Distance runners are used to early mornings, but when Smithtown West’s Michael Grabowski woke up at 5 a.m. on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, he knew there would be no running in his immediate future. It was the morning of the Nike Cross Regional Championships, with a chance to go to the biggest cross country meet of the season on the line, but a stomach virus took center stage.
In a flash, Grabowski’s fall season, one that was immensely successful and still had promise, was over.
“It was pretty heartbreaking, because our team had a pretty good season,” Grabowski said. “We had an outside shot at nationals, but it was still a shot. Without me, we probably had zero chance. It was disappointing not to be out there with my team and have one last hurrah.”
But as the stomach flu taketh, it also giveth. Because Grabowski could not run in the final meet of Smithtown’s cross country season, he was able to move his indoor training ahead of schedule and take a little of that long distance endurance with him as well.
“I didn’t get to use up all my fitness,” Grabowski said “I went into winter track with a little bit of that left. I get to really use it now. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I got sick during cross country, because now I can run faster in winter track.”
He’s already begun. Grabowski won the two-mile in nine minutes, 27.77 seconds at the Dartmouth Relays on Jan. 7. The time was the fastest in the country, as of Thursday, according to milesplit.com.
“The first mile was actually pretty slow and I was just sitting in about third or fourth,” Grabowski said. “It was a bit slower in the second mile, but by then, it was me and the Maine [Class B] cross country state champion [Luke Laverdiere]. He went into first place around the ninth lap and I just went with him. I ended up out-kicking him at the end.”
Although acknowledging the impressive nature of being the best in the nation, Grabowski is much more concerned with what the rest of the season has in store for him. He hopes to run the indoor 5,000 meters at March’s New Balance Indoor Nationals at the Armory in Manhattan.
“As long as I get into a meet, I know I can do damage,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter about the rankings, it just matters if I’m in the race. If I’m in nationals, I feel like I can win any race or go up against any competitor.”