Gerrit VanBeek of Grace Academy is one of the more accomplished track and field athletes in the area. He won several state titles in the running events at last year’s 1B state meet and will be a shoo-in this year. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Small school, big talent: VanBeek eyes more state titles

Gerrit VanBeek is one of the best high school runners in Snohomish County regardless of classification. There’s no doubt about that.

When comparing the Grace Academy senior to other small-school runners, however, his dominance truly stands out. This spring, he has posted the best times in the state at the 1B level in the 200- and 400-meter runs and the second-fastest time in the 100. He also anchors the Eagles’ 4×100 relay squad, which has the third-best time in the state.

VanBeek won state titles in the 200 and 400 last spring and has his sights set on four this year. He said he believes he’s capable of setting a couple of state-meet records along the way. Oh, and he also hopes to lead his team to a state championship.

Those are lofty goals, for sure. But if VanBeek sets his mind to accomplishing something, he usually gets it done.

“He’s dedicated to doing what he’s doing, and I don’t have to push him,” Eagles coach Fred Howard said. “He pays attention to coaching. He works hard to stay in shape all year round, lifting weights in the offseason. I bet anything he eats right. He’s obviously combining all of those good things to make him an outstanding athlete.”

When VanBeek runs, he’s competing more against himself than against the other sprinters.

“I always strive to get my times lower,” he said. “If I get first, I could care less unless I (set a personal record). If I’m not PRing, I don’t really feel like I earned that first-place medal.”

VanBeek has set school records in all four of his events — 11.34 seconds in the 100, 22.75 in the 200, 50.38 in the 400 and 45.09 in the 4×100 relay. He especially excels in the 400, however.

“I have to lengthen my stride because I’m shorter and running against guys who are taller than me. I’ve been running hills around my neighborhood to try to increase my stamina,” he said. “I don’t know if I like running (the 400). I definitely feel really good after running it, though, because I push my body to peak (performance).”

“He does a great job in the intermediate part of the 400,” Howard said. “He maintains his speed, so when he comes off the corner he’s got more left than everybody else. If he comes off the corner in first place, it’s unlikely anybody’s going to catch him.”

VanBeek’s athletic background includes more than running. He also played basketball and soccer at Grace Academy, and when he was younger he participated in speedskating and mixed martial arts.

“I was pretty good at speedskating, but I was nervous. I did MMA for two years, and that kind of broke my nervousness, and I started becoming really competitive,” he said. “Then in the seventh grade I came out for track and loved it.

“I’ve always loved running. As a young kid I’d race my dad and it’d always be really close. I would always race people at recess and beat them. As far as my body goes, I haven’t grown a whole lot, but I have more of a running form.”

After graduating from Grace Academy, VanBeek plans on attending Everett Community College and competing for the Trojans’ track and field team. He also wants to try out for EvCC’s soccer team.

The dedication that VanBeek displays on the track extends to other aspects of his life — he’s a member of the National Honor Society and a trained musician (percussion, piano). He plans on pursuing a career in sports medicine.

“Sports medicine is a big (interest) because I like helping people, I like sports and I like science,” he said.

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