction.
“He is as an intense of a competitor as there is out there, and he just wants to be super successful,” Turner said.
That dynamic of pushing to be great but learning not to do too much was encapsulated when Rauvola first discovered his talent.
Rauvola was a seventh grader living in Colorado when a mom of one of his friends decided to put on a half marathon. The plan was his group of friends and him would run the race relay-style, with each of them completing 3 miles.
But just before the race Rauvola was told he didn’t have a spot on the relay. He called his parents for advice.
“They said, ‘Josh, just run it.’” Rauvola recalled. “‘Just run part of the relay by them.’”
Rauvola took the instruction to run the race as running the whole race — the entire 13.1 miles by himself. So he did just that. Rauvola, with no training, covered the entire mileage at an average pace in the 7-minute range. He placed second in his age group and beat his friends’ relay team.
“I went out super-fast and hard being a dumb, little kid,” Rauvola said. “I was the most tired I have ever been.”
That day Rauvola discovered his gift. He was a runner. His dad and brother were football standouts, and Rauvola wasn’t bad himself, but when he moved to Washington the summer after his seventh-grade year, he knew he could do something special if he committed to running.
“I think it was the best fit for me,” Rauvola said. “I realized if I wanted to do something I wanted to do it well. I knew I could be good at other sports, but it was a question of being great at a sport. I wanted to be great more so than good.”
Rauvola has shown flashes of greatness throughout his Archbishop Murphy running career.
Turner has seen them and knew to an extent what he was getting before Rauvola joined the Wildcats. Rauvola’s mom had shared her son’s times with Turner, and once training began, the young runner instantly become the team’s top athlete.
But Turner needed more evidence to fully grasp Rauvola’s ability. That day came Sept. 27, 2014, during the 41st Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, California.
“I was thinking if he goes out and runs a 16:20 or a 16:30, he’ll be one of the best kids in our region and be pretty special,” Turner said. “He goes out and had a couple Lakewood guys, seniors he was marking the whole time, and he is running down the home stretch and I am running with him and screaming at him. I looked down at my watch, and it said 15-something, and my eyes just popped out their sockets. ‘Holy cow, I had no idea.’ That moment I knew he was more than a special athlete and had everything in front of him.”
Special. Talented. Gifted. These adjectives, doled out by Turner, describe Rauvola. But the reward of possessing those qualities hasn’t fully materialized.
Rauvola’s career has been marked by ups and downs. He was ascending and well on his way to distinguishing himself as one of the best runners in the state when his drive to be great caught up with him.
Rauvola is the type of athlete and person who knows one speed — fast. He attacks his extracurricular activities with the same tenacity as his workouts. As well as training for track and cross country, Rauvola has been on the student counsel going on four years, he’s part of Archbishop Murphy’s ASB, he holds a student role with the Cascade Conference and he competes in knowledge bowl, history bowl and high-q competitions. He also is a part of DECA — an association of high school and college students and teachers that focus on marketing management and entrepreneurship. Rauvola does all this while holding a 3.8 GPA.
The runner has learned to enjoy life and take advantage of opportunities, but he’s also had to learn the hard way that moving too fast can have its consequences.
The repercussion came in the form of a stress reaction on his right tibia while preparing to elevate himself even higher following a breakthrough sophomore year.
“Sophomore track season was when he broke all the school records and was really, really successful,” Turner said. “He had a training plan for the summer, and to his own admittance he overdid it and did more than he was supposed to do and ended up getting the stress reaction.”
The injury was a devastating blow. It wiped out nearly all of Rauvola’s junior cross country year and robbed him of the ability to properly prepare for the state meet.
Still, the standout runner put together arguably his strongest race ever and finished second in state. The race displayed Rauvola’s maturation as a runner and his ability to manage lofty expectations.
“Early on I was petrified,” Rauvola said. “First race ever, I puked my brains out. I was so scared, and it caused me to freak out. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to calm down and realize this is for fun, and that has helped me to round myself out as a runner.”
Despite solidifying himself as one of the state’s premier runners, the stress reaction crippled Rauvola’s ability to reach peak performance. The injury lingered and led to a calf injury that hampered his junior track and field season, too.
The injury has offered Rauvola a new perspective, an appreciation for running he didn’t necessarily own before his junior year.
“(Being injured) can be frustrating and almost makes you want to quit,” Rauvola said. “I have had many moments where I thought, ‘Is it worth it?’ Then you get that one moment when you feel like you are flying, like nothing can stop you and you feel free. It’s hard to put into words when you win a race and you feel good about the job you have done.”
Rauvola is fully healthy now, and he has plenty riding on his senior year. He’s hoping to etch his name as the best runner in 2A by winning a state championship. He also wants to compete at a high enough level to earn himself a college scholarship, which should happen if all goes well.
Rauvola still isn’t at the level he was sophomore year when he was breaking school records. Turner has built a cautious training program for him, keeping Rauvola from running on concrete and slowly building to where he can peak at the state meet.
Rauvola has paid special attention to his body, building just the right amount of muscle and carefully monitoring his 5,000-calorie-a-day diet in order to set himself up to finally achieve the greatness he’s always been striving toward.
The senior, who mentally has developed into a much stronger runner since his freshman year, has learned to harness his rare athleticism and special talent, respect it and not push too hard.
He’s certainly learned to enjoy his sport and not take his ability for granted.
“I had my first 3K race on Wednesday (Sept. 6) and there was all the smoke,” Rauvola said. “It was gross and disgusting. I could barely breathe. I had a massive bloody nose and ran like trash, but I started to smile and laughed after all that and thought, ‘Man, it is good to run again. It’s good to feel the pain in the legs and feel like you can really start doing your best again and put your best foot forward.’”