Even when his high school cross country career was in its infancy, Coppell senior Evan Caswell already knew what it took to win a race.
Growing up, Caswell played baseball and soccer. But, he didn’t get into those two sports as much as cross country. In elementary school, he would go to a nearby track and run for one mile. He first started to run competitively in middle school. Caswell’s average time in the mile was 6:12 – good, but not good enough by his standards.
“In middle school, I was kind of above average but not the best,” he said.
One day his freshman season in high school, everything clicked for him during a junior varsity race in Waxahachie with a first-place finish to boot.
“It opened my eyes to cross country,” he said. “I was mainly surprised. I felt really good. I couldn’t walk afterwards for a bit. It was a great experience.”
It was the start of a highly decorated high school career for Caswell.
As a sophomore, Caswell placed 27th in the state, and the following year as a junior, Caswell he ran to fourth overall and was the top finisher among underclassmen.
It’s not just in cross country that Caswell has excelled. In track and field, he broke the school record in the 3,200-meter run at the Coppell Relays in late February.
“It felt great,” he said. “Knowing that it was the start of the season, I could do a lot better later on. Next track season, I feel like I can do it again.”
Unfortunately for Caswell, as well as for every high school track and field athlete in Texas, the final month of the spring sports season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did the virus halt his aspirations, it forced the cancellation of the Nike Cross Nationals. Last year, Caswell missed qualifying for the nationals by a couple of spots.
“I was definitely bummed because track season usually sets you up for cross country and lets you see who is running where and who your competition is,” he said.
These days, everyone is chasing Caswell.
Caswell has picked up where he left off, winning all five meets this season – all by at least nine seconds, including the District 6-6A meet and the Region 1-6A meet at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock. He ran to a season-best time of 14:58 at the district meet which is the third-fastest time in 6A this season, according to athletic.net, trailing only Duncanville’s Martin Chavez (14:47) and Klein’s Christopher Daniels (14:57).
That domination has come as somewhat of a surprise to Caswell.
“Surprise would be a word that I use,” he said. “I don’t really know before any race. Anyone can pop out and beat me, but I try to win every race.”
Caswell credits his teammates for pushing him every day in practice to be the best version of himself, including seniors Rith Bhattacharyya and Collin Proctor, both of whom have run with Caswell since they were teammates at North Middle School.
“They’ve been amazing and been pushing me,” Caswell said. “They’ve been with me all four years.”
Bhattacharyya signed with Johns Hopkins University last week to run cross country, as well as track and field, but Caswell has yet to make a decision. Caswell has narrowed down his list to three schools. He didn’t disclose the names of the colleges, but said all three are “great programs.”
In the short term, Caswell’s focus is on the state meet, which is set for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
Coppell placed third at regionals to qualify its entire team for the state meet, finishing ahead of El Paso Americas and Flower Mound – both ranked higher than the Cowboys in Class 6A by the Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas. Coppell checks in at ninth, El Paso Americas seventh and Flower Mound eighth.
At the state meet, numbers don't mean anything. It's how a team performs that given day. Caswell likes his team's chances.
“I think that we have a solid chance at winning it,” he said.