Even with longtime rivals Texas and Texas A&M in different conferences now, Clark senior cross-country and track standout Austin Wells probably will catch some grief over his first name when he becomes an Aggie next August.
The son of UT graduates, Wells has grown up a fan of the Longhorns. His parents even named him after the city in which their alma mater is located.
So imagine how he felt when he visited A&M on a recruiting trip with his parents three weeks ago, and committed to the Aggies a few days after the visit.
"I went up there a Longhorn and came back an Aggie," Wells said, chuckling. "I fell in love with A&M and the campus."
Ditto for Wells' parents, Lisa and Russell Wells, who both graduated from Clark.
"My dad really loved it," Austin said. "That surprised me. He said A&M would be a great school for me. My mom loved it, too. She isn't as die-hard a Longhorn as my dad. I'm really excited about going to school up there."
While UT didn't recruit Wells, he didn't lack for suitors. Besides A&M, some of the other schools that came calling were Iowa State, LSU, Alabama, Colorado State, Texas State, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State.
"SFA was my second choice," Wells said.
One of the best distance runners in the state, Wells will compete in the District 27-5A cross country meet Saturday at Gustafson Stadium. The boys 5K race begins at 9:30 a.m.
Wells took silver at last year's cross country district meet
“Austin just loves to run and run and run,” Clark cross country coach Anne Ager said. “He’s almost obsessive compulsive about running. Even when I tell him he needs to cut back a little before a meet, he’ll tell he doesn’t like to cut back.
“I love it. I never have to get on him because he likes running and competing so much. He’s really matured as a young man and his confidence has gone up. He has become a much better leader the last two years, too. He’s really stepped up.”
Wells finished second at last year's district cross country meet and placed third at regionals. The Clark boys haven't won the district title as a team since Wells' freshman year in 2009. They were fifth in 2010 and fourth last year.
Wells battled Ryan McCann, now a freshman at Winthrop University, for the gold medal at last year’s district meet.
“I know it won’t be easy, but I think my chances of winning it this year are pretty good,” he said.
Born in Nashville, Tenn., Wells moved to San Antonio from California with his family in the summer before he started kindergarten. He took an early interest in baseball and played the sport as a freshman at Clark.
His introduction to cross country is a story in itself. His older brother, Jim, who graduated from Clark in 2010, played baseball and ran cross country “to stay in shape,” Well said.
Wells developed passion for running
When he was in middle school, Wells attended Jim’s meets regularly.
“At the time, I didn’t think very highly of cross country,” Wells said. “I remember thinking, ‘I can do that.’ I thought I could follow my brother’s example, playing baseball and running cross country to stay in shape, and I ended up loving cross country.”
The Wells brothers ran cross country together at Clark for one season, in 2009, when the Cougars won the district championship.
Austin took to running like a duck to water. He quit baseball after his freshman year to concentrate on cross country and track, and steadily became one of the best distance runners in Clark history.
“I love to compete and cross country and track are the best way I can compete,” Wells said. “It became clear that running was going to get me to college."
Wells runs the 3,200 and 1,600-meter races in track. He won the 3,200 at the district and regional meets last spring, and finished fourth at state. Wells took third in the 1,600 at district as a junior. His personal records in the 3,200 and 1,600 are 9:18 and 4:25, respectively.
Wells figures he runs an average of 55 miles a week. It’s a grueling regimen, but Wells isn't complaining.
“I just like running,” he said. “You’re always trying to do better.”
Wells’ favorite runner of all time is the late Steve Prefontaine, who once held American records in seven distance events. Prefontaine was killed in a car accident at age 24 in 1975.
“One of my trainers started calling me ‘Pre’ because he said I looked like Prefontaine,” Wells said. “I went home and researched him, and I have his movie.”
Maybe his nickname will carry over at A&M, where “Austin” is almost a bad word.