Interview with Bellarmine junior, Alex Scales

Alex Scales (photo above courtesy of Steve Fuller) won last Saturday's 42nd Annual Crystal Springs Invitational Championship Boys Varsity race in a new personal record 15:18 on the Crystal Springs course. He led the Bells to the team title over Central Catholic and league rival St. Francis Mt. View. The Bells are currently one of the top cross country teams in Division I in California as they look ahead to their 2nd league meet as well as the world famous Mt. SAC Invitational.

1) Tell us about your race yesterday? What was your race plan before the race?
When did you make your move to the lead?    
Before my race at Crystal Springs, I was having a great time. Usually before a good race I have a smile on my face and that means I'm ready to go. I was feeding off the energy of my teammates. I had gotten enough sleep. I felt great. My race plan is usually to start out at a simple 4:55 pace. I was surprised to find myself in the front pack at around 5:10 pace. At that point I knew It was going to be a buildup race. I prepared myself mentally to push myself to a quicker pace. I started to move to the very front just before the two mile mark. From then I knew I should get ready to close knowing Kumar was close to me. I heard my dad around the 4k mark and I started to build up to finish it off, still in disbelief that there was nobody on my heels. I closed my last 800 pretty quick and made some room on Kumar who put up a great fight. Overall I was happy with my performance.  

2) You won with a time of 15:18 in fairly hot conditions. How many more times will you run on the Crystal Springs course this year and do you have a goal in mind?  
The plan is to run at Crystal two more times at WCAL and CCS. My goal is simply to improve my times. I think I run faster in the heat. I think it affects me less than most people and I enjoy it. I expect to improve a little as more competition comes. Meika (teammate Meika Beaudoin-Rousseau) has done a great job pushing me throughout the season and we will be at it again in our next races. I expect us to finish together. Kent Slaney will be out at CCS. I think we will also push each other through it and hopefully both end up with PR's.  

3) Your team won the championship varsity race yesterday after finishing 2nd in the Stanford seeded race. Are there any more big invitationals for your team or is it mostly league and then preparing for CCS and state?  
The Stanford Invitational was a very competitive race. We lost to Great Oak by 58 points. That is expected when facing a nationally ranked team with an amazing program. We plan to run at Mt. SAC which is the biggest invitational we will do. I always look forward to it. I hope this year will be faster for the Bells, as well as the whole field. I expect it to be a tight race, always fun.  

4) You ran at the state meet last year where Bellarmine finished in 6th place as a team. What did you learn from that experience last year that will help you this year?  
Last year at state, I learned the hard way that sub 5 pace was not what I was ready for my sophomore year. I finished 5th for my team behind some really fast teams and individuals. This year I will go out more conservative and closer to my fitness level which is now 4:50 pace. Now I know the race isn't won at the mile, but at the finish line.  

5) When did you start running? Have you done other sports aside from XC and TF? What were your track PRs heading into HS?  
I started running when I was a 6th grader at Dartmouth Middle School, I knew I had speed but I just never found the sport for it. I played baseball which I ended up being pretty good at for about 5 years and soccer for two years before that. I still have a passion for baseball. Going into High School I ran the 800 at 2:09 and the 1600 at 4:44, which I thought were respectable times.  

6) What does a typical training week look like for you and your team? When are the workouts? How fast are your typical off campus runs? Where does your team do most of the workouts? Any morning runs? Time in the weight room?  
For training I will say we split up our workouts usually with a 6 mile steady state on Monday followed by a 10+ mile recovery day on Tuesday with weight room. Wednesday is a tempo or interval workout being either 6 miles for the tempo and 3 miles of intervals usually faster than race pace while the steady states are slower. Thursday is another 10+ mile recovery. Friday can be intervals or a tempo if we don't have a meet, and a morning strider workout as a pre race day. Saturdays are either a race or a 12-14 mile long run. Sundays, if we had a race, are an easy 8 miles. If there wasn't a race then it is an optional day of rest. These are after school mostly. We go off campus to places like Rancho San Antonio, Alum Rock park, Nisene Marks State Park, Waddell Beach and Los Gatos Creek Trail. Mostly we work out close to campus at the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden where we can do intervals, tempos or intervals (the training grounds of the first American to break the 4 minute mile, Don Bowden) we also run the Guadalupe Creek trail, which we call "bridges", where we do most of our steady states and long runs.  

7) As a junior on the team, what do you think you have learned the most about your own running and have you taken more of a leadership role on the team?  
As a Junior this year, I already feel like I'm stretching myself into being a leader. I think it is paying off. I led a yoga session because I took a class my sophomore year. I never thought I would use it as much as I do. It ended up being really useful. I learned the first race of my sophomore year I run better when I start out in front instead of being conservative on the first mile. This was my strategy Freshman year when I went nearly undefeated. I applied that strategy to the Crystal Springs Invite almost accidentally. So I would say I have learned that if I want to win a race I need to be up near front before the first half is over. I've learned that the more I focus on my teammates, the better I do. That is something that McCrystle has taught the team to do. Focus on other people. open up and you will find that you do better in your relationships with people, as well as your performance as a runner.  

8) Patrick McCrystle is your coach. How has he helped you develop as a runner during your four years at Bellarmine? Any good/funny McCrystle stories that you can share?  
Coach McCrystle has been an amazing coach. This season he is pushing all of us harder than we had been pushed before. He has tremendous knowledge of almost everything. He is like an encyclopedia. As a coach, he has brought me up from a pretty low point my last cross country season. I didn't have the races I wanted to have, or beat the people I wanted to beat. This year has turned around for me. I am benefiting from his training more than ever. I hope that carries the team to place well in state and hopefully beyond. McCrystle is a funny guy and he tells me he even appreciates my humor. Being as healthy as he is, he calls soda, "the devils' urine" and raw Almonds "Doritos" to make them sound more appealing to everyone.  

9) Favorite invitational? Favorite XC course? Favorite XC workout? Favorite long run? Favorite TF invitational? Favorite TF event? Favorite TF workout? Favorite movie? Favorite song? Favorite free time activity?  
My favorite invitational and course is Mt. SAC. Although didn't do amazing last year, I really enjoyed being with my team and coach on the long van ride over there. It is a freeing experience to be 400 miles from home and racing at the largest cross country invitational in the country. I enjoy the competition and the energy that comes from that meet. We expect to place well this year. My favorite workout is at Rancho where we go up a hill at 6 minute pace for 200 meters then race effort for 1000 and all out for 400 down a the backside of the hill it built a huge amount of confidence for me. I think was the first time in a while where I knew it was going to be a good year. My favorite long run is at Waddell beach, there is a beautiful trail that is always exploding with colors it has a nice soft surface and is amazing in the rain especially because there is a big waterfall at the end. For track and field, my favorite has definitely been Arcadia. It is so well setup and this past year our team in distance, middle distance, and sprints did spectacular I look forward to the 800, 1600 and maybe 3200 this year for the whole team. We have some outstanding runners and I think they will do well. As of this past season I ran the 400, (mostly in the 4x400) the 800,1600 and 3200. I consider my main event to be the 800 but, I love the 1600 because who asks about your 800 besides another Track athlete? The 800 has been the balance of my sprint and distance based events and I think I did all right for only running it a handful of times and I think I can improve even more in it. Ben Micallef has been there giving me times to go after. I just need the opportunity to get to him. The 1600 is built up by Matt Richardson this past season and he posted a great time to go after this year. Dylan Doblar and Meika Beaudoin-Rousseau and I will be working on the 3200. I'll be fighting for that too. My favorite workout has been 4x1200 repeats at the Rose Garden I love being able to push myself hard and this workout does it for me. I have an opportunity to build my leg speed as well as my endurance and focus on my breathing and form. My favorite movie is Remember the Titans just because overcoming something as complex and entrenched as racism inspires me as an African American to do more. It's about sports so who wouldn't love that? My favorite song is California Daze by Peace. I listen to it before I start my school day and before races. In my free time I enjoy fishing, I have been fishing for a while. I always love to fish with my dad. That is where we bonded when I was a lot younger and talked about baseball and eventually track and cross country. Fishing has always gotten my adrenaline pumping and the feeling is amazing when you catch something. It is relieving and a feeling of success that I don't get any other way.  

10) Bellarmine has been a successful XC program for many years. Why do you feel are some of the key reasons for the success of the team?  
Bellarmine I think credits most of its success to its integration of everyone into the team. Every year in August, coach selects a group of around 12 guys to go to Tahoe and make reforms to the leadership on the team. After our races we all go over how we performed, what we did well and what we can improve on. We use stretch groups of about 10-15 guys to go over the upcoming season and talk about classes. These are led by a few upperclassmen who help carry things along. Additionally the Monday after races we sit in our schools amphitheater and talk about all the races and point out some outstanding performances. Coach McCrystle from the start of his time in the program built it up from the design of Ignatian values that we get from our school and it's connection to St. Ignatius the founder of the Jesuit order. We are just an extremely inclusive and supportive team, something that I think all coaches strive to have and most do. Unity is the key I think to a great team.  

11) How much of a factor will your competitive running be when it comes to making your college decision next year?  
As of now being only in the first semester of my Junior year, I have started receiving my college letters for cross country. I have not made any decisions yet. I want to find the right academic program, culture and climate but running will also be a factor in my college choice. Mostly the overall connectedness of the team and the intentions of the coach as far as workouts and personality. I want to be challenged in college and I want to be able to push myself as well as build off the success of the team, its members and its coach. I want to find something as unified as Bellarmine and as competitive as they come.  

12) Anything else you would like to add.  
I would like to thank everyone who has made my career as fun as it is. That includes my team, all my coaches (current and past) as well as my family and friends who all collectively supported me along the way. As my coach always says before our hard workouts, "Its out there". Thank you for this opportunity I appreciate it.