Foster finds focus through running

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TOLEDO (WTVG) - Rogers High School harrier Gabriel Foster is just five seconds away from breaking a two-decades old school cross country record.

"A lot of kids these days with social media, they get lost within a building or a program," Rogers head coach John Ichrist said. "So to try to talk to our kids about that we just point to the board and say, 'Abdi Adam 15:55'."

Foster is a senior and it is only his third year running distance for the Rams.

"I wasn't expecting to get here," Foster said. "My sophomore year, I probably only started running because I couldn't play football, I got injured. I kind of thought football wasn't my thing so I tried cross country out and started doing good. So coming here, it is nice knowing that I can run like this."

Football can be a complex sport.

Running is simple. From "Point A" to "Point B" in your fastest time and of course try to beat the person next to you. Running gives Foster focus as he has high functioning autism.

"(Running has) taught me a lot cause when I put my mind to something, I get it done," Foster said. "But getting to that point, it is really hard."

A 2016 study by Achilles International and the New York Medical College found kids with autism who ran or walked 20 minutes twice per week significantly improved in social awareness, communication and repetitive behaviors. Foster obviously takes the running volume and his efficiency to another level.

"As he's got better with the running, the confidence and the self drive and motivation which is very hard to come by, he's kind of taken off on his own," Ichrist said. "Frankly, I don't think about him being autistic in any way shape or form."

Foster is one of seven kids in his family. He and two of his siblings are adopted as Gabriel's parents brought him home after four days in the hospital.

Now, he's a school record holder in the 800-meter run with the potential for a strong finish to his cross country season.

"I gotta set an example for the younger siblings," Foster said. "Even though maybe in athletics - running - I've surpassed my older siblings, I still want to live up to what they are."

When you are running at Foster's athletic level, cutting even just a couple of seconds is not easy.

"I think he will break it no matter what," Ichrist said. "But if he doesn't, there is no failure what-so-ever. To take on the ownership, we've had come to Jesus moments whether its academically or athletically where it's like, 'Hey we gotta get ourselves together,' he's grown from it. All you can ask for as a coach is to see a young man or woman grow from a boy or girl to a young adult."