Aidan Palmer (#925) is pictured above on the left, participating in the 2019 OSAA Cross Country 6A State Championship Race on November 9, 2019. Photo by Pete Chin.

Current Franklin long distance runner and state champ, senior superstar, Aidan Palmer recently turned his dreams into a reality. After winning state, Palmer made it official: On November 21, he signed with the Boise State Broncos to further his athletic and academic career. Palmer commented, “I’m really excited to be running with Boise State next year, I really liked the coaching staff and felt at home with the team when I visited so it’ll be a really good experience for me and I’m looking forward to it. Their men’s team is one of five teams to finish in the top 21 at NCAA Nationals each of the last five years, and it’s a really well coached program that I’m excited to be a part of.”

Palmer will join former Franklin alumni, long distance runner and current Boise State junior, Henry Mong. Mong, who graduated from Franklin in 2017, reached many high milestones during his time at Franklin. He won PIL and Franklin Sportsman of the Year, Gatorade Oregon Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year in 2017, and he won two state titles: the 800 and 1500, both in his senior year. Mong broke multiple Franklin records for those races. Mong originally started out his college freshman running career at USF (University of San Francisco). He spent one year there, then decided to take a semester off to coach at Franklin, while deciding on which college he would run for next. When asked what sparked his decision to transfer out of USF, Mong said “There were many reasons. The biggest reason was that I didn’t have a good relationship with the head coach. I also felt like the program was beginning to fall apart. They no longer have a men’s track program so I definitely made the right choice.”

At the beginning of his junior year in college, Mong joined Boise State: he’s currently finishing up his second semester there. Palmer will join Mong next year, running on the Broncos long distance team. “I couldn’t be happier to have Aidan on the team next year. I remember convincing him to try cross country while he was running track his freshman year. Since then, he has developed into one of the toughest athletes I have seen. I think that even as a freshman he will be able to come into an established Division 1 program and make an impact because of his competitive mindset,” said Mong. Palmer and Mong make a dynamic duo; the two state champions have known each other ever since they first started running together.  The connection between Mong and Palmer began Mong’s senior year at Franklin in 2017, when Palmer was just a freshman that ran track. “I’ve known Henry since I first started running, and I’m really excited to be teammates with him again because we’ve gotten to be really close friends and he’s someone I’ve always looked up to. After my freshman year of track, I met up with him at Tabor to get a run in, and he told me I was gonna be a state champ one day.” Although Palmer believed that Mong was out of his mind at the time, his faith influenced Palmer. Today, Palmer is the best in Oregon.

Palmer won state this year, and became the first runner in Franklin history to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals. “The big goal for the team this year was to win a state title, and after coming back from Lane Community College empty handed the past few years, our boys were really motivated to make it happen,” said Palmer. He described how this entire season was leading up to succeeding at the state meet on November 9. No Franklin cross country team before them had put in as many miles over the summer as they had, or had trained as hard as them (during summer). In past years there have been many runners who influenced Palmer as a newbie; they taught him how to race with a chip on his shoulder. Palmer also noted that his team knew that if they executed their race plan, then they knew that they had just as good of a chance as their biggest competition, #1 ranked Jesuit. “Getting the individual title was something I knew I was capable of and was a big goal of mine, but the team title meant much more to me. Crossing the finish at state was a huge relief for me, because seeing all of the miles, hard workouts, my daily routine, and my emotional investment in racing pay off and it’s a moment I’ll never forget. Turning around and watching the rest of the boys fight to get across the line to win our first team title meant everything to me, (and though I didn’t know we had won right away,) I knew that they had given it everything they had and at the end of a championship race, that’s what matters more than anything,” said Palmer.

This year was Palmer’s third time running at the OSAA Cross Country state meet. He placed first and PRed with a time of 15:04. The cross country state meet course changed this year, so the times were much faster for everyone, not just for Palmer; the winning time was 32 seconds faster this year than last year. After placing third at regionals, Palmer automatically qualified as an individual for NXN (Nike Cross Nationals), which he was happy about. Even though his race unfortunately didn’t go as planned,  Palmer said, “The whole experience was amazing, and I got a lot out of it.” It was his last high school cross country race, and it meant a lot to him that all of his teammates, friends, and family came out to support [him.] “ I was not only running for myself that race, but my teammates, coaches, and everyone else who had helped me get to the national level.” When Palmer went to watch Nike Cross Nationals last year, he grabbed one of the Northwest regional pennant flags they were handing out, and put it up on his wall when he got home, so (that) he could look at it every night before I went to bed. Every time Palmer wanted to sleep in instead of going on a morning run,(or doing a hard workout or long run,) it served as a reminder to him of why every day matters. One year later it’s still on his wall in the same place, along his NXN Northwest singlet hanging up right next to it.

Eighteen year Franklin XC coach Jacob Michaels believes that to become a champion, it takes a determined work ethic and embracing the responsibility of being talented. To get where they are at now, Palmer and Mong both have put in hours of hard work. “Distance runners overall learn that their sport essentially requires running everyday, year round. That’s the type of work ethic that is built into distance running. Now the intensity of that running, especially in between seasons is not especially high, but still a mile run is just a walk around the block for distance runners at this level, and that is an easy day. All successful distance runners at Franklin adopt this work ethic, not just the D1 runners,” said Michaels. When asked to describe the difference between the two D1 athletes and other less committed runners on the team, he responded, “The D1 runners however in general never miss a practice or a run. This championship team ran 10 times a week every week for the entire summer to prep for season, and essentially what they did in season as well.”

Michaels has coached ten athletes at Franklin that have gone to run D1: eight men, and two women. Coach Michaels compared Franklin’s current XC team to the team Henry Mong was on as a senior, saying, “[The] talent level [is] very similar, which is a very high level, but the team as a whole this year had [to] absolutely buy-in to the training and desire to achieve greatness as a team. This year’s team is the most closely knit, group oriented team I have ever coached by far. They ran for each other and as a unit. It was inspiring.” Once a freshman listening to Mong’s words of encouragement, Palmer is now a state champion who hopes to inspire others: “I want to be an inspiration to all of the underclassmen who ran cross country this year, as proof that you can do anything you put your mind to.”

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