Before the start of his junior year, Theo Kahler decided he wanted try something different. The former soccer player joined the Dreher cross country team in the fall for a change of pace and uncovered a hidden talent.
Kahler earned the team’s “Quiet Storm” award, and there was no question that he would be an asset to the Blue Devils’ track team. This weekend, Kahler will attempt to qualify for the Class 3A state championships in the 1,600, 3,200 and 3,200-relay races.
At the region 4-3A meet on Monday, Kahler won the 1,600 with a personal best time of 4 minutes, 46.85 seconds, and the 3,200 meters with a 10:25.35 finish.
“He’s been steadily getting better and better,” Dreher distance runners coach Katherine Sipes said. “I’m pretty confident that he’ll qualify, and we have yet to see his best races, because he’s just peaking now. So, we’re so excited to see what he can do.”
There were signs that Kahler, an AP student and band member, could be a strong runner. He knew he had the endurance because of all the running in soccer. And his long, lean legs give him the ideal runner’s frame.
Still, Kahler was not sure running would be the sport for him.
“At the beginning, I had no idea how I would be. I ran a little bit at the beginning of the year before I went out for the team and it wasn’t very fun. I was very close to not going out for the team, but I stuck with it,” he said.
And Sipes is glad he did.
“He was a great surprise in cross country, and immediately he went to the No. 2 spot for us.”
Kahler surprised himself, too.
“In the first race, I finished right with a group of people from my team, so I really surprised myself there. Then my time dropped a lot for my second race,” he said. “I thought I would be a little slower, so I was surprised that I was able to hang with them.”
“I spent a lot of time online looking up stats and just trying to get familiar. Part of it was from watching some of the best runners in the country on videos.”
Then, too, he was just a natural.
“He’s so underdeveloped, and undertrained, but he’s a natural,” Sipes said.
“Theo has a kind of internal clock, so I can tell him, ‘Go out there and run 70-second 400s,’ and he’ll run them, 70 seconds, 70 seconds, 70 seconds,” she said. “He’s a natural at keeping pace, and he’s a very tactical good, smart runner.
“He can sit back with the pack of leaders and then, he’s got this ability to call forth more when everyone else is dying. He’s such a beautiful runner, just graceful, and at the end of a race, he just stretches out his legs and overtakes people,” Sipes said.
His natural talent made him love it, too.
“It’s a different sport. In soccer, you have to train for years to get good touch on the ball, and things like that, but with running, I just was able to pick it up and more quickly,” Kahler said.
After cross country season, he decided to forego soccer for track this spring.
And though he initially got into track to be better prepared for his senior cross country season, Kahler has found he likes the long runs on the track best.
“I like the structure and the rhythm of it. It helped me gauge where I needed to be, it helped me with pacing. A lot of people like cross country because of the different courses and the change of scenery, but I feel better on the track,” he said.
The Class 3A qualifier will be held Saturday at Lower Richland, beginning at 11 a.m.