Austin Mitsch still gets incredulous looks when he prepares to take his place in the starting blocks for a sprint race.
"Walking into meets, I'll get looks 'That must be the Jesuit sprinter' and everyone knows it's me because I'm white," Mitsch said. "Sometimes my parents will be sitting in the stands and hear people say, 'That white boy can run.' "
While Mitsch thinks his complexion gives him a psychological edge against some of his opponents in track and field's glamour 100- and 200-meter races, his goal isn't to be known as a great white sprinter.
He wants to be a great sprinter, period.
"I get in the blocks and see guys way bigger than me, and even now it's still a little intimidating," said the 5-foot-10 Mitsch. "There are a lot of great sprinters in our section and in the state. But I feel I have an intimidation factor, too. That they have to live up to some things."
The junior has come a long way since he started competing in a variety of track and field events at Our Lady of The Assumption School in Carmichael.
Now Mitsch is ranked No. 11 in California by Dyestatcal.com in both the 100 and 200 meters, with personal bests of 10.64 and 21.50 seconds, respectively.
He won both sprints and ran on Jesuit's winning 4x100 relay team in Friday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I finals.
He'll be the favorite to win the 100 and 200 he's ranked No. 1 in the section in both at the Masters championship today and Friday at Elk Grove High School, and is expected to make his third trip to the CIF State Track and Field Championships (June 1-2) at Buchanan High School in Clovis.
His consistency in the sprints has been impressive.
He's finished first in 22 of 27 sprint races he's run during the 2012 outdoor season. He finished second three times in the 100 and second and third once each in the 200, his losses coming against seniors ranked in the state top 10.
Mitsch has made a believer of Jesuit sprint coach Rod Jett, a former Hiram Johnson sprint and hurdles star, who initially saw Mitsch as a solid but unspectacular sprinter as a freshman.
"You never know how they are going to develop," Jett said. "Austin was pretty solid, pretty fast, but he wasn't a star right away."
Mitsch's coming-out party came at last year's Masters finals where he shocked a field of older runners in the 100 meters by finishing second to Kennedy's Breonntae Snelling and qualifying for the state meet.
Jett credits Mitsch's will to improve, intelligence and work ethic for his remarkable improvement.
"He's an All-American kind of kid, a young man you love to coach," Jett said. "He's got a good combination of work ethic and the right training attitude."
Mitsch also remains humble and grounded while winning what are considered "look-at-me" track events.
Mitsch credits his success to those who have helped him along the way, including his family, friends and middle school coaches.
There are special props for Jett, who Mitsch calls a "great coach who I only now have come to really appreciate," and personal trainer Alex Van Dyke, the former NFL player who works with Mitsch year-round.
He also credits former Jesuit sprinter Joe Ruffaine for taking him under his wing when Mitsch was a freshman still more in love with football.
"I didn't really take track seriously until he told me, 'You can be something,' " said Mitsch, who stopped playing football after his sophomore season. "He's the one that got me training."
He also still receives encouragement from former Jesuit sprint stars R.J. Frasier, now at UCLA, and Tom Blocker of Cal.
Jesuit won the Division I section championship last week, and Mitsch would like to help the Marauders win the Masters title Friday.
His freshman year he was an alternate on Jesuit's 2010 state championship team that was led by Frasier.
Though Mitsch didn't get to run in the 4x100 relay in Clovis, he absorbed the atmosphere of one of high school sports' most renowned events.
"It was the coolest experience," Mitsch said. "Going to the Capitol (afterward) and getting a certificate that I was part of that state team, it meant a lot. It inspired me."