Mascoutah High School freshman Noah Affolder was born nearly 25 years after the death of legendary American runner Steve Prefontaine in 1975.
But "Pre," as he was known, has played a major influence on the running style and attitude of the talented Affolder.
"When I run, I'm a frontrunner. I like to go out and get the lead. He (Prefontaine) did that as well,'' Affolder said. "I like his will. He had the desire to go out and prove to everyone that he was the best.''
"Some people thought he was too small and too slow to do anything. But he had the desire to show them up, to show people that their opinions of him were wrong.''
Introduced to running while in the fifth grade by his grandfather, Dan Price, Affolder has already begun to make a name for himself as a premier distance runner.
A state champion in the 800 meters and mile run in eighth grade a year ago, Affolder didn't miss a beat this fall as a member of the Mascoutah cross country team.
Combining with older brother Murphy (Affolder) to give the Indians a solid top of the lineup, Noah Affolder won four races this season, ending with a ninth-place finish at the Class 2A State Cross Country Meet in Peoria.
For that accomplishment, Affolder is the Belleville News-Democrat Class 2A Runner of the Year.
Noah Affolder is the latest in a line of outstanding runners in his family. His grandfather ran a 4:08 mile in his younger days, while his mother, Brandyn Affolder, won the U.S. Junior Olympics in the 1,500 meters.
Brother Murphy concluded his high school cross country last fall as a three-time all-state athlete.
"The whole family is pretty competitive,'' Noah Affolder said. "My dad was a 400- and 800-meter runner in high school ... My other siblings also run.
"Murphy and I work out together and, when we're stretching before practice, we'll talk about who is better. It even spills over to the dinner table sometimes.''
Mascoutah coach Pat Cook was familiar with Noah Affolder before he ever put on the Indians' purple and white uniform.
"I had seen him (Noah) run several times, but you're never really sure how good an athlete is until you see him in a race,'' Cook said "Well, we go to Granite City for the first meet of the year and everybody knows how strong it is.
"Well we're running the race and at the halfway point, Noah is second. When they finish, he's still in the top five. That's when I knew he was special.''
Unfortunately for Cook and the Indians, Affolder won't be at Mascoutah next year. A military family, the Affolders are being reassigned to Fort Drum in upstate New York later in 2014.
The stop will be just one of many for Affolder who has lived in New York City, Kansas City, Denver, Washington D.C., and Anchorage, Alaska.
"My favorite place to live location-wise was Alaska. Fun-wise? Here.'' Affolder said. "Moving is just part of the military. It's tough to leave good friends, but it's kinda cool to live new places and meet different people.''
Affolder said his goal going into the state meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria was to break 15 minutes and finish in the top seven. With a time of 15:05 and a ninth-place medal, he came close to both.''
Affolder will run in track and field at Mascoutah this spring and will compete in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter events.
As for college in three years? Isn't it obvious?
"Oregon. That's were Prefontaine went,'' Affolder said. "If I had a dream school that I would love to attend someday, it would be Oregon.''