Edwin Klanke was feeling frustrated, and understandably so.
The senior distance running star at St. Peter's Prep, who resumed running this past January after being sidelined for four months due to a strained abdominal muscle, had just suffered a setback only a week after he started training again.
Klanke was left wondering over the winter if he'd ever be healthy enough to regain the fitness level needed to achieve the big goals he set for himself for his final high school season.
After more time off and rigorous physical therapy, Klanke started to crank up his training as he began yet another comeback. Fueled by his perseverance and driven by his pursuit to finish his high school career with a bang, Klanke came into this spring season determined to doing something memorable, something historic!
Well, the comeback kid has done exactly that as Klanke has lit the track on fire this season, highlighted by arguably the greatest double in Hudson County history at the Hudson County Championships last week at Lincoln Park in Jersey City.
First, the UPenn-bound Klanke won the 1,600 on May 20 in a NJ#3 4:10.56 to shatter the county record. Two days later he came back to burn a NJ#1 and meet record 1:51.74, the No. 2 800m time in county history to help lead the Marauders to its fourth straight county crown.
Klanke 4:10.56 broke the county 1600m record of 4:13.74 set by Francis Martingale of Memorial in 2018, and his 1:51.74 took down the meet record of 1:54.41set in 2014 by Shaquille Sutherland of Dickinson. Jose Veras of Dickinson still holds the county record of 1:51.62 that he ran to win the State Group 4 title in 2011.
NJ MileSplit recently caught up with Klanke for an in depth Q and A.
Klanke, who lives in Mahwah, talked about battling his way back from the injuries to regain the form that made him one of the state's best, his dream to become a Meet of Champions winner, how he got started in the sport, his college decision, and a whole more more.
So, kick back and enjoy our latest installment of Feature Friday as we shine the spotlight on St. Peter's Prep's Edwin Klanke, who is a major contender to win the 1,600 at the Meet of Champions next month.
Edwin Klanke Interview
NJM: What's your reaction to taking down the Hudson County 1600 record, and running the NJ#1 800 (1:51.74) and NJ#3 1600 (4:10.56) times this season!?It's pretty amazing and pretty cool to be the fastest miler in Hudson County history?
Going through the line at the end of the 1600, I was in shock that I had really run that fast. Taking the 1600 county record was something that I had my eye on, but during the race I was just trying to focus on getting around the track rather than achieving the record. Coming back for the 800 I gained a lot of confidence that I could go run another fast time. Finishing the meet with both the mile and half mile records is definitely one of the biggest highlights of my high school career.
Were you planning to try to run that fast? Or did the race just play out that way?
In the mile our goal was to get as close as possible to 4:12, and I did not imagine that I could go faster than that. Rodolfo (Sanchez) and I definitely both thought that the county meet would be a good day to run a fast mile, and we both were going for personal bests. For the 800, my only goal was to push myself as hard as I could in the second lap and see what I could do. I knew if I did that I would end up running a fast time.
Take me through those races a little. What were the splits like?
Since our goal was 4:12, we both got through the 800 in 2:06. I felt really good and then found myself at the 1200 at 3:10. I gave it all I had and was able to close in 60 seconds. I definitely think that I can go faster since the race was a negative split. In the 800 I went through the 400 in 54, and then closed in 57.
How much did it help to have Rodolfo pushing you the whole way? It would have been harder to run as fast as you did if you were unpushed the whole way.
Without Rodolfo I would not have been able to run the times that I had run. We worked together in the 1600 to get fast times, and planned how the race would play out beforehand. Of course we both wanted to win the race and get the records, but the main goal for both of us was to push each other to get fast times. We have a great relationship that has pushed me to become the runner I am.
How satisfying was this for you personally, Edwin. You've had some injuries that prevented you from reaching your full potential in the past, including this past cross-country season. I imagine it felt amazing to finally see what you can do when you are healthy?
This meet has definitely helped me mentally more than anything else. Injuries have been very frustrating, and this past winter I felt pressure to get back in shape since this would be my last chance at racing in high school. It feels amazing to feel like myself again, and I am more excited than ever to see how fast I can run when I am 100% healthy.
What exactly were the injuries you've had in the past, and how frustrating were they to deal with?
Over the cross country season I strained a muscle in my abdomen which put me out of running for about four months. It was a very difficult injury to deal with since doctors did not really know how I got the injury and how long it would take for me to recover. I tried running around the beginning of January and felt fine for a week until the pain unfortunately came back. After this I took some more time and did physical therapy until they thought it was appropriate for me to start running again.
What's the biggest difference for you to be able to drop your PR's as much as you have this season? Does it come down to finally being healthy? Or is there more to it? What's been the biggest key to your success?
The biggest differences were the consistency of my training, and the plan my coaches created for the winter season. Rodolfo and I have been very engaged in creating a training schedule with Coach (Chris) Caulfield, and we have implemented hard workouts with enough time in between to recover from them. Having such a large amount of time without any real races allowed me to build a base, and get some speed back. Running behind Rodolfo, I got back into shape pretty quickly, since he was already in great shape and I got to chase him. Having a great teammate in him is definitely a major key to my success so far.
You must have put in some hard training after XC season to be running as fast as you are now. Tell me about the workouts etc. you've been doing to get this sharp and this fit.
During the winter season the team would go two to three workouts a week with at least one steady day, and one day at either 800, mile, or two mile race pace. Coach Caufield did a great job of pushing us to our potential, and increasing the intensity as I got more and more into shape. A couple of workouts that I think helped me get into shape are two sets of 4x400 at mile race pace, and broken 800s where we would split the 800 up into two or three intervals with little rest. Also the importance of the Sunday long run and other recovery runs have helped me build my fitness.
A couple weeks ago you ran a 3:05.7 1200 leg on the DMR that ran a US#7 10:17.29. What did that performance tell you about how fit you are? You must have felt after that you were ready to drop some huge PR's?
The 1200 was a great test for me since I had not run that fast in such a long time. I also went through the half mile in 2:00 on that leg, so it made me think that I could run much faster in the 800, and be able to comfortably split 2:05 in the mile. The weeks of training before the DMR I was feeling really good finishing workouts faster than I had ever before. I was extremely happy to see that work translated into racing, and helped me plan for races at counties.
Are you and your teammates planning to go to Oregon to run the DMR at Nationals? You guys have the potential to get down to around 10:10 or maybe faster!!! What do you think?
As of right now I am not sure what the plan will be for Nationals. We have the potential to run under 10:10 in the DMR, but we could also put together a very strong SMR. Between Joey Morrone, Fitzroy Ledgister, Samuel Slade, and myself, I think that we could run around 3:25. There are definitely conversations that we still need to have, but I will run either the DMR or SMR at Nationals.
How about you individually? Are you planning to run the 800 or 1600 at Nationals in Oregon?
I'm going back and forth between what I would like to run at Nationals, but I am leaning towards the 1600. I think it would be a great opportunity to get as close as I can to the 4:00 mark, and be in a race with people who could potentially go under four. Even though I do love running the 800, the 1600 at Nationals is not something that I think I could miss out on.
What about the rest of the season in NJ, Edwin? You must be feeling confident about running even faster at the State Non-Public A meet and the Meet of Championships. What are your time goals for those meets?
I'm not very worried about times for Groups since I will be running quite a few events within two days. Instead, I will focus on winning the events I am in, and putting my team in the best position possible to win the meet. As a team we believe if we all do our part we could walk away with a state title. At the Meet of Champions I plan to only run the 1600, and want to go under 4:05 at the meet, but I know if I run a smart race there are so many great runners in the field that I'll finish with a fast time.
You came into high school as a great age-group runner with lots of big expectations and goals. I imagine that winning a Meet of Champions title has always been a big dream of yours, like it is for every athlete in NJ. What would it mean to you to win an M of C title and what do you think your chances are of making that happen?
Winning a Meet of Champions title is a dream that I've had for a very long time. It would mean everything to me if I were able to go out and win a title. With so many guys already running fast this season I think that it truly is anyone's race to take. I think that I have as good of a shot as anyone to win the race, and going into the Meet of Champions my goal will be to win.
(Klanke is shown on the far left in this photo after he helped his team win the Hudson County XC title)
Which race do you think you will focus on at the Meet of Champions and why?
I will focus on the 1600 because it has always been my dream to win this race, and I think I have potential to go faster than I already have. I felt in control throughout my 4:10 and was able to negative split the race. With a large amount of time to train between the county meet and the Meet of Champions, I think I have a chance to win it in a fast time.
I'm thinking that with so many guys running so fast this season, it could take something near a 4:05 and a sub 1:50 to win the 1600 and 800 at the Meet of Champions? What are your thoughts on that?
If the mile at MOCs does not become a tactical race, I think it would take even faster than 4:05 to win. Considering how late the meet is this year compared to other years, I think that it gives more time for guys to run faster than ever before. It should be a fun race to compete in, and I look forward to running against the best competition within the state. In the 800 I believe that the winner should be somewhere around 1:50 but I don't know if anyone will be able to go under.
There are so many guys under 4:15 right now in the state. How much does that push you, Edwin? Knowing how deep and fast this state is must fuel your fire even more!
Having all these other great competitors in the state has definitely pushed me to work hard at practice on our hard days. When it comes down to the last couple sets I envision how I would feel at the end of a mile at the Meet of Champions to push myself to finish the workout. Also, having a great team of guys across all events pushes me even more to run fast times. When I see teammates getting NJ#1 times or breaking school records, this pushes me to go perform well in my events.
What do you consider your greatest strength as a track and field athlete?
I believe that my greatest strength as a runner is my range across events that I can be competitive in. From the 5k to the 400, I think I can put forth a competitive time in all events within this range.
Let's get into some background, Edwin. Can you tell me how, when, and why you first got started competing in track and field?
I started off as a soccer player who thought that it would be a good idea to get involved in track to get into better shape. I was always the fastest kid on the soccer field, and right away I found success on the track. As a competitive kid I fell in love with the sport and started to take it seriously in seventh grade. From that point on I continued to progress and transitioned into high school track and field from club.
When would you say you had your first huge breakthrough moment when you realized you could be a great track and field athlete?
USATF held their Youth Nationals at Ocean Breeze in 2016, so I decided to go run the 1500 since I had qualified at the regional meet. In this race I did not have lofty goals, just to go out there and see what I could do. To my surprise, I medaled (third in 4:24.0)at the meet, and it was one of the first times I realized that I could try and become a great track and field athlete.
When is your next meet? Any races before the State Non-Public A meet?
My next meet will be the Non-Public A meet. It made more sense for me to get a couple weeks of hard training in before these meets since I had just qualified for Nationals in my events. I wanted to be fresh for what is to come, and with the long season I did not want to race too frequently.
Who is your favorite college/pro track athlete to watch and why? And what have you learned from watching them?
One of my favorite pro runners is Robby Andrews (Manalapan High School-Class of 2009) because of how fun it is to watch him race. I love watching a runner win with a good strategy, and I always wonder what he is thinking about when he closes out a race. From watching him I've learned how important it is to plan races, and like to imagine them occurring in my head to mentally prepare.
What do you love the most about being a track and field athlete?
My favorite part of being a track and field athlete is the culture within the running community. Sunday long runs are probably something that few people would enjoy, but it is something that I love because of the team I have. There is nothing better than long runs or recovery runs with the team, all having a good time with one another.
What are your biggest long-term goals in track and field for college and beyond?
My biggest long-term goal is to break four minutes in the mile. I think I am on the right track towards this goal, and I believe that it is something that I could achieve as soon as my freshman year in college.
How about the future, Edwin. What made you choose to attend UPenn and run for Coach Dolan?
From the conversations that I had with Coach Dolan I came to the conclusion that UPenn had everything that I wanted in a college. From the academics to what Penn has been able to achieve on the track, it is a place I think I would fit in perfectly. Coach Dolan does a great job at progressing his athletes, and the culture of his team is something I look forward to joining. The location right in Philadelphia and being able to call Franklin Field my home track caused me to fall in love with Penn.
What type of things do you like to do when you're not practicing, racing, or doing schoolwork? Have any hobbies or are you involved in any other sports or clubs/activities at school?
In the fall I find myself engrossed in fantasy football or anything related to football. On our cross-country team we have a very competitive league that I imagine will continue for a very long time. It was something that started my freshman year and is a staple part of Prep XC. Also, I am a Clash of Clans enthusiast.