Today we chat with Sonoma Valley HS runner, Alex Conner. He won the De La Salle Invitational earlier this season defeating several of the top runners in Northern California with a winning time of 15:31.98. He finished in 2nd place at the Stanford Invitational with an impressive 15:22 trailing only Piner's Luis Luna. He had an equally impressive junior season on the track as he finished in 6th place at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions 3200m. with a time of 9:25.49. In the last state rankings posted on October 12th, Conner was ranked 5th in Division III as an individual.
1) What other sports have you participated in besides xc and track and field?
I played basketball my freshman year, and varsity golf my freshman and sophomore years. I was pretty into baseball and basketball during middle school, so I didn't have a big running background.
2) When did you first get into distance running?
I got into distance running my freshman year. I did XC because my brother was doing it. I also did it my sophomore year, but neither years was I very serious about it. I got serious junior year when I got a bit faster in XC and then decided to do Track as well. So I got competitive with it my junior year.
3) What was the first success that you remember in either xc and/or track and field?
My first big success was probably breaking 10:00 in the 3200m junior year in March. I was new to the sport, it was my second 3200m, and my coach and I were pretty shocked. We were hoping I'd do that during the postseason! That definitely motivated me to keep working hard.
4) When you first started running, who were the runners that you looked up to and helped you during that time period?
I definitely looked up to my brother when I was younger. He was so fast to me then and is still always a source of knowledge. My coach, John Litzenberg, was always a big inspiration; he was still so fast despite having 25 years on everyone. My old coach Butch Alexander was also a big inspiration. On a larger scale, I'm definitely a big fan of Pre and Chris Solinsky.
5) You played golf during the spring of your freshman and sophomore years. What led you to making the decision to switch to track and field?
Like I said earlier, I think that my junior year of cross-country helped and certainly my coach John's urging me to do it all contributed to it. More than anything, I was really starting to love running.
6) Tell us a little about your coach and how he has helped you become the runner you are today.
My coach has helped me become the runner I am for countless reasons. For one, his expertise and experience in running has given him insights I would never have known before. I think the turbulence he felt in running has influenced him today and made him a better coach. Also, we have a great personal relationship that allows us to talk a lot of stuff out, it certainly isn't a tyrannical coaching approach. Finally, he runs with us and uses a hands-on approach to motivate the team and me. It's pretty impressive too!
7) What did you do this part summer in terms of training? Weekly mileage? Distance of long runs? Any workouts?
This summer was a great summer for training. I built up to 65 miles and did pretty minimal workouts, sticking with a little hill work and some longer tempos. My long runs got up to about 14.
8) What about during this season? About how many miles per week for the majority of the season? What does a typical week look like for you when you have a Saturday invitational?
This season I have been sticking with that mileage, bringing it up a bit here in October. A Saturday Invite changes the week, putting workouts on Mondays and Wednesdays and then longer distance days on Tuesday/Thursday. Friday we like to keep mileage up too because I'm always training through these Invites.
9) What would you say have been your toughest workouts so far this season?
My tougher workouts this year are always on Fridays and the occasional Monday. The Friday workouts are spent in the "cemetery" where we have some gnarly hills and then a 500m loop we do to work on speed. Those workouts can be incredibly hard. Monday workouts that are tough are when we do mile repeats or 1k repeats. Also, when I decide to go fast on a long run, that can really be tough. My coach doesn't like that either.
10) Favorite workout? Favorite distance run? Favorite xc course? Favorite xc invitational? Favorite competitor(s)? Favorite track distance? Favorite track invitational?
My favorite workout is 400m repeats on the track during track season, and for XC probably the 1k repeats. My favorite XC course was Stanford and subsequently the Stanford Invite was my favorite Invite. The rolling course suited me well and I liked running on the golf course--my sports were blending. My favorite distance run is this run I do out in the sloughs of Sonoma, it's an open road and then some rolling vineyards, it's a great place to hammer a long run. My favorite competitor was Forrest Shaffer from Petaluma, he graduated, and then it's always fun racing Luis Luna and the Piner guys. My favorite track distance was the 3200m without a doubt and I loved the Woody Wilson Invite, the night race was awesome.
11) As you look forward to the rest of the season, what races do you have coming up?
We spent October working on training and staying away from too many invites. My coach and I decided that was best for me. My next race is League finals at Spring Lake, also a great course, and then NCS at Hayward.
12) Anything else you would like to add.
Thanks for the interview and best of luck to fellow Nor Cal runners in the postseason!
Thank you very much for your time Alex! AJC