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After all the summer miles, the endless workouts with the team, and the constant dreaming, it all comes down to this. It's state meet week, and Ohio's top cross country runners are heading for a showdown this Saturday.
Alex Dediu, Dublin Coffman's senior leader, will be racing his final cross country state meet. After winning an OCC title and then cruising through the district and regional meets, he's set to leave it all on the course. We caught up with the OSU-bound senior to see what makes him tick, how he began his journey as a runner, and to find out what comes next.
CRC: Congrats on qualifying to the state championships with your 5th place finish at the regional meet. What's it feel like to earn a spot in the big race? What's your goal now for this week?
Alex Dediu: Thank you! I'm definitely excited to be back at the state meet following my sophomore year as I was not able to compete there as a junior due to the flu. I did not quite run the race I was looking for at regionals this past weekend, but the ultimate goal was to just compete and conserve some energy for the big race. Making states was pretty much expected coming into the season, but the feeling of qualifying never gets old. Ideally, I'm looking for a top 10 finish at State, but as most runners know, anything can happen on race day, so I ultimately just want to compete and surprise some people as I'm not really on anyone's radar. It's my last go at it; I definitely want to leave it all out there.
CRC: You've had a strong season, culminating in an OCC individual title and state qualification. What were your goals heading into this senior season? How do you feel as you look back on what you've accomplished so far?
AD: In reality, heading into my senior year, I just wanted to make a statement and show that I can compete with the best in the state after a disappointing junior year. So far, I feel like I've been building up to that and have strung together some solid races. Some goals that I had set out for this season were to be an OCC Champion, run sub 15:20 in the 5k, and place top 7 at State. I've been on track to achieve almost all of those goals, but I'm glad they aren't easy to reach so that I always have something to strive for. I think if I put together the race I know I'm capable of this weekend, things will fall into place. I definitely have not accomplished everything I've set out to do in high school running, but I'd rather be motivated and hungry each season than settle for mediocre goals.
CRC: You've helped out as a Grasshopper coach, leading kids in CRC's youth run club. Is coaching or working within the sport something that you want to do more of? What draws you into getting involved in the sport beyond just competing for yourself?
AD: Definitely! I enjoy sharing my passion of the sport with others, especially the youth. This past summer was the first time that I've gotten to work with younger kids in running, and it has been a fantastic experience. I feel that running can sometimes become a burden on myself and come off more as a chore than a joy when I train on my own for long periods of time, and so being able to reconnect with elementary and middle school kids is very refreshing. I sometimes get too caught up in the competitive atmosphere of the sport when I'm training in the off-season, and that is why I reached out to CRC for an opportunity to spend time with other runners serving as a coach. As far as coaching in the future, I cannot say that I know the path I'll take, but I know I will always keep a connection with the sport, whether that be as an athletic trainer, manager, teacher, etc.
CRC: You're off to OSU to run XC next fall. Congrats. What led you to the Buckeyes, and what are you excited about as you transition to collegiate racing?
AD: Appreciate it! The college recruitment process is a very stressful yet enjoyable timeline that high school athletes only get to experience once, and so I wanted to get a taste of a variety of options. I had four official college visits lined up heading out of summer, but I ended up only taking three. My first two visits were at Brown University and Boston College, both fantastic schools for student-athletes. My third visit was at Ohio State, and my last was scheduled to be at Vanderbilt University, but it was quite clear to me where I wanted to be after experiencing OSU. I connected really well with the coaching staff and team during my visit, and the opportunity to compete in the Big Ten was very unique and enticing with such a rich distance running culture. I think I am most excited about being able to experiment with new events and adapting to new distances. Things such as the steeplechase, 1500m, and 8k/10k events for cross country are very appealing. Couldn't be more excited to represent the Scarlet and Gray!
CRC: What piece of advice would you offer to an underclassman who is looking up to runners like you, dreaming of OCC titles and state qualification? What's it take for them to reach those same goals next?
AD: For me, at least, mentality is one of the most important focuses of my training and racing. There are plenty of good runners out there who limit themselves from being great and taking things to the next level because of a lack of mental strength. This has to do with confidence, courage, and having an edge. What I see in those top guys in the state are athletes who are willing to push themselves, willing to go to the well and digging deep when it matters. Being able to embrace discomfort and persist in training is a huge step. This all starts in practice when the long runs and workouts get tough. If you can't stick with it in training, then you can't expect miraculous performances on race day.