Two years ago was the first time I met Acer Iverson. I was a senior on the Roseville cross country team when he joined at the start of his 9th grade year. He had decided to come out for cross country following middle school track, after he broke 5:00 in the 1600m with minimal training. As a freshman he showed great potential, but at times seemed more concerned with weaving tales about eccentric distant family members, stories I'm still skeptical of, than running.
His entrance into the sport probably was far from perfect. "The first time I came to captains practice I was pretty out of shape. The seniors started to pick the pace up and I got dropped. The second day I got a side ache and would've gotten lost, but then junior Eamon Kuhne slowed down to help me find my way through the woods," Iverson recalls.
After opening the season over 19:00 and on JV, he would drop his time down to 17:21 before the end of the year. Impressive, but nothing unheard of: he wasn't even the fastest freshman on the team.
Fast forward to track. I remember Acer started the season out slowly, running above 5:00 in the 1600m and even taking walk breaks during some runs. But one day, everything seemed to click. We were running 800m intervals, and Brian Bailey, our coach, needed to divide the team into training groups. After some contemplation, Bailey begins to list off the front pack. After nearly half a dozen names, he mentions Acer's. But as Acer steps forward, Coach Bailey has a change of heart. He assigns Acer to the middle group, under the impression that Acer is not at the same fitness level as some of the upperclassmen. He doesn't listen though, and takes the workout out hard. As he glides past, the upperclassmen share a glance, certain that he'll drop back soon enough. But that moment never comes.
By the third week in April, Acer was already knocking on the door of a sub-10 3200m. In just the 3rd meet of the season, he ran an incredible 10:02. At that point, people started to take notice. However, his true breakout performance would come two weeks later. At true team sections, there are plenty of big names entered in the 3200m - names like Hamza Ali, Alex Plasencia, Joseph Minor, and David Dahl. After coming through the halfway point in just under 5:00, the front pack switched gears, setting the stage for a huge negative split. I recall coming in well behind him, and asking our coach how Acer did as soon as I finished. Beaming ear to ear and struggling to control his excitement, he said, "9:42". After that race, everyone knew that Acer Iverson would be a name to watch in coming years.