High School Cross Country

Saacke sustaining tradition for Falcons cross country program

By Dennis Silva II | Sports Editor
Posted 11/21/20

Gavin Saacke is carrying on the vast legacy for the Tompkins’ boys cross country program.

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High School Cross Country

Saacke sustaining tradition for Falcons cross country program

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Gavin Saacke is carrying on the vast legacy for the Tompkins’ boys cross country program.

Following the dominance of former Falcons Daniel Figueroa and Cole Lindhorst in recent years, Saacke has added his name to that distinguished list with a stellar senior campaign.

After four second-place finishes to start the season, Saacke broke through by winning the District 19-6A championship on Oct. 30. His efforts helped coach Walt Yarrow’s program sustain a dynastic run with its third district team title in four years.

Saacke also made it four consecutive seasons that a Falcon has won the boys individual district title, following Lindhorst’s back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2018 and Figueroa’s title in 2017. Like his predecessors, Saacke will run at the next level. He is signed to compete in cross country and track and field at Alabama.

“Gavin’s had good role models and mentors and he’s kind of seen what it takes to do it,” Yarrow said. “One of his strengths is he’s always focused on the big picture. He’s finished second this year in really close meets, but he understands that we want to be our fastest at the end of the year.”

Yarrow’s training regimen for the Falcons is structured to where his boys are running their best toward the end of a season. They will sacrifice wins and times early on for personal bests and medal-finishes in the postseason.

Saacke is a good example of that. He is running his best when it matters most. He finished second at the Region III-6A meet on Nov. 10 and has a legitimate shot at winning the Class 6A state meet on Tuesday, Nov. 24, in Round Rock.

Saacke finished sixth at state last season with a personal-record time of 14-minutes, 57.57 seconds. That result buoyed his motivation this season.

“It gave me a reputation to uphold,” Saacke said. “Because I did it last year, I have to do it again. It boosts my confidence, for sure. Not many people can beat you when you finish sixth at state.”

Saacke started running when he was seven years old. He credits his parents for his passion for athletics. His mom ran at Emery University and his dad played tennis.

“I loved the feeling of being on the track and being able to run fast,” Saacke said.

He has always embraced the premier meets. He has competed with USA Track & Field since he was 12 and has been a varsity runner since his sophomore year.

“I just know what it takes when I’m at the front of a race to take a win or top three,” Saacke said. “A lot of it just has to do with experience. I’m used to running big meets. So, I’ve learned to stay with guys in the front and understand when to make my moves to pull ahead.”

Saacke has a strong closing kick to races, so he knows if he can hang with the front guys at the end of a race, he has the skill to pull out in front and gain separation.

“He’s got this quiet confidence in knowing he’s going to be ready at the right time,” Yarrow said. “He steps up in the big meets. He has really good racing instincts, as far as when to go and when not to go. He focuses on the work. He keeps his eye on the prize, never too up or too down. He’s a gamer.”

But it’s not his ability on the course that has shaped Saacke’s growth as a competitor. It’s his leadership.

Saacke said he enjoys that this year’s team is his, just like previous teams were under Lindhorst’s and Figueroa’s guidance. It’s why he was so excited when Tompkins qualified for state as a team by finishing third at the regional meet.

In an individual sport, Saacke takes great pride in team.

“It’s been me kind of leading the guys and being in charge and see to it to help everyone in this group succeed,” Saacke said. “I’m really excited to be with this group of guys.”

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