Fernando Sanchez of St. John the Baptist wins the boys 600-meter...

Fernando Sanchez of St. John the Baptist wins the boys 600-meter run at the CHSAA Intersectional track and field Intersectional championships on Feb. 8 in Staten Island. Credit: Corey Sipkin

When Fernando Sanchez last tasted competition, the speedy St. John the Baptist senior finished third in the 600 meters at the indoor track state championships in March. Now, more than seven months later, he’s back at it, finally on the other side of a super-size offseason caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was a spring, summer, and early fall defined by self-motivation, positive thinking and hoping against hope that the CHSAA would get back on the trails.

Despite the unusual circumstances, the core principal of cross country remains the same. The end game is simple: It’s a new season, run faster. It’s a tale as old as time and one that hasn’t changed for Sanchez.

"I just hope to do better than last year," Sanchez said. "That’s all I’ve been thinking about anytime a new season or a new year comes in."

Although Sanchez is a middle-distance force during the winter and spring, he can stretch it out with the best in the fall. He is the second-fastest returner from last year’s CHSAA league championships after running the 2 ½-mile course at Sunken Meadow State Park in 13 minutes, 49.19 seconds. He ran a personal-best 13:40.9 at last fall’s CHSAA Intersectional championships at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. He is the second-fastest Long Island returner, and sixth-fastest overall, from that race.

There is an increased sense of urgency this season. The Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA plans to hold three regular-season meets before the league and intersectional championships. That’s not a lot of time to peak.

"It’s definitely going to be harder," Sanchez said. "The improvement on your times is not going to be as drastic."

Sanchez said he averaged 20-30 miles per week at the beginning of summer training and kicked it up to about 40 in August. While Sanchez believes his fitness is in line with a normal beginning to a cross country season, he believes that his progression will be faster because he’s had more time to train.

"I feel great," he said. "It’s just been so long and I miss having the urge to go out and race and put my workouts and training to its fullest potential."

CHSAA runners to watch

Michael Cahill, Chaminade, Sr. – Cahill ran 13:54.1 at last year’s Intersectional championships on the 2.5-mile course at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. He is the third-fastest returning Long Islander from that race.

Luke Connolly, St. Anthony’s, Sr. – Connolly ran 13:59.88 at last year’ league championships on the 2.5-mile course at Sunken Meadow State Park. He is the fourth fastest returner from that race.

Liam O’Reilly, Kellenberg, Sr. – His 2.5-mile personal best is 13:48.5 and he ran 14:01.81 at last year’s league championships.

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