Woody Kincaid: A cross country 'super talent'
Rachel Rippetoe| Rob Conner’s cell phone lit up and began to buzz. Its hum mirrored the excitement of the message from a former colleague that had just popped up.
“7:48! You must be jumping through your skin.”
At first, Conner, the University of Portland’s track coach, was unsure of what this meant or why those numbers were so special, then he saw the headlines and realized that track senior, Woody Kincaid, had made UP history.
With a time of 7:48.89 in the 3,000 meter race, the college athlete came in two seconds shy of the all-time top 10 NCAA times.
“It took me back for a second, like wow,” Conner said. “We’ve never had anybody do anything like that.”
Kincaid, who’s been running for over seven years now, said his national success hasn’t come as a surprise.
“This is where I saw myself,” Kincaid said. “But no one else sees it until you have that breakout performance.”
Despite making history for the UP Track team and now ranking among NCAA legends, the senior track athlete isn’t done. He’s not even close.
Kincaid has big plans for the next year, along with the next 20 years. The star athlete is running at record-breaking speed from one goal to the next. The first is a no-brainer: make it to nationals.
As of right now, Kincaid is set to break Pilot records a second time, by making it into the indoor nationals for two different events: the 3,000 meter and the 5,000 meter. According to Conner, unless 20 people beat Kincaid’s time in the next few weeks, he’s headed to Alabama in March to compete in both events.
A minimum goal for the driven senior is to make All-American in both events, top eight out of 16, but Kincaid’s real goal is to win.
In this case, winning means coming up against University of Oregon’s Edward Cheserek, a student from Kenya who’s won almost everything this year and who Woody himself succumbed to at the start of the 2015 season.
At the NCAA 5,000 meter final, Kincaid, an underdog at the time, was ready to upset as he headed for the win on Hayward Field. Unfortunately, a gust of wind hit the motivated athlete and he finished 5th, with Cheserek in first.
“Most people regard Edward as unbeatable,” said Conner. “Most people except for Woody.”
Kincaid has fluctuated in his passion for running throughout high school and college. He joined the Pilot track team with a high school national performance already under his belt. The track athlete ranked 11th in the nation in high school cross country.
“Anytime you get a super talent like him, with very little training, you’re hoping you have a superstar,” Conner said. “It takes a little time though.”
Starting out, Kincaid had a difficult time balancing a new college workload and practice. As injuries from overexertion began to play a factor in the athlete’s performance as well, it became difficult to stay focused on the sport Kincaid was so naturally gifted at.
It wasn’t until the end of the 2014 season that it became clear to Kincaid: running professionally for the next 20 years could be a tangible reality, but one that the graduating senior would have to work for in his last year of NCAA eligibility.
“I decided this is what I want to do with my life, you know,” Kincaid said. “This is my dream.” Coach Conner says that Kincaid’s elevated focus with only a couple months of college left is unusual and a trait that separates the senior from his peers.
“Some student athletes, when they get to the end they start thinking about the future and then their motivation declines, but Woody’s has elevated,” Conner said. “That’s pretty special. Not everybody does that, only the super elite are able to do that.”
Kincaid isn’t just interested in furthering his own career, but that of the team’s as well. Kincaid sees UP’s track team as “one of the greats” and believes that if more of his team members continue to push themselves, UP will bring several Pilots to Nationals in March.
UP’s track team is currently ranked 20th in the nation, and some of Kincaid’s fellow teammates have also claimed national records.
Reid Buchanan, Kincaid’s teammate and roommate is ranked 2nd this year in the 3,000 meter and 3rd in the 5,000 meter.
“It’s not like I’m doing this myself,” said Kincaid. “Reid’s pulling me along and I just happen to be a little bit more sharp than him at this moment, but it’s a long season and that could pancake very quickly. I think that Reid deserves just as much recognition as me and I think it’s going to come for him really soon.”
Conner sees Kincaid as an athlete with a “team-first” attitude despite having every reason to harbor a “me-first” attitude.
Kincaid runs against professionals who go home afterwards and get massages or have a nutritionist advise them on what to eat.
Yet the UP student isn’t interested in the glamour of professional sports. He’d rather work on his MBA and work to make UP a more dominant track program.
“He just has a heart of gold; that’s who he is,” Conner said. “He really thinks of others first. He wants to elevate them and I think that’s the essence of what he is: a team guy.”
Rachel Rippetoe is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at email@example.com