SACRAMENTO, Calif. — His favorite song is ”Hot for Teacher.” His go-to selection on karaoke nights happens to be ”Panama .”
And whenever steeplechaser Aric Van Halen tells someone his name, he waits for the inevitable question: Are you related to THE Van Halens?
Why, yes he is.
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His father is drummer Alex Van Halen, the co-founder of the Hall of Fame band. Aric happened to find his rhythm on the track and certainly brings a rock star look with a sleeve of tattoos on his left arm.
”He’s proud that I found something I’m good at and I love to do,” said Aric, who didn’t advance out of the first round of the steeplechase Friday night at the U.S. track and field championships. ”It didn’t matter what it was. Making it to the Olympic trials last year was a huge accomplishment for me and for him to say, `My son went to the Olympic trials .”’
Aric tried to follow a similar musical path as his father. He learned the violin, followed by the piano, drums, saxophone, guitar and back to the drums.
It wasn’t for him.
”I was more of a sports guy,” said the 27-year-old who grew up in Los Angeles. ”I needed to be a little more active. My attention span was never there.”
At first, baseball was his passion. He was a middle infielder until track entered the picture. He ran the fitness mile as a seventh grader and finished in a blistering time of 5 minutes, 45 seconds.
In high school, he switched full time to running and attended the University of Colorado, where he was turned into a steeplechaser, a 3,000-meter race that features jumping over barriers and running through water pits. The school is renowned for producing elite steeplechasers such as Jenny Simpson – now a 1,500 Olympic medalist – and Emma Coburn, who earned a bronze medal at the Rio de Janeiro Games.
”Just something I wanted to do. It looked fun,” Aric said.
This was a way of carving out his niche. His father has one of the most famous last names in rock history. It trails Aric wherever he goes. He embraces it. He even has a clever turn of phrase on his Twitter account – ”Exercising with the Devil.”
”I like (having this name). It’s cool,” he said. ”And I don’t think it’s anything, because I don’t know any different.”
Alex Van Halen helped form the band with his brother, Eddie, in the `70s. They’ve had countless hits (”Jump ,” ”Runnin’ With The Devil”), iconic album covers (1984) and legendary lead singers (David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar). The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
”My dad occasionally tells me stories, but I really don’t ask because when he wants to tell me, he can tell me,” Aric said. ”He likes to play his cards close to his chest.”
Aric’s not sure how much longer he wants to compete. His best steeplechase time is 8:32.92 in 2014. In contrast, Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager has a lifetime best of 8:00.45.
”Evan comes on the scene and it gets so much more competitive. Not that there weren’t good guys before, it’s just so much deeper now,” Van Halen said.
He’s thinking of a career switch, maybe a move behind the camera. He was a freelance photographer/videographer for Colorado last fall and was in charge of the camera that fed images to the Jumbotron at football games. He had a front-row seat to the Buffaloes’ turnaround season as they finished 10-4 and captured the Pac-12 South.
”It’s always fun to go to football games when they’re good or not, but this year was awesome, seeing the stands packed,” Aric said.
Although he didn’t follow his father to the stage, he does appreciate a good karaoke session.
”I can’t sing a lick, but every time I go I do `Panama,”’ Aric said. ”It’s so much fun.”