Before he entered Alleman High School, Noah Britton had never competed in a track and field meet in his life.
He had plenty of experience running in cross country, a sport Britton had competed in since he was in fifth grade. But at the encouragement of a fellow incoming freshman, he decided to give track a try.
"One of my best friends, Danny Darrow, persuaded me to come out," said Britton. "It was a completely new experience for me to do, but I trusted Danny and cross country season had been fun, so I figured, why not?"
Just over two years later, this week's Illinois Pacesetter has written his name in the Pioneer record books as a middle distance standout, particularly specializing in the 800 meter run.
Having broken the school record for fastest 800 meter time earlier this season at the Distance Night at Palatine meet, Britton topped his own standard at the Western Big 6 meet nearly two weeks ago with a conference-championship time of 1 minute, 55.03 seconds.
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"I was just blown away," Britton said of his first record-setting 800 meter run at Palatine, a clocking of 1:56.46. "I didn't know I had hit that time until a while later. It was definitely an experience, that's for sure. Coming into this season, I was just wanting to see what I could do.
"By the beginning of April, (the school record) was definitely a goal I had in mind."
At last Friday's Illinois Class 2A Rockridge sectional meet, Britton wrote another chapter in his breakthrough junior season by qualifying for the state meet in Charleston for the first time as an individual.
He took the sectional gold medal in the 800 with a time of 1:57.45, finishing exactly three seconds ahead of runner-up Elijah House of Bureau Valley.
"I had run in the 4x800 relay about 35, 40 minutes before doing the 800, so I wasn't that fresh," Britton said. "I was a little nervous about it, but once the gun went off, all the nerves faded away. I was just hoping to hit state-qualifying time and go down.
"I'm hoping I can hit (his school record) again at state. I'm hoping to get to finals, then give it everything I've got."
When he took up track and field competition, Britton selected the 800 as his prime individual event for a very practical reason.
"I felt like it suited me a lot more, especially with having asthma," he said. "Running shorter distances was much better suited to me."
As a sophomore last spring, Britton got his first taste of running on the blue track of Eastern Illinois University's O'Brien Field when he qualified for start as part of the Pioneers' 3,200-meter relay.
Preparing for his individual state debut, he feels the experience gained last season will be a tremendous benefit.
"I definitely feel like a lot of those first-time nerves will be gone," he said. "I'm going down there to have a good time and to show what I've got."
When Britton heads to Charleston to begin state competition on Thursday, joining him will be the friend who inspired him to give track a try.
Alleman's 3,200 relay is back at state after a first-place effort of 8:24.92 last Friday at Rockridge. Darrow ran the lead-off leg and Britton was the anchor, with freshman Noah Verscha and junior Ben Milner rounding out the quartet.
The junior trio of Britton, Darrow and Milner along with senior Brendan Pasamore is also state-bound in the 1,600 relay. They finished seventh in that event at sectionals, but their time of 3:33.35 was good enough to top state-qualifying standards.
"It was really an exciting moment," Britton said of the two-mile relay victory. "When I crossed the line, Danny was the first person there with his hands up. It's definitely going to be fun going down there with the guys, and being able to show myself in the 800 will be an even more exciting experience."