By Nick Rosa
Sam Alexander, a senior cross country runner, won the Northeast Conference Championship a little over a week ago, helping his Blue Devil team to their third straight championship.
Alexander has been training his whole high school and college career to achieve as many NEC rings and his individual title. Going through some obstacles, he showed that passion, hard work, and dedication go a long way.
Alexander first started running cross country at Clark Lane Middle School in sixth grade, but didn’t run again in an organized meet until his freshman year in high school. Attending Waterford High School, this is where his running career began.
Being one of the best on his team and becoming captain in his final years, according to Alexander, he had a “Pretty modest high school career and really didn’t do much.”
Never traveling to Nationals for cross country or track or going to New Englands, his most memorable moment at Waterford was setting the course record during a dual meet.
Having a quiet high school career isn’t the end all of a career, as he’s proven since being at CCSU. You don’t need nationals or All-American status in high school to become a great runner in the future. Of course it would be nice to have, but Alexander’s years in high school paved the way for much better things to come.
A great coach was also a big part of Alexander’s future success. Coach Jen Merrill trained him his first three years. “I had the privilege of having a really terrific coach. She was a former world record holder in a few events and she didn’t want to burn me out in high school before college,” he said. “I talk to her now and she’ll take credit for not killing me in high school,” he added. Merrill ended up taking a position at Rutgers.
Alexander didn’t have it the easiest time when it came to start getting ready to run at college. Former head coach Kawecki and then-assistant coach Eric Blake didn’t recruit Alexander; instead, Alexander contacted them to come run for the Blue Devils.
“I knew I was going here and I loved track and cross country so much, so they allowed me to come to pre-season, which was really big to me, I was really grateful for that,” Alexander said. He ran all summer before his freshman year to get ready for that because he knew he wasn’t one of the better guys going into the season.
The biggest influence for Alexander is his connection to his team and teammates. He drew a lot from his team in high school. “I do the same now, I can’t say enough about the guys on the team now and how supportive everyone is of each other,” Alexander said.
This team has been through a lot together and their experiences while running together for four years has definitely helped.
Alexander has had quite the successful track and cross country career so far at CCSU. That’s also thanks to the now-head coach Blake.
“The training he believes in clicks perfectly with my body. What he has us doing is the right thing. There are different philosophies on coaching, but the results kind of speak for themselves and we do more volume than most teams in the conference. As long as you do it smart that’s really what helped us so much,” Alexander said of his coach.
He spoke very high of Blake as his coach, even adding in that he is a very personable guy and that his office door is always open for his athletes to come talk to him. “There’s no one else I’d rather be coached by, he just really gets it,” he added.
When asked what his most memorable moment in college was so far, there were a few that stood out.
In indoor track last year, Alexander won an exciting 5K race at the New England Championships, only winning by three hundredths of a second. He was runner up in last year’s outdoor IC4A’s in the 10K and missed qualifying for East Regionals by three seconds. He was even runner up at last year’s NECs behind former teammate Ry Sanderson, but the one that stands out the most is his new title as NEC Champion as of a couple weeks ago.
“IC4A’s was pretty significant for me since it was such a high powered meet and winning the NEC Championship is very special to me, since it was a conference meet and was something I have dreamt of doing,” Alexander said of his achievements. This was also the second consecutive year CCSU had a NEC cross country champion.
Other things you can add to his resume include being part of last year’s indoor track and field championship and being a part of the amazing three-peat in cross country, which in 2009 was the first ever NEC championship in school history.
A total of three cross country and one indoor NEC ring makes for a considerably successful career and he still can add to that list going into indoor and outdoor season.
Trying to get a second consecutive ring going into indoor season in a couple months, Alexander is confident they can win once again. “I think we’re definitely going to be one of the contenders,” he said.
Alexander has had a successful running career at CCSU, beginning with being invited to pre-season as a walk-on athlete. It’s hard not having the recruitment and giving the coaches an idea of your running style, but Alexander never stopped pursuing a spot on the roster.
Barely getting an invite back, he made the team and didn’t look back, getting better and better every year by running hundreds of miles every summer and training hard in the winter.
His confidence in his team and himself made him a successful walk-on, setting a goal and achieving it.
He looks to run competitively after college and train at an even harder level than he is now, but after finding a job, of course.
Alexander looks to improve on his IC4A time in last year’s 10K this upcoming weekend and continues his journey to his second consecutive indoor championship and first outdoor championship in the spring. If he and the team are successful, he would be adding on to an already impressive college track and cross country resume.