Austin Klingler competes in the 800m in the BYU Cougar Indoor Invitational. (BYU Photo)

From national champ to BYU freshman — Austin Klingler’s journey to collegiate running

Winning races and competing at a high level is every runner’s dream, and for BYU’s Austin Klingler, it’s been a reality. 

Klingler, a freshman mid-distance runner on the BYU track and field team, came to the program last fall with high expectations. The West Jordan native was a high school state and national champion as well as a state record holder, and he planned to carry the success over to the next level.

His initial year as a collegiate athlete, however, has proven to be a season of growth, reflection and patience as he has learned how to shift gears from high school to college.

“It’s definitely been a rough transition, just different training styles. In high school, it was more speed-based but now it’s more strength. So it’s definitely been tough,” Klingler said following his final race of the indoor season.

Austin Klingler was the 2021 Utah Gatorade Player of the Year among other accolades in high school and college. (Made in Photoshop by Jake Roper)

Coming to BYU was an easy decision for Klingler, who knew his skill set matched the prestige of the school’s program. The not-so-easy part? Joining the track and field team during the off-season.

Klingler’s parents, Brian and Mindy, said they have seen great strides in his development from high school champion to college freshman.

“I think it was a difficult transition going from high school to college, but the running really helped him make that transition,” Brian Klingler said. “In the beginning, it was tougher when he wasn’t doing regular meets. But running helped him focus and now that he’s doing meets more often I can see a bigger change in him. He’s enjoying it more.”

Mindy Klingler added how fun it is to watch her son now that he’s gotten into the swing of things. She has noticed how much he loves going to meets and being able to race.

Klingler competed in six meets during the indoor season, finishing first in three of them and landing in the top 10 in the rest. 

An even more impressive feat is his 800m time of 1:51.06 at the UW Invitational in January. This time gave him the team-best time on the season and the second-best time in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The time is also just more than a second off of BYU’s top-10 indoor record board.

“I think he’s done everything that we’ve asked of him,” BYU head coach Ed Eyestone said. “All in all, I’ve been pleased with the way that he’s shown up. That’s one of our themes for the year, and he’s one that in each meet that we’ve gone to has shown up.”

It’s evident Klingler performs at a high level, but in the end, his races failed to meet the qualification standard for indoor nationals. As he looks ahead, there is a lot left to accomplish in the upcoming outdoor season for Klingler, and that’s where the focus lies.

“Outdoor I definitely want to keep improving,” Klingler said. “I think I can break 1:49 in the 800m, I’ve definitely been wanting to do that for a while.”

Only 50 collegiate athletes were able to break the 1:49 standard this indoor season, so he would be joining elite company in doing so.

“I think we’re gonna see as we go to outdoors him really hitting his stride and getting the marks that he’s hoping he will get,” Eyestone said. “Outdoors is catered a little bit more to his style in terms of the qualifying mark for the first NCAA round, which isn’t quite as severe.”

While his focus is on the upcoming outdoor season, Klingler never forgets about his aim of becoming an Olympic athlete. Written on the ceiling of his room in his West Jordan home are his goals, including the Olympic rings and the year 2024.

Klingler’s parents praised his determination and competitiveness, stating that whenever he sets a goal he will stop at nothing to achieve it. His mother shared that his Olympic goal is one he has dreamed of ever since he started running, so if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he can reach it.

The words of Eyestone echo those of his parents and speak to Klingler’s true character: “He’s going to continue to grow and develop and, you know, the sky’s the limit as far as I’m concerned.”

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