By Parker Biggs
The way he runs is aggressive and intense. As he races past, you can see the veins popping out and intensity in his face. But the thing that sticks out most is the passion. You can see it in his face, as he dons Oklahoma Nike gear head to toe.
As he exits the track, he wipes the sweat off of his face with his grey “Oklahoma Track & Field” t-shirt and smiles. He smiles after running around the oval track 16 times, equaling nearly 4 miles. It was an off day for him, so he couldn’t complain. The hard stuff was later in the week.
“He grew up loving sports. He loved competition, but more than anything he loved winning. That was something he always talked about. Everything changed when he got to OU, I think. It was different. He just didn’t really have it anymore”, said Blake Yount, a former teammate. This lead to an unfulfilling freshman season, where he didn’t compete and was eventually redshirted.
The high school accomplishments from Staub are endless. The Jenks High School standout was part of 4 team state championship teams. His tenure included being named a Freshman All-American and Oklahoma Runner of the Year, before he could legally drive a car and was capped off by breaking the state record in the 2-mile race, with a time of 9:16 as a junior.
“He was on another level. Our team was really really good. But Chris was on another level athletically”, said high school teammate Will Littlefield.
He’s a rare talent for a distance runner. At 6’1” and weighing 190 pound of mostly muscle, Staub outweighs every one of his distance running teammates by at least 35 pounds.
None of this translated to the collegiate level, upon the high school All-American’s arrival. When talking to him, he often reiterated how easy it was for him in high school.
“He was better than everyone in Oklahoma at the high school level. I don’t think realize he realized how much work he was going to have to put in for him to succeed in the Big 12. He wanted to come to OU and be a star on the track team, but also have a social life, too. He likes being the life of the party”, said Staub’s roommate, Andrew Miller.
His social skills are apparent when spending time around him. Groups of teammates would walk by him, yet he seemed to dominate the conversations without even trying. It was his need to be out with his friends Wednesday’s through Saturday’s, however, that hurt his track career, upon arriving in Norman.
I could feel my head pounding as I heard Staub speak about his Sunday morning practices at 7 am that he arrived to after 4 hours of sleep. While his times on the track remained stagnant, teammates continued to improve.
“We didn’t really care much freshmen year. We both cared more about going out and meeting girls than we probably should have. I think this definitely slowed down Chris’s progress”, said Yount, who is now running at Colorado State.
While Chris began to focus more for his redshirt freshman season, he still was not fully invested. He competed in both cross-country and track, but never broke through to truly contribute to the team. All he could do was shake his head in disappointment when asked about his 2016-2017 season.
“He wasn’t enjoying himself. He didn’t seem like he really wanted to be at practice. He was drained. It was hard on him not to win. It got to the point where I don’t think he wanted his parents to watch our meets. He needed something to motivate him. That finally came last track season”, said Taylor Click, a graduated teammate. Getting beat by an unnamed teammate in a meet was that motivation.
“Chris won’t admit it, but that stung. He knew he was better than this guy. His times in high school blew his out of the water. Chris is a significantly better runner. After that, he was a different person. He was more passionate when he showed up at the next practice, and hasn’t looked back since”, Click went onto say.
With this turning point coming at the end of the season, Staub had a summer ahead of him to prepare for the current cross-country season. A study abroad trip to Italy could not slow down his preparation. Multiple classmates of Staubs mentioned his 6 am runs through the streets of Rome, Florence and Venice. That drive continued up until his arrival for fall practice in August.
“I’d already transferred to CSU (Colorado State) when they all reported in August. But I got a couple texts from old teammates saying how much better Staub looked than he did his first few years”, Yount said.
This revitalized passion is already starting to payoff. Staub has competed in every one of the Sooners’ cross-country meets so far this fall, being the third ranked runner on the team. Staub is happy with his progress, but made sure I knew that cross-country is a little long for him and that his hard work will really show up when track season starts.
“It’s weird. He hardly ever goes out anymore. He’s really locked in. Now that he’s a junior (redshirt sophomore), he realized that his time is running out. He doesn’t want to waste his lone opportunity to be a college athlete”, Miller said. “I can tell that he really wants to win. He’s a competitor. I think he’s got that feeling again. He doesn’t want to be mediocre. He wants to win”.
As he exited the track facility, he made sure I knew when he had upcoming meets in Norman. It was clear that he is now confident in himself and wanted others to see. Before he hopped in his bright orange Jeep, I had one last question for him. I asked him if he loved running for the University of Oklahoma.
His answer? “Hell yeah”.