It had been more than a month since Rocky River junior David Fee had run a competitive cross-country race when he stepped to the starting line of the Class 4A Western Regional on Oct. 26 at McAlpine Park.
Due to a small team size – the Ravens had just four boys varsity runners at the time of the meet – the Rocky River team was at a disadvantage. They didn’t compete in the Southwestern 4A conference meet and didn’t get to run many of the in-season meets that other schools use to hone their skills for the post-season races – which they use as the ultimate proving ground.
But Fee was confident when he stepped to the line that day. He had endured a strict training regimen since July, when he began running seven miles six times a week around his neighborhood, pushing each day to knock seconds off his times.
Although he hadn’t run competitively in nearly a month, Fee set out to run his best race of the season.
And that’s just what he did.
Fee broke his previous personal best with a time of 16 minutes, 46 seconds: a time he said was the goal all season.
“My mile turnover got better as the year went on,” he said. “I was aiming for (consecutive) 5:25 miles every time around, but to run 16:46 was three 5:25’s in a row, so that’s what I was going for.
“It had been a while since I had run and I didn’t know what to expect. All that I knew is that I wanted to be under 17 minutes, so I just went out there and did my best and that’s the time that I got.”
Fee’s time earns him the 2103 Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly Boys Cross-Country Runner of the Year, something that didn’t seem in the cards to start the season.
Fee said the season began much like it ended, with a long layoff before turning in a dominating performance.
About 10 days before the first race of the season, Fee said his knee began to swell and the discomfort made him shut his training down, but he rebounded to place second at his first meet of the season, setting the tone for his breakout junior year.
“I knew it was going to be a good season since I was out for a while and was still able to take second place,” he said.
With a new personal-best and another season to train, Fee, who just began running competitive cross-country as a sophomore, said he’s ready to build on what he started – both with the Ravens team and on his own.
“Next year I want to take even more of a leadership role on the team and personally I’m looking for my times to go down,” he said. “My personal best last year was 17:55, so I ran under 18 (minutes) in my sophomore year, I ran under 17 in my junior year, so I want to run under 16 in my senior season.
“I want to build up the program and get more guys to come out and run on the team, that’s a goal of mine. But in cross-country all you can be proud of is your personal-best times, so I’m proud of that.”