Patchogue-Medford's Carlos Santos of Patchogue-Medford runs the 3,000 steeplechase on...

Patchogue-Medford's Carlos Santos of Patchogue-Medford runs the 3,000 steeplechase on April 12, 2017. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Patchogue-Medford’s Carlos Santos didn’t think anyone was watching, and he didn’t like that one bit. So, when he stepped on the line at the Jim Smith cross country invitational at Sunken Meadow State Park on Sept. 9, Santos made sure to turn heads.

As a steeplechaser in the spring, the senior said he doesn’t face many of the top distance runners in Suffolk and, thusly, felt underrated when the game shifted to the 5-kilometer distance.

“I wanted to go out there, run the time that I did, and say ‘hey, I’m here. Don’t forget about me,’” Santos said.

It’s unlikely that Santos will go unnoticed for much longer. He won the Jim Smith senior race in 17 minutes, 10.51 seconds, nearly 50 seconds faster than the field.

“I wanted to demonstrate that there’s more potential in me than other people think and that I’m not a person to leave out because I will be there,” Santos said.

Santos finished 10th in 17:05.62 in the Class A race at last year’s Suffolk state qualifier. It wasn’t the finish he wanted and wasn’t indicative, he thought, of his abilities.

This summer, Santos said he ran 50-60 miles per week and attended the Five Star Cross Country Camp in Rock Hill, New York. There, he said, it all clicked. This season was going to be a good one, he just knew it.

“It helped me open up myself and helped me see the real runner and inner passion that I never knew I had inside me,” he said. “We were doing hill workouts and in our eighth, and last, mile, we were coming down at a 5:31 mile pace after breaking six minutes the past three miles. That made me realize that there’s a stronger runner in me than the one I thought.”

His summer revelation made the prospect of what he could do at the Jim Smith even more exciting. Santos knew what was coming and just wanted to show it off. As soon as the starting gun fired, the race was his. This wasn’t about winning a race. This was about winning respect.

“I managed all my feelings at once,” he said. “I used it in a positive way to race and keep myself focused. No matter how hard each mile was during the race, going up snake and cardiac hill, that would be my motivation to get up them quickly. I wanted to run with adrenaline and the heart and passion of a runner.”

This is Santos’ second cross country season. He played soccer, he said, before committing himself to running full time in the fall. Last season, he ran an 18:18 at Jim Smith, his first 5K, he said.

Santos is much faster this year, running a 16:38 on the school’s course late in the summer. He said he wants to a run a 16:20 or under in competition this season and make the state public school championship. He would be the first Patchogue-Medford runner in 18 years to so do.

But, time, he said, is paramount. Because, above all, time is what makes people notice.

“As much as I want to go to the state meet, I believe having a fast time is so much better,” he said.

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