The youngest member of the Heiner family track dynasty at Centreville churned down the final stretch of the 800-meter Virginia AAA state championship race, less than a blink behind the leader.
Chase Heiner, always looking up to seven accomplished older siblings, always trying to be the best of the eight, was again giving chase.
They lunged across the finish line at Todd Stadium in Radford, Va., but Heiner knew his personal best of 1 minute 51.95 seconds was not enough to get past the hip of Westfield’s Nathan Kiley, who took the title in 1:51.80.
His parents Ron and Marilyn were there for comfort and congratulations, but it was disappointment that lingered.
“You always hate losing no matter what,” Chase said.
Share the same house with enough winners, and it starts to rub off. The rising senior has another year to add to the Heiner legacy of state titles and All-Met honors that began before he was born.
The dynasty almost never was. The oldest, Jessica, thought of quitting as a freshman the first week of cross country, a sport where running three miles on a blistering August afternoon is a light workout.
Instead, she transformed into a champion, winning state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 in both indoor and outdoor track as a senior in 1994 and becoming a cross-country all-American at BYU.
Chase, 17, was born in 1995, 20 years after Jessica. In between are Camryn, Laura, Daniel, Michael, James and Mattson. All competed at Centreville and attended Brigham Young University, where Ron taught economics before coming to George Mason.
“Ever since I grew up, I always had gone to meets,” Chase said. “I loved the atmosphere and that’s why I love track now. I joke with some of my coaches I’ve been to more track meets than they have.”
Camryn, motivated by the success of Jessica, went on to run at BYU. Laura joined her two older sisters in Provo in 1998 after finishing a spectacular career at Centreville, including winning the 1,600 and 3,200 indoor and outdoor state championships as a junior and senior.
Daniel, Michael, James and Mattson followed suit, with all earning All-Met honors or competing for state championships in track or cross country at Centreville, much to the pride of their father whose sport in high school was golf.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” Ron said.
As younger brothers tend to do, Chase wanted to not just be like his older mentors, he wanted to beat them.
“ I do think it’s awesome how we did the same thing and excelled at it,” he said. “At the same time I definitely want to make my own name, too.”
And as older sisters tend to do, Jessica and Laura recounted times growing up when Chase would set up hurdles of shoes and leap over them while racing inside the house.
“He’s been running his whole life and he found a lot of joy in it,” Laura said.
In spite of his smaller size of around 5-feet-10-inches and 160 pounds, Heiner is a two-year, two-way starter on the Wildcat football team, lining up at defensive back, running back and wide receiver, and he’s also played lacrosse, baseball and soccer.
In addition to his silver medal in the 800 at the AAA state championships, he finished third in the VHSL Concorde District championships in the 1,600 in 4:23.22, and anchored the 4x400 and 4x800 squads on the outdoor team.
If it’s his versatility that sets him apart from the rest of his family, it’s his win-or-go-home mind-set that tags him a Heiner.
“Chase is one of the most competitive people that I’ve seen,” Centreville track coach Givon Holmes said. “We put him at anchor for both relays because of that. You can put him anywhere and he can do anything.”
And the “Heiner Dynasty” isn’t a taboo thing to talk about in front of its last member. Holmes, who’s coached the Wildcats for five years, previously worked at South Lakes and even then knew about the family’s reputation.
“All the kids know about all the Heiners that have come through and how good they were,” Holmes said. “I think he’s doing a good job living up to it.”
But there’s still the matter of winning an individual state title. Had he run 0.16 of a second faster in Newport News June 1, it would have been a gold medal draped around his neck instead of silver.
Yet his coaches told him he did everything he could have to beat Kiley. Holmes told him he ran the race of his life.
“I definitely use that for later, remember times coming down that home stretch and what it feels like after, try and use that to not be second next time,” Chase said.
It’s a long way from the oldest daughter nearly walking away after a tough practice almost 25 years ago, with the youngest son still racing to be a champion for himself, his school and his family.