ROCK SPRINGS — What most people consider to be punishment, Rock Springs High School senior Jayson Caudell calls therapeutic.
On Tuesday, Jan. 7, the Tigers star runner signed his national letter of intent to continue both his cross-country and track and field careers at Chadron State College in Nebraska starting next fall.
The senior stud did consider a few other schools, but after only one visit, it was Chadron that won him over.
“I really liked the family aspect,” he said. “When I went on my visit, the campus was awesome and the class sizes were awesome. I just had a sense of feeling that I belonged and that’s when I decided.”
Jayson, a longtime multi-sport athlete, first started running track back in seventh grade. Before that, his first two loves were basketball and soccer.
Unsure of just how good he would be, Jayson had doubts before signing up.
“I didn’t think I’d be all that good at it,” he said. “I only joined track because at the time soccer wasn’t a school sport and I thought it would be good for me if I did a school sport. That and because my dad (Mike Caudell) used to run track when he was younger.”
After getting his first taste of competitive running, fast forward two years later and Jayson’s passion for the sport still wasn’t quite there.
However, the summer leading up to his freshman year of high school, Jayson made a decision that would eventually lead him down the path he’s still pursuing.
“I decided to go out for cross-country,” he said. “I figured it would be a great way for me to get in shape for basketball.”
Jayson, who at the time still considered basketball to be his No. 1 sport, had no idea just how much he would come to love the rush racing gave him.
“It wasn’t just the running I enjoyed,” he said. “I felt that I was really good at it (cross-country).”
In fact, after only a few races, Jayson not only caught the eyes of his competition, but RSHS head coach Brad DeKrey pulled him aside and said if he continued to focus and put in the work, he could really be something in this sport.
“Having heard that was a huge confidence booster,” Jayson said.
After taking those words to heart, Jayson decided to take his coach’s advice. Instead of going out the following spring for soccer, a sport he had been playing for as long as he could remember, he decided to lace up his running shoes for the upcoming track and field season.
“It wasn’t all that difficult of a decision,” he said. “I loved soccer, but I knew if I was going to do something special in running, I would have to go out for track.”
Later that year, Jayson pieced together a solid season on the track but was unable to qualify for the state meet in any of his events.
“There were a lot of good runners at the time,” he said. “It did hurt, but looking back my mile wasn’t quite where it needed to be. It hurt that some of my good friends were there (at state) while I was sitting at home.”
Not wanting to give up, the young runner continued to build himself up by putting in a mountain of work over the offseason. By the time his sophomore year arrived, he was one of the fastest kids on the cross-country team.
Months later, at the state meet in Sheridan, Jayson helped lead the Tigers to a fifth-place finish. His time of 17 minutes, 32.46 seconds was not only good for a top-30 finish, but he also shaved off over a minute from his previous time as a freshman.
“That was nice,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get top 10, but I’m glad I was still able to help the seniors finish strong.”
Down the road, near the end of his sophomore year of track, Jayson’s hard continued to pay off. In only his second year, he qualified for the state meet in the mile by four-hundredths of a second.
“That was a huge accomplishment,” Jayson said. “That’s when I told myself wow, I just did this as a sophomore. Imagine what I can do my senior year.”
Less than a year later, going into his junior year, Jayson solidified himself as one of the top runners in the region.
Next to a fourth-place finish at regionals in Jackson, Jayson wrapped up his third year of cross-country in 12th place at state with a time of 17:03.05.
“That was a bit of a bummer,” he said. “I was really hoping to get all-state, but a kid from (Cheyenne) East stepped on the back of my shoe, forcing me to race the final 2.5 miles across gravel with only one shoe on.”
Although the rising star didn’t get the top-10 finish he was hoping for, Jayson’s junior year and everything he had worked for wouldn’t go unnoticed.
During the following track season, Jayson and the team traveled to Provo, Utah, for the BYU Invitational. Before the race, coach DeKrey, who liked to doubt Jayson to help motivate him, made a bet that the two will never forget.
“I bet coach DeKrey that if I got a sub 4:40 in the mile, he would have to wear my socks for the rest of the day, the socks I had been wearing all season long,” Jayson said.
DeKrey, who knew Jayson’s socks were dirty and sweaty, immediately agreed with the terms.
Soon after, Jayson not only set a personal record in the mile, but he finished in fourth place with a darting time of 4:34, forcing his coach to wear the socks.
“That was awesome,” he said. “For the rest of the trip, everyone laughed and made fun of DeKrey ... I’ll never forget that.”
Less than a year later, going into the start of his senior year, Jayson knew this would be his last chance to make an impression. His two goals leading up to his final year of high school cross-country was to make all-state and to not let the senior curse come true.
“The senior curse is something we have talked about since my freshman year,” Jayson said. “Every year it seems like one of the juniors on the team ends up beating the No. 1 senior. As one of the teams captains and front-runner, I made sure to do everything in my power not to let that happen.”
All season long, Jayson led his team in every race and this past October he earned his first all-state accolade after crossing the finish line in ninth place at the 2019 Wyoming state cross-country championship in Star Valley. He finished with an impressive time of 17:09.4.
“That was awesome,” he said. “I knew that was going to be my last high school race ever, so I told myself that I needed to go all out. By the time I reached the end, there was nothing in the tank left to give.”
Not only was it complete confidence Jayson had at state, but also momentum. The week leading up to Star Valley, the rising star recorded a 16:22.28 at regionals, the fastest 5K of his young career.
“I’ll never forget that,” he said. “That was also the first time I ever beat Dawson Crofts.”
Crofts, a senior from Evanston, has been one of the top high school runners in the state.
“For four years straight he and I battled,” Jayson said. “Before each race, he would always joke with me and say how does the back of his head look because I always finished behind him. So beating him felt really good. I also got him for a second time a week later at state by less than two seconds,” Jayson said.
Following an outstanding career, Jayson now leaves behind an impressive resume. Next to earning all-state in 2019, he is also a two-time first-team all-conference runner for the Tigers.
Outside of cross-country, Jayson is currently wrapping up his final year of high school basketball and will then prepare for the upcoming outdoor track and field season starting in March.
“For track this year, my goal is to get a sub 2:00 in the 800-meter run,” he said. “I would also like to get a 4:20 or faster in the mile.”
To this day, Jayson’s time of 4:34 in Provo stands as his fastest mile.
Moving forward to the next level, the star runner plans to compete in the steeplechase and any other event CSC head track and field coach Riley Northrup decides to throw him into.
“I’ve never done the steeplechase before, but I’m excited to try it,” Jayson said. “The coach and I thought I would do well in it because of my build and my athleticism. When thinking about it, it doesn’t matter what events I do when I get there. I just know I’m going to do whatever it takes to help the team win.”
The soon-to-be Eagle will also need to get used to changes in cross-country. Unlike running 5Ks in high school (3.107 miles), the majority of cross country races at the college level are 10Ks (6.214 miles), which doesn’t seem to bother Jayson all that much.
“Obviously I don’t know what my times will be jumping up to a 10K, but it does help knowing that the coaches up there have complete confidence me. Just talking with them, I know they will give me the tools I need to be successful.”
As soon as the college freshman arrives on campus, Jayson will be joining first-year head cross country coach Luke Karamitros, who comes from Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado, where he worked as an assistant coach for three years. During his tenure with the Grizzlies, Karamitros won two NCAA Division II men’s cross-country championships and one women’s championship.
Karamitros, who Jayson refers to as Coach K, will also hold a position as one of the assistant track and field coaches at Chadron.
“I’m excited to work with him,” Jayson said. “Even though I wasn’t the first runner to officially sign, I believe I was Coach K’s first verbal commit. I can still recall that phone call the day I told him I wanted to be an Eagle. It was a special moment for us both.”
Despite having only four years of running at a collegiate level, the upcoming NCAA student athlete plans to keep running for as long as he possibly can.
“People think I’m crazy when I tell them I enjoy running,” Jayson said. “I like pushing the limits and knowing that I couldn’t have gone any further. It’s gratifying … that feeling you get when you know there was nothing left to give.”