Sonora High senior Steven Grolle seems to have it backwards. His favorite part of a 3.1-mile cross country race is the most grueling part – the finish.
Then again, since Grolle usually is the first to finish, why wouldn’t it be his favorite part?
“That is the most fun thing,” says Grolle, who has been named The Bee’s cross country Runner of the Year for a second consecutive season. “Normally, people are dying. But kicking it into that extra gear … the sprint is very exhilarating. It’s the closest thing to human flight without actually getting off the ground.”
Grolle won the Sac-Joaquin Sub-Section Division 4 race on Nov. 9 in Angels Camp with a time of 16 minutes, 41 seconds. He was the only runner in that race to run a sub-17. A week later, in the Division 4 section final, Grolle finished second in 16:26, 11 seconds behind Hughson’s Zach Morrett.
“I don’t really know what happened in that race,” says Grolle, “other than he beat me. Fair and square.
“When Zach got out in front of me it took me out of my normal mindset. Over the last mile I was gaining on him and was going to catch him … only, I didn’t.”
Two weeks later at the CIF state meet at Fresno’s Woodward Park, Grolle hit the medal stand with an eighth-place finish (top 10 receive medals), with his time of 15:51.
• ON THE COURSE: Grolle says his strength as a runner is that finishing kick of his, and growing up and training in Sonora (with an elevation of about 2,000 feet) gives him a slight advantage over most of his Section foes, who do most of their running in the flatlands. He points to his sister, Lizzie Grolle, as an example. A runner for Cal State Stanislaus, Lizzie Grolle handles meets at higher elevations – Tahoe for instance – better than some of her teammates and competitors.
Grolle says one area in which he needs to improve is the mental aspect. He’s so used to being out ahead of his competition that when he finds himself stuck in a pack, it throws him off his game.
“Our team is so small that when we run, there’s hardly any social interaction,” says Grolle. “When I’m in a pack with a bunch of runners, it doesn’t feel right.”
• OFF THE COURSE: Grolle has a staggering 4.8 weighted grade-point average this semester and his cumulative GPA is 4.15. He’d like to study neuroscience in college and is looking at several UC schools, including Cal, Davis, Santa Barbara, San Diego and UCLA.
• QUOTABLE: Grolle traveled the farthest of any athlete for his photo shoot. His family decided to take advantage of the opportunity to have dinner at Red Lobster. Grolle, who has never eaten the delicacy, was unsure if he was going to try it. “I’m thinking about ordering a pasta dish. I’m afraid to try lobster because if I like it, it’s going to ruin my wallet,” he said.