DARIEN, Conn. -- Darien High School senior Alex Ostberg launched himself on to the national cross country stage with an 11th place finish at last year’s Foot Locker championships.
This year, he stands squarely in the middle of that stage. Ostberg, who has not lost a race this season, will be one of the pre-race favorites when the Top 40 runners from the nation sprint off the starting line Saturday at Balboa Park in San Diego. The boys championship race begins at 1 p.m. EST. A webcast of the race will be shown online.
Ostberg built off his impressive performance at last year’s race and continued to emerge on the national stage. His victory in the 5,000 meters at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in June cemented his status as one of the nation’s elite runners.
“Before that race, I was worrying about local competition,’’ Ostberg said. “It taught me I was able to run with the top guys in the nation. The result was much better than I expected. It taught me a lot and definitely launched me into the rest of the year.”
Ostberg crushed his competition every where this fall. He won the State Open and New England titles, and then won the Foot Locker Northeast Regional. He also set a course record at Wickham Park in Manchester and ran the second-fast time at Van Cortlandt Park when he won the Manhattan Invitational.
The hardest part, he said, was maintaining peak running form and efficiency for more than five months.
“The season is incredibly long,’’ Ostberg said. “If you think about it, I’m training hard from July 1 to Dec. 13. That’s pretty much half the year. I had a little bit of a stress reaction after New Englands, but luckily I’m beyond it. I did some good cross training and was able to rehab. I also embraced the daily training and wasn’t going to let one race determine the season.”
One of Ostberg’s top rivals in Saturday’s race figures to be Michigan’s Grant Fisher, the defending champion who is ranked No. 1 in the nation by MileSplit.com. Tanner Anderson of Washington is ranked No. 2, and Ostberg is ranked No. 3. Ostberg and Fisher will be college teammates next year at Stanford.
“I like being the underdog,’’ Ostberg said. “For better or worse, that wasn’t going to be the case this year. It’s hard when you’re expected to win every time. There’s an element of chance in any race. I wanted to eliminate any chance of that and running for the past four or five years has helped me get to that point. It’s being consistent at a high level. My coaches have definitely helped me get to that point.”
Ostberg said his race strategy will be defined when the race takes shape. “So many times you’ll set a race plan, and it goes out the window when the race happens,’’ he said.
His experience in last year’s race should serve him well. Whatever the outcome, he’s content that his final cross country season wearing the blue and white colors of Darien will leave him in school and state record books for a long time.
“However it works out, I’m going to remember the races at Wickham Park and Manhattan just as fondly as anything this fall,’’ Ostberg said. “They were they were extremely impressive accomplishments. I’m not going let one race define the whole season. I wanted to run hard and do some great things and have my name stand in the record books for some time to come.”
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