Sarasota's William Hartvigsen started running because of his brother Ben's success.
Over his four years at Sarasota High, Ben Hartvigsen did everything he could in boys cross country.
He won back-to-back state titles, for one. He set the school record time (15:08.90) at the 2018 Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, N.C. Now he is at Harvard University, making his impact there.
But at Sarasota High, the Hartvigsen name is not gone. Ben’s brother, William Hartvigsen, is a freshman at the school, and he is posting faster times than Ben did at that age. William finished 34th (17:53.40) out of hundreds of runners at the Babe Zaharias Twilight Challenge in Tampa on Aug. 30. Ben never finished under 19 minutes as a freshman.
“I’m trying to beat his sophomore times now,” William said.
It is because of Ben that William began running. He was a baseball player previously, but after attending Ben’s meets, he decided to give running a shot.
"I'm going to be honest: His first two years, he wasn't really anything interesting to watch," William said. "He was not very fast at all. But at the end of his sophomore year, he got faster and I thought, 'Oh, he's a serious runner.' And then his junior year, he was competing for the state title. At that point, I started watching the whole sport. He got me interested in it."
He first tried it himself two years ago and he was hooked almost immediately, hooked enough to give up baseball for good to focus solely on getting faster. William began racing alongside Ben. He got introduced to the Sailors that way, making this year's transition to high school cross country not much of a transition at all.
"I think that helped," William said. "I don't know what it would be like to be new on the team, really. I already had connections with everybody."
Even though Ben is 1,000 miles away, his presence in William's life remains. The two text almost every day, William said. They were not close before running became a common bond, but they are now. William refers to Ben as a coach and the person who persuaded him to run every day, as that is the only way to improve. They also talk about mundane, day-to-day happenings in each other's lives, the way real friends do.
William isn't only gunning for his brother, of course. He has goals of his own and his biggest goal is to let himself develop naturally, seeing what his base times are and using them to make improvements over the offseason. He would like to get his base under 17 minutes, he said, and make the team's seven-man roster for the state meet. He was seventh at the Babe Zaharias meet — a sign of how strong the Sailors are overall — so he is on track for that.
I'm just glad the lineage is being continued. As a journalist, I live for narratives, and the "younger sibling chasing his brother's legacy" is one of my favorites. Will William equal his brother's feats? I don't know. Running is an odd sport; sometimes the most promising athletes hit a wall, and sometimes, like Ben Hartvigsen, middling athletes develop into legendary ones. It is too soon to say which path awaits William, but the genes and results are there so far.
Watching his progress will be a blast.