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THE GRIND: Forsyth Central senior Nico Seaton transformed from basketball player to elite runner
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THE GRIND: Forsyth Central Track Star Nico Seaton

Filmed by Paul Dybas Edited by Paul Dybas

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Forsyth Central cross country and girls track coach Shannon Hays saw a runner in Nico Seaton, then just a freshman basketball player in her Spanish class. Even though the season had already started, she pushed Seaton to join the track team.

Seaton knew he had something, too: His physical stamina already stood out in basketball, where he would consistently be one of the first to finish suicides in practice and could outlast opponents in games. His frame – tall and lean, with long legs – looked like it would be at home on the track, particularly in middle distance races.

Seaton started with running the 800 meters, a grueling race that is essentially a two-lap sprint. It wasn’t a pleasant way to start his track career.

“I didn’t know if I was ever going to run it again, honestly,” Seaton said.

His competitive nature didn’t let Seaton quit, though, and now he’s one of the best in the county in that event, one in which he hopes to continue running in college.

Seaton’s time in the 800 started in the 2:20 range, but after that it quickly started to drop, down to 2:15, 2:14 and eventually to 2:09 as a freshman. By the time he was a sophomore, he had broken the school record in the race, running 1:59.

Seaton enjoys the race more now that he’s run it more times. He tries to negative-split, running his first lap faster than his second, as opposed to the sit-and-kick method employed by some runners in longer races. When he gets in his “zone” while running, the only person he can hear is his father, screaming from the stands.

“Ninety percent of that race is mental – it’s up here,” Seaton said, pointing to his head. “If you tell yourself you can sprint for two laps, you can do it. You just have to push yourself.”

This year, Seaton wants to push himself down to a time in the 1:54-1:55 range, which could get him a chance to run at a Division I college.

He described that task as “very doable,” pointing to his training during the indoor season – he decided not to play basketball for the Bulldogs this year – and the hill work that he’s done. The senior, who is currently weighing an offer from King University, a Division II school in Tennessee, ran a personal-best 1:58.26 on March 11 at the Longhorn Stampede.

“I’ve noticed that my times have only gone down since indoors,” Seaton said.

He also wants to get back to the state championship meet, which he missed out on as a junior making it as a sophomore and becoming the first Forsyth Central runner to ever qualify for that meet in the 800. Seaton finished 12th overall in Class 5A that year.

That desire to get back to a stage like the state championship is what keeps Seaton going through his training.

“I usually just tell myself to wake up and just get it over with,” he said. “It’s only 30 minutes, and usually the quicker you run, the quicker it’s over with.”

That’s also true in a race: The quicker it’s over with, the more likely you are to win.