A Couple Days

So quite the past two days. We over at Muhlenberg College are in the off-season. We just came off a team wide exit mile yesterday which went pretty well for our squad. Coach told us we couldn't go out faster than 75 which made for an interesting first lap. I led it through in 78. Whoops. You can imagine that after that things kinda went crazy. My best strategy was to try and drop slowly, so naturally the 2nd lap I went from 1st to about 8th, hitting 800m in about 2:32. Yeah, our exit mile went through in 2:30ish for the leaders. But after that we got going. I spent the third lap trying to get back into position and then the last lap I found my way up to the leaders so that I could manage to kick down at the end like my role model Robby Andrews. 2:32-2:08 ... quite the workout ....

And hey, that wasn't my last Robby Andrews moment of the night. He tweeted a congrats at me thanks to an urging from my coach Steve Finley. Having a former OTC runner with Oregon and Virginia experience is pretty cool. Hopefully his old roommate Nick Symmonds will be the next one to send out a little tweet or a little visit ... So if you are track nerd you may want to come to Muhlenberg while coach Steve is here, don't know which famous guy you will meet ... Well, relatively famous I guess ...

Then today now that I'm in the off-season I played my favorite sport basketball. And yeah basketball is my favorite sport to play. C'mon, I love running but let's face it, it can't be your favorite sport. It's not a game, it's just a competition. So finally I get do play sports and what happens? My running sucked the game out of me. My jump shot is nice and inaccurate and I'm too fast to run with the ball. Plus I'm pretty small and when I drive to the basket I get the crap beat out of me. I'm pretty sore right now. But it is nice to get in a little sport. I got a FelixBowl to compete in soon and I got actually have some athletic ability rather than just the ability to run far and stuff. 

Hope you guys are enjoying the awkward downtime that is November.

Stay Classy.

PA XC States

So first off I just want to say that I plan on just blogging for fun on here. I'm going to talk running of all levels from Pro down to rinky dink road races if that's what I'm in the mood for. Also you can probably expect the occasional post about something completely unrelated to XC or track and field like my love for Drake songs or how much fun I have playing with the Warriors in 2k14. So be prepared for all that jazz, Karl Malone.

Now that being said, in my second post I'd just like to mention a few things I noticed when I looked through some XC results from this past year. First off, I gotta admit I am woefully out of touch. A lot of names on those results I was kind of like .... who? But that just goes to show you what is so cool about our sport, guys come from nowhere to be studs.

Here are some of my quick thoughts looking through the state results:
1. I feel bad for the AAA guys. I feel like this year the depth in the AAA race was unreal while the other races were a tad underwhelming. Look Griffin Molino is a flat out stud who should have Footlocker aspirations, but the fact of the matter is it looks like AA and A didn't have nearly the fire power they did a year ago with guys like Smathers, Kemp, Jones, Shearn, Williams, Jewett and Jaskowak all not even winning their respective state classes. Plus I heard they lowered the medalists down to just 15 guys! That's crazy! In the AAA that makes it very difficult to try and get on the medal stand.

2. Conestoga! Wow! If you had told me that would be arguably #2 team out of District One I would be flat out stunned. CRN probably was #2 based on their finish at the state championships, but Conestoga still had 3 guys in the top 50 including #9 overall break-out stud Andrew Marston! Wow, that's pretty crazy. Congrats to those guys for stepping up to mix it up with all the big names.

3. District One is still dominant. Look the WPIAL guys had one of probably the best 5 teams over the past couple years, but just like the O'Hara team of the past two years, they ain't got a state title to prove it. Henderson made it look easy which is amazing considering that NA had a pack of guys in the 20s-30s-40s and an extremely small spread. Meanwhile D1 takes 4 of the top 6 in AAA states and 13 of the top 26. District 7 was next I believe with just 5 in that section. And oh yeah look at those D1 times this year. Yikes.

4. District 3 has it unfair. It's amazing because on the AA side we have had lots of state champ for D3 in the past couple years, but on the AAA side there has been no luck for the D3 teams or individuals after the state meet. D3 hasn't had a legit state title contending team in a while despite having some very strong runners and the guys who are winning district titles like Patrick Reilly did this year, are struggling to run that course back to back weeks. Props to Brehm and Gebhardt who managed back to back good races on that course. That is no easy task. Carlisle maybe could have placed a spot or two higher with an easier course the week before. Who knows, but I think it's not really fair to these guys I'll be honest.

5. Names we saw coming ... and names we didn't. Look I had some sleepers looking ahead to XC and my list included guys like Alex Knapp of WCH, Will Cather, Jon Perlman, and Matt McGoey who ended up having quite nice improvements this year. But how about those guys that I never saw coming? Andrew Marston, Casey Comber, Paul Power, Hunter Wharrey? I always find that cool to see guys like this popping off big marks, especially the younger guys.

6. SOL National. Shout out to Forrest CRN on this one I guess. Brian Arita and Rob Simmons developing into sub 16 guys? And how about Alek Sauer and the Pennsbury boys? They lose Connor Harriman and now they end up being a team to make states? Impressive work boys.

7. Henderson. Looks like they are still dominant. Barchet has a huge state race, Russell just cruises and almost beats his own course record after a sub 15 at Henderson. Alex Knapp looking like the guy we saw at NXN regionals a year ago. Colllins and Waltz are top 50 guys in the state with Stratman their #6 at 41! Kevin Moy is a 4:16ish miler and he can barely crack the top 7. Wow this is a great team. I hope they pull a Coatesville in a couple weeks, I guess we will see.

8. Little Bros. It's cool to see the next generation of some names I new from my high school days. Todd Gunzenhauser, Drew Pastore, Ryan James from Lebo and O'Hara. Garrett Johnston from that Saegerstown state champ squad. Carson Ayers on state champs Tunkhannock. Yahya Souliman a freshman stud from CV.  Jeff VanKooten a little bro who goes back a ways to Scott. These guys are doing the family name proud.

9. I'm a little out of touch I got a bit beat up in the fantasy draft. Oh well, I guess I shoulda grabbed Nick Smart afterall ...

10. It's easy to be in touch. For the most part the best teams now are the best teams then. Let's face it, CV is making states every year out of D3. Henderson and CRN out of D1 have consistently been forces out of that district. O'Hara is up at the top again as per usual in the last few years and North Allegheny and Lebo take a couple state qualifying spots out of the WPIAL. Hatboro Horsham has another state medalist. They have managed to put a different guy on the podium almost every year which is quite impressive.

11. It's still fun. Regardless of how in touch I am, I still enjoy looking at the results and seeing what's changed since I've been away. And it's always cool to see how the PA boys step up their game and represent us well. As per usual, PA will be well represented nationwide.

NCAA Champs DI

Men's Race Noon ET
*Women's Race 1:15 ET*

The NCAA championships is coming up with some exciting match-ups set to go down on the team side. There is a strong pack of teams up at the front, making it hard to pick a clear winner. It's not easy to pick a winner out of the bunch, but this is my best bad for how things will play out at the champs:

1. OK State
Look, if you are a betting man just put it on this squad every year. The defending champion Cowboys have saved their best race for the NCAA championships the last few years and pulled down almost every title since I started watching. Thomas Farrell has shown signs that he can be a top 5 guy at the NCAA this year to solidify a low stick for the men in the bright orange. He will be coupled with the likes of Shadrack Kipchirchir, Joseph Maniliflasha, Kirbuel Erassa and Criag Nowak. This is a very capable top 5 to mix it up with, Erassa is definitely a sleeper pick off his big season indoors last year in the 3k and Mile. They have been quiet about exactly what pieces they have and cruised in a pack a week ago giving them a little extra rest looking ahead. As Flotrack pointed out, they won't lose, some one will have to take their title.

2. Colorado
Colorado was in a shoot out of a region last weekend and that is no joke to come back from. NAU beat them out, but I don't think that was CU's best work. The buffaloes have super frosh Ben Saarel helping lead the way out front who will be a very intriguing piece to the puzzle. He proved his clutch racing ability more than once a year ago in HS, but how will he handle his second 10k in a span of 8 days? But it's not like Colorado is built around one guy. Pierce Murphy was the squad's leader at the NCAA qualifier, but guys like Morgan Pearson have led the team at other points in the year like Pre-Nats (Pearson was the squad's #4 last weekend). Ammar Moussa also could step up with a big day. He was their #6 at the Mountain regional. Also interesting to watch will be if Jake Hursyz makes a surprise return for NCAAs like some rumor mills have been saying.

3. NAU
The squad currently ranked #1 in the NCAA is my #3. NAU has been competitive year after year at the top, but is this finally the year the team get's over the hump? Clearly I'm betting no, but this is still one of the crew's best finishes of the past years despite having had the likes of David McNeill and Diego Estrada in the past. Now the guy is Futsum Zienasallasse. Well .... It's something close to that anyway. Futsum was 3rd in a very competitive region a week ago and has proven he can be a big time racer. He is just starting to take the next step as a Sophomore and may be ready to make a big jump at NCAAs. NAU also boasts Brian Shrader, Matt McElroy and Josh Hardin. Shrader should benefit from the speedster of a course that is Terre Haute and McElroy proved himself a year ago at NCAAs as an All-American. Hardin and Nathan Weitz will need to come up big to keep the spread tight to Futsum. If they do that they pull of the win and back up their #1 ranking. The boys from Flagstaff may be ranked number by 1, but for most people if these guys hoist the trophy it will be an upset.

4. Arkansas
Arkansas has been pretty dominant this year down South led by Kemoi Campbell the Jamacian sensation and Stanley Kebenei. The duo took the 1st and 2nd spots at their regional over the likes of Ryan Dohner and Craig Lutz of Texas who are a couple of All-American type runners. Arkansas's big 3 is rounded out by Solomon Halie who had a bit of an off day at the regional but is a former Footlocker Champ who can come up big on the big stage. Campbell is a real threat to be an NCAA champion this year if Kithuka slips up and gives Arkansas a potent low stick to lead them in this quality field. Arkansas will need a strong showing from their 4-5 guys if they are going to fight enough to avoid being swallowed up in this field. They could easily slip down a ways if things don't click in the back of their pack, but I think Arkansas, like they did on the track, will peak well for the NCAA championships.

5. Oregon
Probably a fan boy kinda pick right here, but I think the Ducks were saving some things for the National Championships including 13:30 5k man Jeremy Elkiam. My inside source in Oregon says they held out a couple key pieces to prep for the NCAA championships. If Elkiam can run an XC race to match his track performances at Terre Haute, than Oregon is really going to turn heads at the championships. Super Frosh Ed Cheserek will look to continue what has been a dream season for the little Kenyan as he tries to win his 3rd straight top caliber race. He will pull Parker Stintson out with him and both will try and take a top 5 spot at NCAAs, with Cheserek appearing to be almost likely to do so. The question is can Cheserek and fellow freshman Jake Leingang handle two straight 10k cross country races? Will stud 1500 guy Mac Fleet continue his breakout XC season in a second straight 10k? It's been a while since Oregon was relevant with the top teams in the NCAA, but I think thanks to their new freshman leader, this may be their return to the top tier.

After this top 5 group it's going to battle between these teams in particular order:
Columbia- They have had a surprise break-out season on the trails this year, but will it translate once more to the big stage? Jake Sienko leads the way for the Lions. I have another soft spot for this team thanks to my summer at Columbia this summer in NYC, but I have a tough time buying into this team as a top 10 team, especially after Syracuse beat them at regionals.

Stanford- Fantastic group of runners with Rosa leading the way and Erik Olsen, Mike Atchoo and Sean McGorty helping the cause. McGorty another one of the super Freshman in this year's class has struggled lately but will hopefully bounce back for the most important race of the season. The only question is can Stanford overcome their history of bombing at the big meet? They have not put together a great championship race in quite some time despite consistently being projected as a top 5 or so team.

New Mexico and BYU- A couple teams in that brutal Mountain region. Fun to watch Jared Ward back running and running fast. Both teams were right in the mix with NAU and Colorado.

Villanova and Syracuse- Both teams were regional champions and Nova has quite the group of big names on their roster including McEntee, Williamsz and regional champ Tiernan, but neither team has made a significant splash on the big stage in recent years.

Iona and Wisco- Big name squads, but not enough results to warrant a top finish for either crew this year.

Texas and Princeton- Texas has some great runners out front and run well with Arkansas at the regional. Princeton has always been a strong XC team with talented runners. Both teams could be top 10 squads if they have their day in Terre Haute.

Big sleeper picks- Eastern Kentucky and Tulsa

So that's basically every team in the NCAA at this point ... so how about we talk individuals?
Kennedy Kithuka is certainly the favorite out of Texas Tech. He is the defending champ and beat Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu convincingly a year ago. He is going after a course record and will dare the rest of the field to try and hang on to an absurd pace at the Championships.

The question becomes who can possibly challenge Kithuka and who is crazy enough to try? Kemoi Campbell may fit the bill. I watched him at Penn Relays a few years back go out at a very quick pace against kicker and 4:05 indoor miler Alex Hatz to take down the 3k, and Kemoi has continued to run impressive out-front races both on the track and on the trails. He won't be afraid of Kithuka on race day.

Anthony Rotich out of UTEP will also surely look to challenge Kithuka from the gun. Unlike many of the top guys in the field, Rotich has no team ties out on the course and will not have to try and run strategic to not risk blowing up. He is a very quality steeplechase man who has done very nicely in his first year of XC.

If you're looking to go big on the upset train, maybe take a look at Maksim Korolev of Harvard. He has run some incredibly impressive races this year and has a nice resume of wins. He won the Northeast regional of Matt Gillespie and has helped lead Harvard to the NCAA championships as a surprise team. The Crimson front runners have been impressive this year and at Paul Short they proved that in a big way in brutal heat.

Paul Chelimo of UNC-Greensboro has been on the big stage performing well for a while now including some very strong track times in recent years at NCAAs. Chelimo will almost definitely be in the top group and his consistency and experience should prove valuable in a race as competitive as this.

Not too long ago Ed Cheserek battled Futsum Z all the way to the line at the Footlocker championships. Now the two are among the favorites on the big stage this year. Cheserek is on a roll as of late and has already carved out quite a reputation even in a place as historic as Eugene. As for Futsum Z, he has been leading the #1 team on the nation all year with excellent poise and racing. Both have team aspirations which may hold them back from going with a fast early pace, but both guys will likely be battling hard to give their team a quality low stick.

Thomas Farrell faces similar obstacles for OKSt with certain obligations to make to the team title race. But OK St has had guys like Girma break the top 5 despite team goals, and Farrell very well may be next in the line of great runners from the bright orange.

Chris O'Hare, Tulsa- Excellent 1500m who has excelled at cross. Great range and versatility exhibited throughout the year after making the finals in the 1500 at the World Championships not too long ago it is amazing he has been able to get this fit that fast.

Patrick Tiernan, Nova- Another freshman to go with this excellent class of guys, he and the Nova team have potential to really surprise or potentially also show that the Atlantic region just isn't on level with the rest of the nation.

Jared Ward and Andrew Colley are a couple of consistent impressive performances on the trails. Both are always in the mix for a top 15 or so spot in a race like this.

Some PA names worth mentioning:
Tyler Mueller, Lehigh (The Hill School)
Matt Fischer, Penn State (Unionvillle)

Lots of good young guys who are on the verge of being on the national scene from PA like Brendan Shearn at Penn and Conner Quinn doing well at PSU. Good to see PA represent out there. Also nice running by Brad Hough at Akron finishing top 35 in his region.

Goodbye XC

Alright so I'm a little rusty on the whole blogging thing so you will have to bare with me on this one.

Has anybody ever used spotify before? It's pretty much the best new discovery of my life right now and basically you can pick any song online and listen to it for free (with some ads in there somehow but I mean somebody's gotta pay the bills). So naturally that has allowed me to fill my life with an excess of Drake music. Due to this little influx of musical talent, you will notice the theme of this post may remind you of some popular songs out there.

Started From The Bottom
Much like Drake, I was far from ever starting at the true "bottom" of cross country, but relatively it is cool to look back at the improvement curve I have made over the years. It's honestly one of my favorite parts about the sport: you can definitively prove that you are improving and that your hard work has paid off. 

In 2009, I ran my first ever cross country race in somewhere between 18-19 minutes at Belmont Plateau. Sounds like a pretty solid freshman 5k time right? Yeah, I'd agree that is a reasonable 5k for your first race. Too bad that race was a 4k.

But I persevered, and I got a heck of a lot tougher than I was that day. By the end of the season I ran 19:12 for 5k and I went back to Belmont the next year and started my season by running 19:20 for 5k this time around.

By the time I was finished high school I dropped my 5k time to 17:05 and by the time I was finished college I was coming through the 5k mark of races somewhere between 17 minutes and 17:20 on my way to a PR of 27:29 over 8k. 8 years of hard work and lots of miles got me something. It's nice to know it was all worth it.

And the cool part was I wasn't the one making these drops alone. My friend Ian McGrath went from a 23 minute first ever 5k to a 16:50 guy in the span of two years. Another guy on my college team went from 30 minutes 27:30 in two years. I don't know if he ever really put in perspective where he has come from, but I think that's something to be proud of.

Best I Ever Had
Running Cross Country has been an unbelievable experience. I built up my etrain reputation off the sport of cross country, ranking individuals and teams from all over. There is so much more to question and to judge and to rank in the Fall. The courses are all different and each has their own shortcomings or difficulties. I stopped my etrain games this year but I never stopped being etrain. I kept a file on the top 200 runners in the region this year and was projecting how things would shape out all year. Same stuff different day.

I found it really cool how things ended for me. I ran the Lehigh XC course about 15 times for races in 8 years. I ended my career there yesterday. There was no extra magic because it was my last race. The pain wasn't any easier to handle. It was exactly the same as any other race and what got me through was motivation and heart. That's what it was about when I started and what is what about when I finished.

I finished my high school and college careers at the same place with the same kind of race and of the course, the same picture. Thanks for putting up with my crap guys.

So sorry Drake, doesn't look like Nothing Was the Same applies here.  

All Me
The last song on Drake's album is a real good song. But it's actually the opposite of what I want to say. Cross Country has never been All Me. To me the team aspect in XC is nothing like the team aspect of track. You train all summer and sweat and fight and bleed and puke with a family of guys that you lay it all out there for every day when you race. Almost all the best friends that I have today came from this sport and I am truly thankful to have had the love and support of so many dedicated people all my life.

And so as I close out 8 years of cross country I have some thank yous to make. It's impossible to thank everyone but I will give it my best shot.

First, to my parents. My dad pushed me to do cross country before it ever existed. And not because he was a runner himself, he was a baseball player and a wrestling coach. He pushed because he knew it was something I would love and he was right. My mom and dad were there at my last race and that was a big part of what made it so special. I love you guys.

Next I have to thank all my great coaches. I ran a PR under every coach I ever had and some of those were not easy to come by. Thanks Grift, Ames, G, Bracetty and the Fins.

I also have to thank all my teammates. There are too many to all thank individually but I will throw some names out there. Ian McGrath we were great rivals but without you I wouldn't be who I was today, I owe you a big thanks for your trash talk. Mike Palmisano, the Reillys, Sam Stortz and heck even Gourlay. You guys made me a part of that team at Upper Dublin and you showed me what good runners are like. Without you guys there is no way I would have become who I did as a runner. And of course my buddies Todd and Tanzer. I started with you guys from the beginning and both of you helped me enjoy the sport and pushed me to continue it from the beginning. Fran and Mitchell thanks for all the summer training and the fantastic friendships.

As for my college teammates, I have to give a special thanks to Luke Munyan this year. I think a lot of my improvements were made from running and training with you. You gave me the confidence to think I could hang with the big dogs on the squad. Also I'd like to say thanks to Josh and Zach. Together we went through some hard ups and downs in the past two years on the XC course. I wish we could have all been out there together on Saturday for that last one, but as you guys have said so many times sometimes this sport is cruel.

Another thanks belongs to Bob Torphy. He really showed me what it takes to be a top notch college runner. I never really became one but I always strived to imitate his example as a runner and a leader. Will and Andy were two great captains to have as well and took me under their wing from the time I was a freshman.

And finally to my fellow class of 2014 members.
Tom you were always the Thor to my Wolverine, without you there to push me every day I never would have gotten to run either of the regional races I was lucky enough to run. I owe so much of my success to you. We will always be Thor and Wolverine.

Bobby I'm so proud that you had the race you did at regionals. Honestly, I think it's the greatest and most clutch performance I have ever seen from a Muhlenberg guy at Regionals. It was unbelievable. I'm inspired by your hardwork and you are truly an extremely nice person. You deserve success.

And my roommmate Charlie Kline. Thank you for always being a great friend. We went through it all together and you were always supportive and level headed and a true Players Player. I've voted for yo the last two years, and I will be voting for you again one more time. Go get that 5k record this year baby.

Thank you to all my teammates I have ever had and all my great friends in the sport including guys I didn't mention like Kenny and Tom Lorenzi and Pete Schartel and even Ryan Desch and so many more. I will always remember these teams and these friendships. It made me etrain and it made me Jarrett Felix.

Last but certainly not least to my Nicki. You have always been my biggest fan. You keep me in one piece and you always show me what is most important when I get lost in the numbers and the pressure: having fun. You brought me back two years ago when it looked like I was done and ready to quit and you brought me back this year once again. I love you.

So this is it XC. Thanks for the memories. But as Drake said, I'm not gonna quit til it's over. And it's far from over.

See you on the track.


One More

It's weird to think that in one week barring something historically magical, my cross country career is going to be all finished up. I don't think things like this can really hit you until you are staring them in the face.

Last year I got complacent and I let things slip away. It's funny how a really great year can turn quickly into a really crappy year after that. I had hated having to go through all the stuff I did last year at this team. Watching my teammates keep running while I was done was incredibly painful. But it made me hungry. It made me the guy I was this summer. The guy I was this year. I didn't hold anything back on my training and I didn't let anyone tell me no or tell me what I couldn't do.

Look, this year wasn't anything amazing. I'm not trying to say I'm suddenly a big name in the game of running and that my achievements are anything better than anybody else's, but there is something satisfying about hard work isn't there? Just about knowing that all your hard work got you to where you had fantasized about getting to.

I always thought I could just keep doing the same thing and keep improving, but eventually everybody hits the wall and hits the point where things won't click no matter how hard they try. I train months on end so that one day of the year it will click. And it's worth it to me. That's why I keep doing it.

But after Saturday I won't be doing it anymore. I'll be done running with the guys and running with my best friends with a name across my chest that means something. It's sad to know that I'm losing a little piece of who I am this week.

Goals may be reached, but as soon as you hit one, you start adjusting and looking ahead. There will always be something to chase and new dreams to be realized.

I know I don't have any readers out there anymore, so I'm just talking from the heart. But hey, if somebody does stumble upon this old abandoned place, enjoy the ride because it's an honor to be able to represent your school and run with your friends. You can't take it for granted because you don't know when it will all end.

Well I guess I kinda do now.


I hope I make this last race count, and I hope all you out there make the memories last.