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J.R. Proctor breaks Lincoln team record, aiming for top 10 finish at state

Proctor Cross Country

J.R. Proctor broke Lincoln's school record with a time of 16:58.15 at the Jesse Owens Classic.

LINCOLN -- Lincoln senior J.R. Proctor woke up Saturday morning feeling confident he would end the day with a school record in hand. 

He even gave his coach a heads-up when he stepped on the bus.

"He just had that gut feeling that he was going to break it," Lincoln cross country coach Michael Duff said.

Proctor's confidence was well-placed. 

The clock above the finish line at the Jesse Owens Classic read 16:58.15 when the senior finished. Proctor hadn't just beaten the school record for a 5K. He had shattered it by almost 14 full seconds.

"When I turned the corner and I saw 16s (on the clock), I knew I had to go," Proctor said. "And I had to give it everything I had … I ran as hard as I could and as fast as I could, and I was staring at that clock the whole time."

Normally, when Proctor crosses the finish line, he feels drained. He almost always lies down to catch his breath, but Saturday, Lincoln's record-breaker didn't need to recover despite running 16 seconds faster than his previous personal best.

"I didn't even feel like I had ran," Proctor said. "I was just so happy and overwhelmed."

That was the first time Proctor had ever crossed the finish line first overall, but he wasn't the only Lincoln runner having a good race. The Lincoln boys took second place in the Bronze Division on Saturday, and now the Golden Bears rank fourth in Class 5A.

The team finished ninth at state last year after coming in 15th in 2018, so the program is clearly on the rise thanks in part to the fastest runner in school history.

The previous school record of 17:12 was set in 2018 by Jaylon Hudson. Proctor credits Hudson for providing him with an example to follow when he joined the team as a freshman.

Back then, Proctor said he wasn't quite so serious about cross country.

"I saw that he was always fast, and he was always so good," Proctor said of Hudson. "And I was like, ‘I want to be that good.’ … That was a huge motivator for me when I did start getting serious, and I fell in love with running."

Even though Proctor has beaten Hudson's record, the Lincoln senior is still following in his former teammate's footsteps.

"He always said that he wanted to leave behind his legacy," Duff said. "And he wanted to hold that record where kids behind him could ultimately do the same that he did as he looked up to Jaylon and try to beat it."

Setting an example for Lincoln's future cross country stars involves more than just running fast enough to break records. 

Younger runners are always looking his way, but Proctor welcomes the responsibility and hopes he inspires his teammates to take the record away from him in the future.

"Whenever I leave Lincoln, I want people to look up and say, 'I want to be like J.R. was and I want to work as hard as he did, and I want to be as fast as he was, and I want to be the leader he was,'" Proctor said.

Not that he's ready to say goodbye anytime soon. 

Proctor has his sights set on a top 10 finish at the 5A state finals this season after placing 37th last year. He ranks 14th after the time he set Saturday.

"I've earned my spot here, but I know that it can be taken at any moment," Proctor said. "So I have to keep working hard and keep getting faster, or I'm going to lose that spot, but coming in top 10 would mean everything to me."