Aaron Ahl sets record at first track meet of season

Ahl delves into his running career at SFU and future goals

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Photo of SFU runner Aaron Ahl leading the pack during an indoor race.
Two-for-one: the SFU runner also picked up GNAC’s Athlete of the Week for his performance. Photo: Howard Lao Photography

By: Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer

Name: Aaron Ahl

Pronouns: He/him

Major: Biomedical physiology, fifth year

Favourite Track and Field Athlete: Matthew Centrowitz 

Aaron Ahl recently set a Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) record for the second fastest 3,000 m in a time of 7 minutes and 53 seconds at the first track meet of the season. Ahl is a senior on the SFU men’s cross country team and a junior on the men’s track and field team. During the Distance Medley Relay in Boston, he and his teammates set a time of 9 minutes and 38 seconds, breaking the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II record. In an interview with The Peak, Ahl discussed his love for cross country and track and field.

After playing soccer, he started experimenting with cross country in grade seven. “I noticed I had a talent for running at that point,” he said. From there, Ahl competed on his junior high school team.

“All throughout junior high, I was running on the school’s cross country and track team, but I didn’t actually join a club and start running seriously until high school,” said Ahl.

Since then, his love for both sports has continued to grow. He hopes to become a professional athlete and compete on an international level. “I think right now, that’s one of the biggest things that drive me to train, perform well — to be able to have longevity in sport.”

SFU’s NCAA opportunities and experienced head coach Brit Townsend, who is also a former Olympian, drew Ahl to SFU.

“Being in the NCAA gives us a lot of good racing opportunities that you don’t necessarily get at some other Canadian schools I was looking at. We actually get a full outdoor season, compared to USports [schools], who just get their indoor season,” said Ahl.

Ahl, who grew up in Calgary, Alberta, explained joining the SFU track team in 2017 helped him with the transition to SFU.

“If I wasn’t on the track team, it would be a lot harder to make friends or find a community that you belong in. But being on the track team, you just get put into a group of like-minded people. And basically those people become your best friends,” said Ahl.

Ahl had a strong start to the cross country season during Fall 2021, but realized he needed to make some changes to prioritize his health.

“I was running a lot of mileage week by week. That can take a big toll on your body. I wasn’t getting enough iron in my diet, so I ended up actually becoming anemic,” said Ahl.

He realized this especially affected his performance during the cross country regional competition, but it motivated him to make changes ahead of the track and field season, two months later.

“I think just performing as well as I did gave me a huge confidence boost coming off of such a low after the cross country season,” said Ahl.

Going into this track season, Ahl’s focus is on improving. 

“I would like to win the mile at the national meet. I think I have a really good chance to do that this year, and that’s definitely one of my first goals. I’ve also been eyeing up some of the NCAA  Division II records, both in the 3k and the mile,” said Ahl.

He added, he would like to advise his younger self  “not to be too worried about results as a freshman and just think about long term and development.

“You have to be consistent, because that’s really how you get results. You can’t just expect to show up one day and get majorly better and improve a lot on one day. It’s the accumulation of all your training,” said Ahl.

Ahl and the SFU track team will be in Washington for two meets on February 11 and 12 before the GNAC Championship.