Aaron True is an insurance agent, a cross country coach, a track and field coach, a husband and a new father. Oh, and he came awfully close to representing Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics later this month.
The Lebo resident — who grew up in LeRoy and graduated from Southern Coffey County High School — placed 13th with a throw of 67.81 meters in the javelin competition at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., June 19 — just 23 centimeters shy of making it to the final round.
It wasn’t the result he had hoped for.
“I wasn’t super pleased with how I threw, but I knew going in I probably wasn’t as prepared as what I could have been or should have been,” he said.
However, it seems like he’s been able to cut himself a little bit of slack. After all, he was competing against the best javelin throwers in the country and he’s not currently in a position to dedicate his entire life to the sport anymore.
“I’ve been busy coaching track and I’ve got a four-month-old boy and got a lot going on in my life right now, so I’m just trying to balance everything out,” he said. “Staying athletic enough and in good enough shape to throw at a high level has been tough, but I was still able to get 13th out of 24 athletes that threw, so I was happy with that.”
The U.S. Olympic Trials were held at the newly renovated Hayward Stadium on the University of Oregon campus last month. True competed in that stadium in 2018, prior to its renovation, when he placed eighth at the NCAA Division I Championships during his junior year at Wichita State.
“That new stadium has a whole new atmosphere and a little bit bigger meet, NCAA nationals versus the Olympic Trials,” he said. “ … It was a pretty cool experience.”
In order to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials javelin competition, one must be a dues-paying member of USA Track and Field and have thrown a distance within the qualifying window during the past year. Because the Tokyo Games were postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, throws from both 2019 and 2020 were eligible. True qualified for the trials with his throw from the 2019 Kansas Relays during his senior year of college.
While he didn’t make it on the U.S. Olympic team headed to Tokyo, True said that, at this point, he’s looking ahead to taking a shot at the Paris Olympics in 2024.
“As of now, I’m leaning towards continuing to try and get ready for it,” he said. “It’s just hard telling what life’s going to look like in three years. I’ve got one kid. In three years, I may have two kids and another one on the way. It’s hard telling. I’ll just have to see year-by-year, I guess, but I’d love to give it another shot if I can. I’m planning on staying in good enough shape to continue throwing, just whether I can keep throwing at that high level is a different ball game.”
Maintaining Olympic-level fitness while managing a full-time job and a family means that True has no time for sleeping in.
“I wake up every morning at about 6 a.m. and go lift from about 6:15 to 7:30 every morning or at least four days a week, just do upper body two days a week, lower body two days a week,” True said. “And then I try and throw when my body feels good at least once or twice a week.”
In addition to time spent training, working and being with his family, True is the middle and high school cross country coach at Lebo as well as the high school track and field coach. He also coaches 12-15 kids in javelin, discus, shotput and weight-lifting outside of the school setting.
His noteworthy experience has already paid tremendous dividends for the Lebo track and field program. In 2021, senior Devan McEwen and sophomore Brooklyn Jones both broke the school’s javelin record and were the 1A state runners-up.
“It just goes to show that they’re pretty good athletes [and] if they’re being shown the right way to throw — because javelin’s pretty technical — you add that technicality and athleticism, you can be pretty good at it,” True said.
True is no stranger to the Lyon County League, having won a 1A state championship in javelin at Southern Coffey County. But even before that, he’d known he wanted to be a javelin thrower. His uncles, his dad and his brothers had all thrown javelin before him, so in some ways, it was meant to be.
“I always knew that I wanted to do javelin, ever since I was like in first grade,” he said. “My dad was a track coach, so I would always go out and pick up the girls javelin and throw with the high school kids.”
True said that his technique “wasn’t great” in high school, but that with his length and athleticism he still threw a personal best of 202 feet en route to a spot on a Division I team in college.
It was at Wichita State, True said, that he began to quickly improve his form and his strength, and thus his results. What kept him going was a dogged determination to always be better and to never give up.
“Having two older brothers and being super competitive, I always just wanted to be the best I could be at everything I ever did,” he said. “So that kind of helped me along the way, I guess. Just never settled to be just average. I always wanted to be great, no matter where I came from.”
True hopes that his experience of coming from a small town to finish fifth in the NCAA Division I Championships in 2019 and then to place 13th at the U.S. Olympic Trials can inspire the young people with whom he comes into contact.
“Anybody can do it, no matter where you come from,” he said. “A lot of kids, when they’re freshmen and sophomores, they say they can’t do it or whatever because they’re so small, but as a freshman, I was 105 pounds and 5’5”, so I was about as small as they get. But if you just stick to it, let your body develop and never give up, just keep pushing forward and working your butt off, eventually it’ll typically pay off for you.”