Cross Country: St. Charles' Owen Karas carries on family's running tradition
Owen Karas was in a rut that he couldn’t explain.
Then a sophomore distance runner with the St. Charles track and field team, Karas was putting in the work, but not getting the results. In fact, his times were increasing instead of dropping.
After exhausting other avenues, his mother, Kiera Karas, suggested that he have a blood test. The results confirmed Karas was suffering from anemia.
Since then, Karas’ energy has skyrocketed with treatment and his times have plummeted, allowing him to become one of the top cross country runners not only in central Ohio but statewide. On Oct. 24 at Hilliard Darby, the senior won the Division I, district 3 race in 15 minutes, 37.2 seconds, the best performance in all divisions of the Central District races.
“My drop in time happened really suddenly even through the training going into it had taken so long,” Karas said. “Actually when I started increasing my training, my times started getting worse. It felt like it wasn’t paying off.
“I found out I was anemic (and) I started taking iron supplements. All of a sudden at the regional race in my sophomore year of track, I ran a 9:26 in the 3,200 (meters). The fastest time I had run before that was like a 9:55. After that one race, I realized I was kind of in a different tier.”
Karas said his experiences from that point in training and competing have been night and day.
Before his junior season, his best finish in cross country was 17:11. But in his first race last season, he was 10th in 16:28.3 in the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North. Then he finished second in 15:55.82 one week later in the Westerville North Classic.
“I had extreme fatigue, not just running but in everything I was doing,” he said. “It was great news to find out that it was something fixable like that. Now, I just take a liquid supplement twice a day.
“Every race still felt as hard, but my times were so much better than they were a year before. I was putting in the same amount of energy into a race, but I was getting so much more out of it. It was a huge drop from the year before.”
Karas owns the top performance for the St. Charles cross country program, set when he ran 15:12.9 to finish second in the Central Ohio Invitational on Sept. 19 at Three Creeks Metro Park. Hilliard Davidson’s Connor Ackley won in 15:09.68.
Losing is normally painful, but not on that day.
“Losing is difficult, and it hurts a lot,” Karas said. “It also ends up affecting me off the course.
“I got beat when I set the (program) record. I didn’t feel that bad about it because I was training through that. I felt that Connor Ackley helped pull me through that to a good time on that course. So, I was pretty happy about it overall.”
Karas is continuing a family tradition. His father, Chris Karas, ran the 800 and 1,600 at Cleveland St. Ignatius and later at Yale. His mother played soccer and ran track at Strongsville and Boston College before running marathons. His brother, Ian Karas, a 2019 St. Charles graduate, ran track and cross country with the Cardinals and is a student at Boston College.
“His parents were superior athletes in their own right, so he has good genetics,” St. Charles coach Damien Brandon said. “He has their work ethics, and he will push his body further than anyone else. He has taken it to a new level and he had a good sibling rivalry with his brother early on.
“His greatest improvement has been his ability to handle races that don’t go his way. You have to listen to your body and realize you’re not going to win every day. He’s mentally tough and has the capability of winning state, but he has a lot of competition.”
Karas competed in the regional meet Oct. 31 at Pickerington North and was runner-up (15:52.7) to Ackley (15:44.6). The pair will square off again in the state meet Saturday, Nov. 7, at Fortress Obetz.
Last season, Karas finished 30th (16:00.8) in the state meet at National Trail Raceway.
Karas has a 4.0 GPA and will follow in his father’s footsteps, committing to run cross country and track at Yale. However, unlike his father, who is a neurosurgeon, he plans to have a double major in economics and film.
He’s also just happy to be able to compete after missing his junior season of track because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“I was really scared we would miss the fall (sports season),” he said. “I ended up getting in a decent routine (in the spring). I ended up doing some time trials to see where I was at. It was overall a full season lost. I stopped doing time trials and just started to transition into cross country training.
“I feel like track is a little more exciting, especially in the postseason. Maybe that’s because I missed a whole season of it, but I really can’t wait to get back out there on the track.”