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Seminole’s Chase Sutton is, without question, the runner to beat.
Countryside’s Ricy Brown thinks he could be that runner.
Not now. Not next week.
“How many weeks until conference?” he asks.
There is no braggadocio in Brown’s voice, his efforts on this day — chasing, but not catching — merely making him eager to chase down a runner he respects.
He now has a challenge. He now has a mission.
In just his second cross country race Tuesday night at John Chesnut Park, the senior finished second in 16 minutes, 49 seconds.
That was more than 30 seconds better than his first race, a week before on the same course.
It wasn’t nearly enough to beat Sutton’s winning time of 16:30, but it was close enough that Brown was smiling afterward.
Tuesday, he found his target, and he learned a lesson — this isn’t going to be easy, but it is going to be fun.
“Last week was easy. This one? I ain’t gonna lie …last week the pace wasn’t all that fast, but this time, (Sutton) was blazing,” Brown said.
Brown can run. He’s fast, in spurts, honed by track coaching guru Eileen Givens in the 400 and 800 meters.
This, this is something different. It’s 800, followed by another 800, followed by another 800. …
“I caught up to (Sutton) three times, but I couldn’t take any more,” Brown said. “My legs were burning.”
Followed by another 800. …
Brown — his first name is pronounced Ricky, not Rice-y — used little bursts three times in an effort to catch the Warhawks standout, but each time Sutton weathered the challenge and pulled away for good with less than a mile remaining.
He’s the pro.
“I feel like I can get him,” Brown said. “I haven’t put major miles in because I’m just starting out, but as the season goes on, I’ll get more miles in. I have speed for it, that end burst, but I need to get more endurance for it.”
Brown started out as a sprinter as a sophomore but has now settled in as a state contender in the 400 and 800. Last year, he qualified for the Class 4A state meet in the 800, long jump and 4x400 and 4x800 relays.
After a successful offseason running the AAU circuit, Brown decided to quit the football team, where he says he wasn’t feeling it, and try cross country, which he surprisingly does feel.
“I really thought it was boring, which is why I didn’t do it before,” he said.
Now Sutton has made it exciting for him. Brown spends all his running time chasing times, trying to get better. He was looking for someone to chase through the woods, and he just happens to wear a fluorescent orange jersey.
Brown, who has hopes of shaving another minute off his time the rest of this season, knows he won’t improve by 30 seconds every race, but he thinks will he keep getting faster. So will Sutton, leader on the county’s best cross country program.
Brown is counting on it.
“I need someone to push me to get a fast time,” he said. “I need someone fast out there so I can chase him. Now I have to go get him.”