For Chris Wells-Anders, running is not just a sport; it is potential beginnings for great athletic success in California and beyond.
“He loves to run and. he’s very competitive,” said GCC’s track and field coach Tom McMurray.
Right now, Wells-Anders is ranked first among California community colleges in the 800 meters, with a time of 1:51.6.
Now in his second semester at GCC, Wells-Anders, 18, is also competing in the 400 meters, the 1,500 meters, and the four-by-400 relay. This year he wants to focus on making it to the community college finals and on winning the state championship.
McMurray has said that Wells-Anders “works really hard. He shows up to win the race.”
Wells-Anders’ competitive drive was apparent even when he was in junior high.
Back then, “every Wednesday they would make us run the mile, which everybody dreaded. Nobody wanted to run the mile,” said Wells-Anders, who attended Hale Middle School in Woodland Hills.
“I didn’t like it either,” Wells-Anders said. ” I was afraid of it because there was always somebody faster than me.”
To overcome this fear, Wells-Anders would focus on one runner who was ahead of him in a run and then try to catch him by the end. As he moved ahead of more and more people during the year, it finally came down to Wells-Anders and one other student.
“It was competitive,” said Wells-Anders.
“Eventually the West Eagle Valley track club got word of us battling it out like that, so they came down to recruit us. He [the other student] ended up going to baseball, but I started running, and I just kind of stuck with it.”
Wells-Anders got recruited by the track club and also attended El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills. His drive became even stronger and more apparent as he racked numerous awards and many other achievements in cross-country and track.
“My junior and senior year I won league, but my sophomore year I couldn’t because my coach put me in too many events,” Wells-Anders said. “So by the time I was done with the 400, I was too tired to do the 800.”
In high school, Wells-Anders ran the same events but occasionally would run the 200 meters, the 1,500 meters, the 300 high hurdles and some of the relays.
Running is not a prominent sport in his family, but as Wells-Anders excelled at it, he was noticed more and more.
“[My family] plays other sports. My dad did his thing with basketball in high school, and my sister used to be a figure skater.”
Wells-Anders has other interests as well. It turns out he is creative and articulate in music, which is his major.
“I know how to do the production stuff like laying down the tracks. I do that for R&B-type music,” Wells-Anders said. “I also perform classical music on the piano. [My parents] stuck me with a piano when I was 4. They heard me one time trying to play stuff I heard on the television on the little kiddy piano we used to have.”
Wells-Anders plans to transfer to a four-year university, preferably Arizona State or UC Santa Barbara, after one more year at GCC. He is looking for a school with equally good track and academic programs including, of course, music.
“I want to go to a school where there isn’t a huge hype around it and where there isn’t a lot of pressure on you to be perfect because of the name of the school. I’d rather go to a school that’s kind of low-key but that has very good programs.”
As for the more immediate future, this Saturday there is an important track and field meet, the Elite Invitational, where Wells-Anders and his teammates will compete. The meet will be held in San Diego and is one of the main goals for the track team. The competition is for the best athletes from California to compete against other runners from Western States and regions, Wells-Anders said.
“From what I hear, it’s supposed to be a really impressive meet, with all the good competition,” said Wells-Anders.
Coach McMurray said that although the invitational is important, there are many more meets in the season. He offered a cautionary note that when an athlete is as motivated as Wells-Anders, there is the risk of overdoing it.
“You don’t want to leave it in practice, and that’s what I worry about him doing,” McMurray. Chris is a high achiever. The main thing for him is to stay healthy and keep his motivation so he can have an excellent track year. And it’s fun to coach him.”
Wells-Anders knows the season is long and that maintaining his motivation and health are key. This is something his coaches have helped him with, he said.
“Now, thanks to these guys, I’m starting to get some endurance.”
Looking at his long-term running plans, Wells-Anders said his ultimate goal is to make it big.
“My goal for running, like for so many other people, is to make it to the Olympics and do big things there,” he said. “And also to make it to the World Championships.”
Although his love for music could lead him down another path someday, Wells-Anders said track is his priority.
“Right now, I think I’d rather compete,” he said. “I would like to know the music business is there for me when running is over, but running is first right now.”