Racing off to the US


It wasn’t Dr Pepper, American hotdogs or the Dallas Mavericks that lured Jeff Lautenslager back to the United States – it was the prospect of becoming a champion runner.
Just last week, the 18 year old signed his letter of intent for Boise State University, a mere formality that is basically him saying “yes” and agreeing to their terms of a full scholarship.
In August of this year, the Texas born Jeff will leave for Boise in Idaho where he will study graphic design for four years and run on their track and cross country teams.
Jeff sees the US college system as the perfect pathway to help him fulfil his dream of becoming more than just a running prospect. “One of the main reasons I wanted to go is just the whole set up there gives you a better chance to make it in the sport,” he says. “There are a lot of examples of athletes who just stay here and they just stay the same, they never improve.”
Generally clocking up 100 kilometres a week for training here in Nelson, Jeff, who is coached by his father Greg, is also looking forward to running around in the new setting of Boise. “It’s going to be awesome. The place I’m going to looks amazing and there’s like 300 miles of trails there that I’ll be running on. The city is amazing.”
Jeff’s older brother Craig is already over the United States, where he too is on a full scholarship and running track. He attends the University of Texas at Arlington, and that would have been Jeff’s second choice too, but he decided against studying at the same place as his brother.
“Me and Craig, we’ve got a great relationship and we’re really good brothers, but I want my own experience separate to his. I already know a lot about UTA so it’d be a lot more exciting at Boise State.”
Before leaving for the United States, Jeff will still compete at one more national championship with the New Zealand Track and Field Championship set to be held in Wellington next month. He will compete in the Men’s Under-20 1500m, stepping up from the Men’s 18 grade which he finished second in last year.
With a personal best time of 4 minutes 1.44 seconds, he has two goals for the competition, winning the title and breaking the four minute barrier which has eluded him so far.
“I really want to win because this is my last nationals and my aim has always been to win a national title.”
Jeff’s current career highlight was breaking the Under-19 1500m record at the Tasman Secondary School Championship last year with a time of 4 minutes 2 seconds. Jeff beat Commonwealth Games prospect Julian Matthews’ record that had stood for a number of years.