In running more than perhaps in any other high school sport, seniority is the rule.
The senior is supposed to come in first, followed by the junior, sophomore, freshman and so on … at least that’s how it’s “supposed” to be.
Ever since Ithaca High’s Dan Dracup started running cross country in seventh grade, he has been flipping that theory on its head.
Dracup, a sophomore, won the individual title at Saturday’s Southern Tier Athletic Conference cross country championships at the Pheasant Hill Country Club in Owego. He covered the 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes, 45.1 seconds, holding off junior Samuel Chauvin (16:49.6) and senior Stephen Rosettie (16:56.5) of Corning, two upperclassmen he will look to outduel again at Thursday’s Section IV Class A championships at Chenango Valley State Park.
Dracup’s first love was soccer, which he started playing at the age of five. Both of his sisters play it, and his mother coaches a youth development soccer program in Lansing.
That was before Dracup tried out in seventh grade for Ithaca coach Rich Berstein’s cross country team, who quickly realized despite his young age, Dracup’s engine was anything but small.
In this installment of “Five Questions,” we ask the Little Red’s sophomore stud about his running career’s fast start, his health heading into the end of the season and his pre-race musts:
Has it surprised you how well your running career has gone so far, and what did you learn in competing at the state and federation championships as a freshman?
Starting out in seventh grade, I expected to go in and have a good time, but I didn’t expect to be winning, so when I started doing really well I just kept with it. Then I definitely improved a lot from ninth grade to 10th grade, because in ninth grade I was just getting used to the (3.1-mile races) and I wasn’t the smartest of racers. I think just keeping at it and the amount of races I’ve been able to run has helped me so much.
I know that I’m not going to win at states and feds because they are just huge meets, but it just gives me a lot of experience. It’s nice to have those meets where you compete with guys at a higher level, even if you don’t win.
How was it leading almost the entire STAC championships?
At STACs I would say I was about four or five seconds ahead the whole time, so it’s pretty scary, but I feel like I do better when I feel like I have the race in control. It’s pretty fun actually.
What are your personal and team goals for the sectional meet?
As far as personal goals, I’m just trying to stay with (Samuel) Chauvin and (Stephen) Rosettie, and if I can I’ll get ahead of them; that would be nice. For us expectation-wise, it’d be really nice to win. I feel like we might get second but you never know. If we’re all on our game and Corning has a few guys that are off, then there’s always a chance.
You have been dealing with shin splits this season. What is that like and do you treat it?
I feel like mine was just (caused by) running too much on the roads. It’s kind of weird. I had no idea what it was until I went to my doctor. It’s just sharp pains in your legs and sometimes my knee. It really helps to get most of your runs in on grass and if you ever feel it, go in for cross-training.
Do you have any pre-race rituals?
I need to get pasta in the night before. It’s really mental for me. And my mom always makes me a smoothie for breakfast. Just to have those things just makes me feel better and makes me feel more confident.