Patrick Anderson of Mt. Lebanon kept his cross country winning streak alive when he captured first place in the 2019 Foot Locker North East Regional and earned his second consecutive trip to nationals.
The Mt. Lebanon High School senior breezed to victory, covering the course at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx in 15:17, and grabbed one of the Top 10 spots for the 2019 Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships to be held Dec. 14 at Balboa Park in San Diego. The boys race features the Top 40 prep runners in the country.
“My main goal at regionals was to be Top 10 and get back to nationals but it feels pretty good winning, because I was able to keep my undefeated season,” said Anderson. “I really wanted to keep it going.”
Anderson won every scholastic cross country meet he entered this autumn, including the Red, White and Blue Classic, Marty Uher Invitational, Tri-State Coaches Run and Legends (Ohio) Meet, where he posted a PR of 15:09. The 2019 WPIAL champion claimed his second straight PIAA gold medal on Nov. 2
For many of the Blue Devils, however, the scholastic season concluded on Oct. 26 at the WPIAL championships. So, Anderson had lots of lonely miles to cover before the regional held Nov. 29 in New York. While he trained some with Barak Asher, who had qualified for the PIAA championships, he ran mainly on his own.
“Everyone mostly was done before states,” Anderson explained of his teammates. “So basically I worked out all on my own. I’m able to push myself but it can be challenging, particularly mentally.”
Because he had competed in the Foot Locker cross country championships in the past, Anderson was mentally prepared for his race and the challenges posed by some of the country’s best harriers, particularly Gavin Sherry. The sophomore from West Hartford, Conn. finished a full three seconds behind Anderson in the race. All the other qualifiers all clocked in at 15:34 or better.
Experience “definitely” played a role in the race said Anderson. Since this was his second year competing, Anderson said he was familiar with the course, how it narrowed once it entered the woods and where the hills were. He also had a better understanding of what goes on in the race.
“Last year was a learning experience. Getting the hang of things and going with the flow,” he said. “All that helps at race time. It meant a lot. I was ready for the race.”
With adrenaline pushing him past the bitter 35-degree temperatures, Anderson got out of the gates “faster this year than last year” in the first mile. He worked hard through the second mile before he took the lead. Coming off the bridge, he broke into his kick with 800 meters to go.
“I was felling pretty good,” Anderson said of his sprint to the finish line. “Not knowing most of those guys, I had to just take a chance there,” he said. “I took the chance that I would be able to hold on until the end.”
Anderson is now holding out hope that he can compete with the rest of the best. Thirty other top runners from the South, Midwest and West regions will join the winners from the Northeast to compete in the warmer climes of southern California for the national championship.
“Definitely keeping my undefeated season was a big goal at regionals but I have big expectations for nationals,” Anderson explained. “Winning the regional really boosts my confidence heading into nationals. It’s going to be good competition.
“I thought it was possible to win at regionals and there were a lot of guys ranked in the country at the race. So coming away with the win was a big deal,” said Anderson, who was heavily recruited, too, but selected North Carolina as his college choice.
“Nationals is going to be the same thing. I’ll be in a big race against a field of great competition and looking to run my best race and win it. I’m in the best shape I’ve been and I am looking forward to competing and being a top contender. There’s a lot of pressure knowing you are a guy to beat but I’ve focused extra hard and I’ve done all I could to prepare to win.”