Patrick Anderson didn’t just set out to defend his state title. The Mt. Lebanon High School senior was determined to go undefeated in his final scholastic cross country season.
On Nov. 2, Anderson accomplished just that. He capped his perfect fall with a record-shattering performance on a muddy course in Hershey.
Anderson won his second straight PIAA championship in 15:25.6. That was 25.2 seconds faster than his nearest competitor, and rival, Daniel McGoey from North Allegheny. Unionville sophomore Ethan McIntyre followed both six seconds later (15:56.3) to clinch third place.
“It’s definitely an amazing feeling to defend,” said Anderson of his state crown. He won the 2018 championship. “It’s definitely a good feeling to set out and have goals and come back and do it. Since I won a year ago, the thought has been on my mind for the whole year to win it again.”
Anderson did not anticipate winning with such flair. He said setting a new standard for runners in the state was a “bonus” to the victory.
While he “obviously” knew what the record was going into his 5-kilometer race, Anderson felt the conditions were not ripe for such a heroic run because heavy rains the previous day had “torn up” the course.
“My goal was to do what I had to do to win the race,” he explained.
While in doing so, he became the first runner from the WPIAL to win back-to-back state titles since NA’s Jerry Richey did it in 1965-66. Anderson said he “honestly” did not know he was on pace for a record until he was 30 yards from the finish line.
“I could see the clock and I knew at that point I could break the record. When I saw that, I dug in at the end.”
Earlier in the race, Anderson eased into his effort. He said he did not push too hard the first mile but in the next half mile there was more separation among the runners. After two miles most dropped off Anderson’s pace–he averaged 4:59 per mile.
Anderson credited his “mental strength” for his ability to win races and set new records while running with a target on his back. The North Carolina recruit has been the harrier to beat all year. As a result, he said it was “a little bit of relief” to cross the finish line in first place.
“Running is such a mental sport. It’s actually more mental than physical,” he said. “So you have to be strong for sure.
“Coach A (Agostinella) has instilled in us to have a positive attitude about everything. We talk about being ready to go and focus on having a plan. Knowing what you are doing and be mentally strong all the time,” Anderson added.
Because his mentality matched his physicality, Anderson achieved a secondary objective. During his perfect season, he won every invitational he entered this fall from the Marty Uher, Red White and Blue, Foundation, Legends, Tri-State and WPIAL championship meets to every section dual with rivals from Upper St. Clair, Peters Township, Bethel Park, Baldwin and South Fayette.
“The goal for a perfect season formed at the beginning of the year,” said the 18-year-old runner. “When I look back on the injuries I had in August, I didn’t expect it would end up this way. It couldn’t have gone any better. I’m where I wanted to be. Undefeated in Pennsylvania,” he enthused.
On Nov. 30, Anderson will tackle the eastern portion of the country. He will again travel to the Bronx to compete in the Footlocker Cross Country Regional Meet at VanCortlandt Park in New York. Last year, Anderson placed sixth with a time of 15:38 and qualified for nationals, where he finished 29th in 16:16.4
“The goal for regionals is definitely to make it back to nationals,” Anderson said.
Yet noting his state winning time is faster than at last year’s regional, Anderson added the aim is always to win.
“That would be the goal for sure but it’s easier said than done,” he said, noting that last year’s nationals was one of the competitions that was won last year by Cole Hocker of Indianapolis in 15:13.7. “There’s a lot of good competition at that level.”
To prepare, Anderson returned to practice only one day after garnering his gold medal at the PIAA championships. He did a “shake out” run on Sunday and covered another five miles on Monday, ramping up for another 40-plus mile week.
“There’s a lot of training to do. Winning the state title was a special day but it’s just another step along the way. A little reward. But in cross country, there’s never an off day.”
After nationals on Dec. 14 at Balboa Park in San Diego comes indoor track for Anderson then spring outdoor track. Anderson is the defending WPIAL champion in the 1,600-meter run. For himself, the school and the municipality, Anderson also hopes to bring home a PIAA title in track this May.
“I’ve had great support from my family, friends and the community. So, yes, I definitely want to make everybody proud. It’s a great feeling to represent Mt. Lebanon. I’m fortunate to do what I do. I get to go out and do what I do best.”