Arlington standout senior distance runners Brandon Moore (left) and Aiden Emerson are having spectacular track seasons for the Eagles this spring. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arlington standout senior distance runners Brandon Moore (left) and Aiden Emerson are having spectacular track seasons for the Eagles this spring. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

WSU-bound Arlington seniors are a dynamite distance-running duo

Close friends Aiden Emerson and Brandon Moore have pushed each other to become elite runners.

Aiden Emerson and Brandon Moore still remember one of their first summer practices together.

It was back in 2018, prior to their freshman years at Arlington High School. It was supposed to be just a light run with another one of their future high school teammates.

But as talented distance runners coming from rival middle schools, Emerson and Moore had a history of competing against each other. And that competitiveness spilled over.

With about a quarter-mile left, they picked up the pace and turned an “easy run” into an all-out race.

“We just started racing,” Emerson said. “It’s kind of funny talking about it now.”

Emerson and Moore quickly became close friends. Over the past few years, they developed into elite high school distance runners. Recently, they both signed to continue their running careers at Washington State University.

And during countless fast-paced training runs along the way, they’ve continued to push each other to be their best.

“I couldn’t imagine myself being as fast as I am now without Brandon,” Emerson said. “… If I had to do all the (training) runs by myself, I wouldn’t be where I was.”

After earning top-10 finishes in last fall’s Class 3A state cross country meet, Emerson and Moore are both having exceptional senior seasons in track and field this spring.

Emerson is ranked among the top 60 high school boys in the nation this season in all three distance events, according to Athletic.net. He ranks 11th in the 1,600 meters (4:06.55), 25th in the 800 meters (1:52.33) and 60th in the 3,200 meters (8:59.66).

Moore, meanwhile, is ranked 48th nationally in the 3,200 meters (8:58.17) and 125th in the 800 meters (1:54.35).

And with those times, the Arlington duo sits at the very top of the state’s 3A boys classification. In the 800 meters, Emerson is No. 1 in 3A and Moore is No. 2. In the 1,600 meters, Emerson is No. 1. And in the 3,200 meters, Moore is No. 1 and Emerson is No. 2.

“It’s a blessing for each of them,” Arlington distance coach Jon Murray said of Emerson and Moore being teammates. “They’re able to feed off each other and help each other out. They’re able to do similar workouts. They’re able to go for most of their runs together. They understand each other’s struggles. They understand each other’s commitment and (the) hard work that it takes to get to that next level.

“Most guys don’t get to see what they’re seeing until they get to the college level, when they have multiple teammates that are the same caliber or better. But they get to see it themselves in high school.”

Emerson (left) and Moore are close friends who have helped push each other to success. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Emerson (left) and Moore are close friends who have helped push each other to success. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Emerson and Moore both took up distance running in middle school and quickly excelled.

At a middle school track championship meet in eighth grade, they both finished well ahead of the pack in the 1,600 meters. Moore took first place in a scorching 4:39.42, which was the 10th-fastest middle school time in the nation that year. Emerson wasn’t far behind, finishing in 4:51.62.

“In middle school, every time we went against each other it was like the race of the meet,” Moore said. “Like, everyone wanted to watch it. And then I always thought how good we would be in high school together.

“And then now as teammates, it’s fun to have someone (like that) to train with. It makes training so much more fun.”

The two also spend a lot of time together outside of running — whether it’s playing Xbox or going to the movies or eating teriyaki.

“It’s really great to have somebody that you can hang out with — and then also work hard with, go on runs with and try to win state titles with,” Emerson said.

Emerson qualified for the 3A state cross country meet as a freshman and placed 26th in state as a sophomore. Then after the state championships were canceled in his junior season because of the coronavirus pandemic, he took 10th place in state this past fall.

But for Emerson, that was a disappointing finish to his prep cross country career. He was hoping to earn one of the top spots on the podium.

“I wasn’t super happy with the season,” Emerson said. “And during the winter I was like, ‘I believe I’m one of the top guys in Washington, and I haven’t really shown that.’ So I definitely got to work.”

Emerson put in a lot of training in January and February, increasing his mileage from years past. He also spent two to three days per week building strength in the weight room.

“When he came into our program, he was kind of already a man-child at that point,” said Murray, a former WSU distance-running standout. “As a ninth grader, he already looked like a lot of seniors who are coming out of our program.

“But he now has put himself on a whole other level. This whole year he’s looked like … a really good college distance runner.”

Emerson, pictured in cross country last fall, holds top-60 nationally ranked times in all three high school track distance races this season. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Emerson, pictured in cross country last fall, holds top-60 nationally ranked times in all three high school track distance races this season. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Emerson’s hard work has certainly paid dividends this spring, which is the state’s first full high school track and field season since 2019.

At the prestigious Arcadia Invitational last month in Southern California, Emerson took second place in the one-mile run with a time of 4:08.00. He posted a 1,600-meter time of 4:06.55 in that race, which ranks No. 1 in the state’s 3A classification by more than five seconds.

Emerson also has the top 3A time in the 800 meters, sitting 2.02 seconds faster than second-ranked Moore and nearly four seconds faster than the classification’s third-ranked runner.

And Emerson ranks second in 3A in the 3,200 meters, sitting 1.49 seconds behind his top-ranked teammate.

“Once Aiden kind of got over that state cross country (meet), he set his sights on, ‘Hey, I’m gonna go win multiple events at the state track meet,’” Murray said. “… Ever since January (and) February, he’s really put himself in a position to go chase after those kinds of goals.”

Moore, meanwhile, had a spectacular finish to his prep cross country career this past fall. He posted back-to-back personal bests in the district and state meets, capped by a second-place medal at the 3A state championships.

“It gave me a lot of confidence for this upcoming track season,” Moore said.

However, Moore was hampered by a quad injury during his training in January and February. He took about a week off from running, which set him back.

“Brandon probably spent a good portion of the (track) season racing his way back into shape,” Murray said.

Moore placed second in last fall’s Class 3A state cross country meet and is ranked top-50 nationally in the 3,200 meters this spring. (TJ Mullinax/for The Herald)

Moore placed second in last fall’s Class 3A state cross country meet and is ranked top-50 nationally in the 3,200 meters this spring. (TJ Mullinax/for The Herald)

The highlight of Moore’s season so far came on April 29, when he broke the nine-minute mark in the 3,200 meters at the Nike/Jesuit Twilight Relays in Portland, Oregon.

Moore was a late addition to the top heat of the event. And he made the most of the opportunity, running a 36-second personal best to take fifth place out of 26 runners. His time of 8:58.17 ranks No. 1 in the state’s 3A classification this season, sitting 1.49 seconds ahead of second-ranked Emerson and more than 10 seconds ahead of the third-ranked runner.

Moore also ranks No. 2 in 3A in the 800 meters, sitting 2.02 seconds behind top-ranked Emerson. And Moore ran a 4:17.46 mile in the Arcadia Invitational, which converts to an approximate 1,600-meter time that would rank sixth in 3A.

Moore said his quad injury only ramped up the motivation for him this season.

“It just motivated me to train even harder, so I could get back on track (and) catch up to where I was,” he said.

Emerson and Moore are also part of Arlington’s 4×400 relay team, whose season-best time of 3:25.35 ranks No. 1 in 3A.

“We all get pretty excited for that race,” Emerson said. “… It’s really fun to race with Brandon (and) to race all together as a team.”

In addition, Emerson and Moore are among a talented core of athletes that have the Arlington boys track and field team looking like a potential 3A state title contender.

“They’ve been team players their whole high school career, even during a shortened high school career with the COVID shutdowns,” Murray said. “They have done everything they possibly can to help their cross country teams achieve, and now they get to do the same thing with their track team.

“(We’re) definitely one of four or five teams that could battle for a state championship. … So they know that their buddies depend on them again, and they want to score as many points as possible.”

After their high school careers conclude, Emerson and Moore are looking forward to continuing their running careers together at WSU.

“It still seems so surreal,” Emerson said of being able to run at the Pac-12 level with one of his closest friends. “Like, it doesn’t feel real. It’s really cool. It’s really exciting.”

But first, the elite Arlington duo is looking to make its mark at the state meet. The postseason begins with the league and district championships over the next two weeks, followed by the state championships on May 26-28.

“We want to do some special things this year,” Emerson said. “And I think we have so far. But we’re definitely not close to done yet. … We’re gonna show that we are the top of the state.”

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