SPOKANE — Jake Perrin believes in setting lofty goals.
As a senior at Kalispell Flathead High School, Perrin aimed to become the first high schooler to run the 3,200-meter race in less than nine minutes on Montana soil. He missed — barely — but still set the state record in his final high school race, crossing the finish line in 9 minutes, 4.35 seconds at the 2016 Class AA state track and field meet.
That’s the thing about big goals: Even coming up just short leaves a remarkable impression.
Perrin also set the record in the 1,600 with a time of 4:12.06 at that state meet.
Less than a year later, Perrin added his name to the record books at Gonzaga, clocking a 14:04.82 in the 5,000 meters and a 30:14.82 in the 10,000 meters, setting the school’s freshman records in both races.
“I asked (Gonzaga director of cross country and track and field Pat) Tyson what the records were and wrote them up on my board and kind of worked toward them every day to see if I could beat them,” Perrin said in an interview with MTN Sports in January.
Perrin put the finishing touches on his freshman campaign at the NCAA West Preliminaries in Austin, Texas last spring. Now, the expectations are even higher, and he’s taking the necessary risks to get there.
Perrin is opting to take a redshirt season this spring, planning to take the opportunity to get “really fit and just get better at running,” he said. “Then hopefully three years in a row I can make it to Nationals.”
“He took a gamble redshirting,” Tyson said. “But on the other hand, you’re more seasoned, you’re more experienced, you’re older, you’re more mature.”
Tyson believes the sky’s the limit for Perrin, and he has the perfect mentor to follow. Troy Fraley, a former Kalispell Glacier High School star, became the first all-American in Gonzaga’s track and field history last spring, placing seventh in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. Fraley finished in 8:35.38, breaking his own school record in the event.
Fraley suffered a stress fracture during the cross country season last fall and just started running again in December.
“He’s got big goals,” Tyson said of his senior runner. “Those are things he said, ‘I’d like to keep those confidential.’ But if he’s No. 7 in the country as a redshirt junior, he wants more. He’s tasted the greatness, so let’s just start with that. He’s got big goals.”
“Troy’s gift is he just utterly has great self-belief,” Tyson added. “He didn’t come in that way. He came in kind of a typical 18-year-old, kind of knew it all and paid the price a little bit. He gained a little weight, focus wasn’t perfect. He ran that way during the offseason, during his freshman year. Then he got the experience. … Jake has learned a lot from a guy like Troy, like, ‘Hey, this redshirting thing isn’t a bad thing, because I have high, high goals. I, too, want to be an all-American. I want to be on the biggest stage.’”
The Montana duo gave Gonzaga a track and field season to remember in 2017, but it was more about setting themselves up for future success. Fraley will continue to chase his marks this spring – slowly working to get back to 100 percent – while Perrin will use this spring and next fall to put himself in position to succeed in 2019 and beyond.
For Perrin, it’s a far cry from where all this started just four years ago. He didn’t even start running competitively until his sophomore year of high school.
“I just kind of came to a realization, I just felt like I wasn’t going to go anywhere if I kept doing what I was doing,” Perrin recalled. “My brother (Zach, who is now a senior at Colorado) had success in running, too, so I figured I probably could, as well.”
The Perrin name has become synonymous with distance running in northwest Montana. Zach Perrin was a 2012 cross country state champion and won state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 (twice). He also ran the then-fastest time ever by a Montana high school runner at the 2012 Arcadia Invite (8:55).
Ben Perrin placed third in the 3,200 at last year’s Class AA state meet.
“I’m just keeping track on my little brother, trying to get him to break the (1,600- and 3,200-meter) records. I think he can,” Jake Perrin said. “This is his junior year, and he’s already run faster his sophomore year than I did my junior year, so I think it’s only a matter of time until he gets fast enough.”
If it doesn’t happen this year, 2019 could be shaping up to a big year for the Perrin brothers – Ben pursuing Jake’s Montana high school state records and Jake chasing all-American status at Gonzaga. If Tyson has his way, the brothers would be teammates in 2020.
“I love Montanans, I recruit Montanans,” Tyson said. “A lot of Montanans love me, they know me. I always tell them that Spokane is a suburb of the state of Montana. We’re in the foothills of the Rockies here, too. We’re not that far away from western Montana. A little better weather, it’s the San Diego of the Inland Northwest. I love Montanans. We’re two for two. They know how to work, they have great work ethic and, yeah, I want to promote that.”
It sounds like Tyson believes in setting lofty goals, too.