Even though it wasn’t technically the end of the season, the Grain Valley boys and girls track and field teams held their end-of-season banquet last week.

Veteran boys track coach Marc Cleveland was talking about junior distance runner Royce Fisher and the great season he was having. He noted there was one thing that the junior had yet to accomplish – breaking a 41-year-old record in the 3,200-meter run.

“Royce and I looked at each other and we knew we would make a run at it this season,” Grain Valley distance running coach Nick Small said.

Fisher did just that when he finished second in the Class 4 Sectional 4 meet last Saturday when he ran the 3,200 in a school-record time of 9 minutes, 34.83 seconds.

Former Grain Valley track athlete Larry Kolster contacted Cleveland so he could personally congratulate Fisher on breaking his record.

“I was running to just be top four at sectionals,” said Fisher, who also qualified for Saturday’s Class 4 state meet in the 1,600 with a third-place time of 4:30.81. “I started to feel good after the third lap and I didn’t get tired. I slowly saw my time and saw I was getting closer and closer to beating it. Then I beat the time.”

He shattered his own personal best by nearly 31 seconds.

“I ran to both of my coaches and gave them a big hug,” Fisher said. “They helped me get better with training. Then I went out and ate at Panda Express – one of my favorite fast-food restaurants. That was the celebration for that day.”

He will be competing in both distance events as the state meet begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at Washington (Mo.) High School after it was moved because of tornado damage in Jefferson City (see related story).

Fisher knew at an early age that he was going to be a good distance runner. He would often race his brothers and cousins, but would lose every time when running a short-distance race. However, when they ran around the block, it was a different story.

“That’s when I would get them,” Fisher said. “In seventh grade, I would try sprints and I would always get beat. I did distance and it worked out for me.”

Now, the junior is one of the best distance runners to ever come through the program. The coaches had to adjust Fisher’s training after last year when he was too injured to compete at state.

Grain Valley coaches typically worked on more speed training late in the season, but it wore on Fisher as he experienced muscle soreness and “dead legs” as a sophomore. This season, Small and the other coaches made adjustments to Fisher’s training regimen.

“We finally figured out what works for Royce,” Small said. “Some of the soreness he experienced in the past was due to some of the training we were doing,

“I was joking with coach (Brian) Winckler at the beginning of the season, saying, ‘We had a plan in place,’ and I said, ‘OK, this goes against everything that we’ve done, but we’re going to go with it.’ Judging from these past few weeks, the changes have worked out.”

And Fisher hopes it all works out Saturday as he will be aiming for an all-state finish in both events, which he will have to run in the same day instead of splitting it over two days.

“I am hoping to (earn a personal record) in the mile and two-mile,” Fisher said. “I am going to go out there and work hard and see what I can do.

“I would love to be on that podium with a nice medal. It would be my first all-state (honor).”