Northcutt has goal set high for state CC meet
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Nov. 9, 2005 - For Graham Northcutt to reach his goal at the state cross country meet, he will have to run the best race of his career. His coach thinks he's ready.

Northcutt is aiming to place in the top 15 at the Class 4A race on Saturday at Old Settler's Park in Round Rock. The top 15 in each classification are named All-State.

Fifteenth place last year came in at 15 minutes, 58 seconds. That's probably close to what Northcutt will have to run this year on the 3.1-mile course.

"We've kind of got in our mind that he can be in the top 15. I think he has a legitimate chance at doing that. I think a big-time goal would be top 10," SSHS head coach Andy Holt. "If he goes out there and runs a good race, he has a good chance of being in the top 15 and getting All-State. That would be a great accomplishment for a junior.

"That means he would have to have the best race he has had all year, and I think he can do that."

This is the second year that Northcutt has qualified for the state race, and he has ran on the course two other times in invitational meets, so he is familiar with the layout.

In the 2004 state meet, he placed 36th in a time of 16:30.

"Last year, I was just running because it was my first time and I didn't really know how I would do. But, I wanted to get in the top 40, and I did that," Northcutt said. "A good goal would be in the top 15 this year. If I run my best race, that's what I'm hoping for."

Northcutt won the District 12-4A race in Mount Pleasant two weeks ago, then battled through flu-like symptoms the week of the regional race to place eighth and qualify for state.

He was shooting to place higher at regional, but the illness made that impossible. Now, Holt thinks it will be a motivation for the state meet.

"Coming off the race he had last week, I think that has really driven him this week in practice, and I think he'll have a great race," Holt said. "He's been there before and had some experience there, so he knows what he has to do to be successful."

His normal week starts off with a 10-12 mile run on Sunday followed by a "leisurely" eight-miler on Monday. Tuesdays and Thursdays are hard days with hill work, intervals, fartlek and tempo runs. Wednesday is another day of long miles, and Friday is a day of rest.

The last couple of weeks, Northcutt has stepped up his speed work and quickened his tempo runs which usually last three or four miles.

He also has in mind what kind of strategy he will use against the other best distance runners in the state.

"I'm probably going to go out a little less aggressively this year," he explained. "Last year, I went out fast just to see how it would turn out, and I think that may have been a mistake. I'm just going to run like I've been running and try to run a 5:05, 5:10 first mile, concentrate on my second mile, and run my third mile as hard as I can."

One thing Northcutt has going for him is a better kick than most distance runners. He can turn a half-mile in less than two minutes.

"Graham should be ready," Holt said. "I think he'll have a great race."

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