It could be said that running kept Micah Burnett on the right path.
After spending 18 months in rehab conquering drug and alcohol addictions, he joined Kodiak High School’s cross country and track teams as a senior and prospered.
The two sports gave him a new life and kept him from falling back to his old habits.
Running is his new addiction, and now he is headed to college to run cross country and track for Northwest Christian University, an NAIA school in Eugene, Oregon.
“It is an amazing transformation that he has gone through,” longtime Kodiak coach Marcus Dunbar said. “One of the biggest rewards for a coach is having people want to continue on after they get done.”
Burnett’s running career started slow, but it didn’t take long for him to find his stride. He made his varsity cross country debut at the state championships and finished 67th.
He made an even bigger impact on the oval, helping Kodiak win the 2016 state track and field title. Burnett was a member of the Bears’ winning 3,200-meter relay and third-place 1,600 relay.
“The more important part of the package is his desire to be the best,” Dunbar said.
It wasn’t until the end of the track season that college surfaced on his radar. His only option at the time was the University of Alaska Anchorage, a place where he did not want to go.
So his dad, John, went to work and discovered Northwest Christian, which is in the same town as the University of Oregon. Micah bought in, and despite his past, the school still wanted him to run. He left Tuesday and will live less than 10 minutes away from former Kodiak great Levi Thomet, a freshman runner at the U of O.
“They have been over-the-moon in trying to help me get in, because I didn’t make a lot of the academic requirements,” said Burnett, who received an $8,000 scholarship from the school with a chance to earn athletic money as well.
Burnett returned to Kodiak for his senior year after spending nine months at the Adolescent Residential Center for Help (ARCH) in Eagle River, a residential treatment program for youths with drug and alcohol addictions, and three months at a residential youth care facility and a therapeutic foster home in Ketchikan.
He says people are surprised to hear he has only been running competitively for a year.
“It is kind of a mind-blowing aspect to them,” Burnett said. “But when I think about it, I didn’t just join and become great right away, the guys on the team pushed me.”
It also helped to have the best coach in the state. Numerous Dunbar students have excelled at the next level, including James Osowski, who ran at Northwest Christian.
“I could not have asked for a better coach,” Burnett said. “Everything he said made me a better runner. He is an amazing coach, runner and friend.”
At NCU, Burnett will be majoring in exercise science, a field that has intrigued the 18-year-old for some time. He said he is fascinated with joints and muscles and enjoys helping others reach their goals.
He is looking forward to cross country, but considers himself more of a track runner. He will compete in the 400 and 800.
“I’m proud of myself that I earned what I got, but I know that I am still a rookie and have more room to grow,” Burnett said.
Burnett acknowledges his past and is looking forward to what lies ahead.
“This is a process of life for me,” he said. “When I look back on it, it shows how much you can change in your life.”
Contact Derek Clarkston at email@example.com.