Stephen Bourguet could almost feel the eyes watching him. It was the beginning of his senior cross country season at Manhasset and he knew the time to shine was upon him. He wanted to continue to run in college and, in order to do that, he needed to impress the right people.
"It was a motivating factor for me," Bourguet said of the recruiting process. "Throughout the season, I tried to do every little thing to make myself a better runner. But it was a burden for a while because I knew that if I messed up, I could [end up] not going [where I wanted]."
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So how did he handle the pressure? By winning, of course.
His first big victory came in the Manhattan Invitational in October. Bourguet finished the 4k course in 12:44.0, defending the title he had won as a junior.
"I knew it was a pretty big race for college recruiting," he said. "A lot of the coaches I had been talking to had told me that they would be looking at how I did [at that race.] It was a lot of pressure, but I was excited."
Bourguet didn't let the prospect of college hang in the balance for too long. Shortly after winning the Manhattan, he committed to Brown University.
"Ultimately, it was the education that was important to me," he said. "But the coach there is a really great guy and knows a lot about running. The team is rebuilding right now. I'm excited to go to a team that is only getting better. I want to be part of that."
The college decision hardly slowed Bourguet down. After all, few things do. "Once I figured that out, it was a big relief," he said. "I just enjoyed the rest of the season."
He would have plenty left to enjoy. Following his first place finish in his 5k race at the Nassau Conference meet, the senior traveled up to Elma Meadows for the state meet. Despite the nearly three-week long layoff caused by superstorm Sandy, Bourguet turned in a stand out performance at states.
He finished the class B race in 16 minutes, 6.3 seconds -- the best time of any L.I. boy.
"I really liked the course and the weather was good," he said. "During the race, I went out with the lead group and, about two miles in, four or five guys broke ahead. I chased them, but they got a bit of a gap on me."
Bourguet followed up his performance at states with a 10th-place finish at the Federation meet in Wappingers Falls.
"The second half of the race was mostly downhill and, for some reason, I'm not very good at running downhill," he said. "I was still pretty happy with a 10th-place finish."
Those watchful eyes surely liked what they saw.