Prep's Alvarado wins mile at National Championships
Recent Fairfield Prep graduate Christian Alvarado, of Fairfield, had a shiny enough resume before the starter's gun went off for the first section of the mile at the New Balance Nationals Outdoors championship high school track and field meet on Sunday afternoon. But that list of impressive wins in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track had been limited to regular-season races, invitationals, conference championship meets, state class meets, State Open or regional competitions. Nothing on the biggest stage -- nationwide events that attract the country's fastest and most accomplished runners.
He had not threatened for a spot in the winners' circle in his handful of national races. Until last weekend in Greensboro, N.C.
Alvarado, who won the metric mile- and two-mile races at the State Open on June 9, led his heat from wire to wire and finished first at the New Balance meet. Then he had to wait more than an hour for the section of seeded racers to see where he placed. No one in that ostensibly faster section beat Alvarado's time of 4:06.88, the 11th swiftest time in the nation this season, according to DyeStat.com, which tracks elite high school runs, throws and jumps.
Alvarado had won. He finally won a national championship in arguably one of the sport's two premier events along with the 100-meter dash. Prior to 1954, no one had ever run the race faster than four minutes.
Alvarado, who will run year-round at Georgetown University next school year, attributed a greater sense of confidence as the reason for his breakthrough at the national level, stemming from in-season invitationals that started poorly for him before he hit his stride.
And that additional faith and self-assurance arrived within the past week because he was running only one race on the day instead of the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter races he ran for most of the spring. Winning one race is difficult; winning another an hour or so later is even harder to achieve. That two-race challenge was removed, so he was able to focus on one race, thus funneling all of his energy into just one event. With the double-racing burden removed, the one-race task allowed him to take off.
"I had more confidence about winning the mile on Sunday, even though I didn't have one of the fastest times coming into the race and wasn't expected to win the event on paper," Alvarado said on Tuesday.
"My feeling going into that race is that I knew I was going to run the mile all out, so I knew I could crush my (previous personal) record, so that gave me the confidence if I ran a good race."
Six days earlier, at the State Open in Middletown, Alvarado won the two distance races with his season-long strategy of running only fast enough to win in the 1,600, making sure to leave enough energy for the 3,200, which is the last individual event in a Connecticut track meet.
Alvarado won the State Open 1,600 by 0.05 of a second in 4:12.38, winning by a few meters; he held on for victory in the 3,200 by 1.8 seconds, withstanding a challenge in the final lap.
"Because he ran and won the 1,600 and 3,200 in every meet through the State Open, he never ran harder than he needed to, in order to win both of those tough events," said Fairfield Prep assistant track coach Bob Ford, also an assistant in the winter indoors and in cross country under head coach Bob Ford Jr., his son. "As a result, he never ran his best 1,600 or 3,200. Therefore, he was seeded in the slower of the two championship heats at the Nationals.
"We usually had him run with the leaders and win at the end with his excellent finishing speed. Since he was competing against elite runners over two heats, he couldn't take that chance," Ford said. "Thus it was all out for the mile.
"He trained to peak in that race."
Alvarado said: "Doubling puts a toll on your body when I had to race meet after meet."
Alvarado said his goal was to place in the top six to earn All-America honors.
The springboard to his end-of-season success, he said, was winning the mile at the Loucks Games in White Plains, N.Y., in early May. He won in 4:12.82, rebounding from two weeks earlier, at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, when he did not finish a 3,000-meter race.
"No one wants to run a race dropping out. I was sore. It was disappointing," he said of the Penn Relays in which he completed six laps before opting out, admitting he might have gone out too quickly. "It was my biggest motivation to redeem myself. I wanted to get my season back on track. I really just wanted to get a win (at Loucks) to build my confidence for the championship season (beginning May 20 with the SCC Western Sectional).
"It was a monumental race for me," Alvarado said of the mile victory at Loucks, "even though at the time it didn't seem that way and even though I wasn't running my hardest."
Alvarado won the SCC championship meet, the Class LL state meet and the State Open in cross country in the fall. He placed fourth in the New England Championships in Maine in November, then was runner-up at the Northeast Championships later in the month. Alvarado said he was disappointed in placing 20th in the Foot Locker National Championships in San Diego in December. He was aiming for a top 15 finish that would have yielded him All-America honors.
During indoor track in the winter, he won all championship meets in the 3,200 and just missed the hat-trick in the 1,600, finishing second in that race at the State Open, following SCC and Class LL victories.
The past season, in outdoor track, Alvarado was the winner in the 1,600 and 3,200 races in the conference meet, Class LL and the State Open.