When members of the South Temecula Track Club went out for a run this past Saturday, no one expected the run to end when two members of the cross country program were injured after being hit by a vehicle while training in the wine country area that is northeast of the high school. Austin Elkins, a sophomore at Great Oak High School, and Jacob Brown, an eighth-grader at a feeder middle school, were running eastbound on De Portola around 7:58 a.m. on October 17, when the driver of a Ford F-250 veered off the road hitting the two young men.

Austin and Jacob were running with a group of seven boys, according to Great Oak/STTC head coach Doug Soles. “Fortunately, they were in a large group and the kids did amazing getting paramedics, coaches, and parents there within minutes,” Soles said. “Another group of seven senior boys were running behind them and immediately took control of the scene. Our sport takes place on many different surfaces, so we must train our runners for situations like this. We always make sure the kids are in groups and have phones on them.”

Great Oak sophomore Austin Elkins, who placed 24th overall earlier this month while running for the South Temecula Track Club at the Desert Twilight XC Festival in Arizona, is one of two boys that was hospitalized after being hit by a vehicle this past weekend. Valley News/Harold Smith photo

According to reports from the scene, the driver of the vehicle is said to have been a young female, approximately 20 years of age, who drifted over the white line and struck the boys as the group ran along the side of the road. The female driver told police that the sun was in her eyes which distracted her ability to see where she was going. Witnesses said that she did not change her rate of speed and admitted seeing the first group but did not see Austin and Jacob, who were in the front.

Elkins suffered multiple fractures, among other injuries, and is being treated at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar. Brown injured an arm that required surgery. He was initially treated at Inland Valley and then moved to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.

Elkins competed in 11 cross country meets for Great Oak as a freshman in 2019, running PRs of 16:01.80 for 3 miles at the Dana Hills Invitational in on Sept. 28, and 16:15.80 for 5,000 meters at the Southwestern League Championships in early November. He was eighth overall among boys at the team’s time trial just over a month ago. He placed 24th overall in the Unattached/Club Championship race at the Desert Twilight XC Festival in Arizona earlier this month. Brown is a top up and coming 8th grader who runs for the club and was training with the group when the accident happened.

Austin Elkins suffered several severe injuries after being hit by a Ford F-250 during a morning run with his South Temecula Track Club Saturday, October 17. Valley News/Courtesy photo

“Both boys remained hospitalized in stable condition,” Soles said late Sunday afternoon. “Both are improving and thankfully have responded well to treatments.”

A social media post made by Austin’s father, Jonathan Elkins, drew more than 2,600 likes and more than 300 comments in a statewide show of support from across the running community. Jonathan says Austin has several severe injuries, including a fractured skull and bleeding of the brain.

“He has a fractured C3 vertebrae as well as spinal issues,” Jonathan says. “His spirits are getting higher as he recovers. The first night was emotional for him as he had to learn what had happened. I have shared with him all the responses from the community and his friends and teammates and coaches. It is going to be a long road of recovery but he’s a beast.”

Both boys are said to be incredibly competitive in their own right and Austin’s dad confirmed that about his son.

“Yes, Austin is just like me,” says Jonathan, who a professional in the motorsports industry. “He grew up competing in off-road racing but fell in love with running. We are so lucky he is alive. A lifted F250 is a big truck and he’s a kid that weighs less than 100 pounds. Seriously, other than his concern for everyone else that this has traumatized, he is truly anxious to get back on his feet.”

Three years ago, to the day, Jonathan sustained a stage three head trauma when he rolled a monster truck, so the family went in controlled chaos mode after hearing the news about Austin.

Members of the Great Oak cross country program stop by Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar to show their support for their teammate. Valley News/Courtesy photo

“As of Sunday, October 18, Austin is awake and anxious to fully recover and get back to running in 3-4 months,” says his Father. “Thanks for the continued support, love and all the prayers for him.”

Brown had surgery on his elbow the day after the accident. According to Coach Soles the surgery went well and he was able to eat and walk hours later. The Valley News was not able to reach the Brown family at the time of this article going to print, and there is no confirmation if Jacob has made it home yet, but “he is definitely progressing well,” says Soles.

Jacob Brown, pictured here stopping by Monday’s practice with his parents, had surgery on his elbow the day after the accident. Valley News/Courtesy photo

“The kids in our both our Great Oak cross country program and South Temecula Track Club are scared for their teammates, but rallying around them,” added Soles. “As for us, we have no meets currently scheduled, but will keep training amid the pandemic in anticipation of the new CIF Southern Section athletic calendars in 2021.”

As updates to the health and wellbeing of both boys are made available, info will be found online at http://www.myvalleynews.com.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.