Callum Bolger has consistently said over the course of a stellar year running high-profile races that if he focuses on himself rather than the runners around him, he’ll usually be successful.
So when he stepped to the starting line Saturday of the Foot Locker 2016 Cross Country National Finals at San Diego’s Balboa Park, he wasn’t thinking about 39 of the nation’s finest high school runners lined up shoulder to shoulder around him. All that was on his mind was executing his plan.
And when the dust settled, Bolger — the San Luis Obispo High School senior — did just that, hanging with the lead group to finish 10th in a time of 15 minutes, 19.0 seconds. The second-team all-American time culminates a 2016 that saw Bolger win the CIF Division 4 cross country state championship, place sixth in last weekend’s Foot Locker West Regional on top of turning in a stellar track and field season last spring and signing a letter of intent to run at Stanford next year.
“I tried not to pay attention to any big rankings and just focused on my race and what I can do,” Bolger said in a phone interview. “In the end, I ran my race and ran well. ... It wasn’t as much about the competition, it was just about me trying to go out there and do my best. ”
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Bolger described the conditions as “perfect” for running, temperatures in the low 60s with a lingering fog yet to burn off. Predictably, he said, the pace was “pretty fast” right out of the gate. He said he was able to stay with the lead group from the outset and at around the second mile had conserved enough energy to match the top runners’ moves.
“I just tried to hang on as long as I could,” he said. “In the end, I was able to build up to a nice kick.”
He crossed the finish line in front of his coaches, mom and dad less than three seconds behind ninth-place finisher Samuel Worley of Cormal Canyon High School (San Antonio) and about 17 seconds off the winning pace set by Carroll Senior High School’s Reed Brown of South Lake, Texas.
Bolger finished fourth among the West Region runners, an improvement on his placing in last weekend’s race at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.
“I feel really good,” Bolger said.
Now, Bolger said he’ll scale back his training until the holiday break rolls around and he begins to prepare for the spring track and field season.
Cross Country National Finals
1. Reed Brown, sr., Carroll Senior H.S., South Lake, Texas: 15:01.8
2. Finn Gessner, sr., Robert M. La Follette H.S., Madison, Wisconsin: 15:04.4
3. Seth Hirsch, sr., Millard West H.S., Omaha: 15:04.8
4. Talon Hull, Weber H.S., Ogden, Utah: 15:07.1
5. Alexander Maier, so., Flower Mound H.S., Flower Mound, Texas: 15:10.3
6. Noah Affolder, sr., Carlisle H.S., Carlisle, Pennsylvania: 15:01.3
7. Tibebu Proctor, sr., The Northwest School, Seattle: 15:10.5
8. Connor Lane, sr., Cardinal Gibbons H.S., Raleigh, North Carolina: 15:13.7
9. Samuel Worley, sr., Comal Canyon H.S., San Antonio: 15:17.2
10. Callum Bolger, sr., San Luis Obispo H.S.: 15:19.0