Photo by Derrick Mahone
Clayton State senior Ayrton Azcue is looking to end his final season on the track with a trip to the NCAA Div. II Outdoor Championships. Azcue placed second at the indoor championships in the 800-meter event.
MORROW — Ayrton Azcue never offered any excuses, and quitting was never an option.
The Clayton State senior middle distance runner competed on the Lakers cross country and track team for the last three years without making an NCAA Div. II championship meet.
But that all changed this past winter when the Spaniard made an indoor cut in the 800-meter event. And the Madrid native made the most of his first NCAA appearance.
Azcue finished runner-up at the championships in Birmingham, Ala., last month.
“I put the work in to get to that point,” Azcue said.
It was ironic that Azcue’s most successful showing came at the same track where he finally tested his coaches strategy in the 800 race.
A few weeks before the race, Clayton State participated at an indoor meet at the Birmingham Cross Plex, where he was competing against a top competitor. Lakers assistant Clive Caesar always tried to convince Azcue to break from the pack and push himself harder during the first part of the race.
Azcue did. And he got the results that Caesar was hoping for.
“I think he was always worried that if he went too hard, that he wouldn’t have anything let in the end,” said Caesar, a former runner for the Lakers’ program. “For him to do that, it give him a lot of confidence going into the championship meet. He had always been a little timid and stuck to the middle of the pack. Now he knows what to do to win.”
With the renewed confidence, Azcue was able to take the new approach to the NCAA indoor championships, and he got the results he had being working towards that last three seasons.
“I was a little surprised, but I was definitely pleased at the way I ran,” he said.
Now, he is looking to better that finish during the outdoor championship.
This past indoor season, Azcue set the school indoor records in the 800 with a time of 1:50.36 and in the mile with a time of 4:13.85. A native of Madrid, Azcue was named the 2013 Southeast Region’s Men’s Track Athlete of the Year after breaking the school record in the 800m with a time of 1:50.36.
“There were some frustrations during my career with not making the championship meet,” he said. “I never envisioned myself at quitting. That is just not me.”
But there has been some frustrating moments on and off the track.
Last spring semester, Azcue mother passed, and he thought about returning home permanently to be with his family.
“I know my mother wanted me to comeback here and finish,” he said. “Family is very important where I come from and I had a younger brother at home.”
He did return later in the semester.
But during the cross country season, he experienced another setback with a leg injury. Azcue didn’t finish the cross country season while he rehabbed his leg.
He didn’t let the latest setback stop him either as he came back stronger during the indoor season for his runner-up finish at the indoor championships.
“Missing most of the cross country season give me some motivation,” he said.
“He has progress tremendously throughout the season,” Caesar said. “He is doing all the things it takes to be the best.”