After multiple injuries marred his sophomore season, Pine Creek runner Zachary Alhamra surprised everyone, even himself, during his junior cross country season.
While sitting in class, the 5-foot-8, 120-pound junior learned he’d been named the Colorado Gatorade boys’ cross country runner of the year, one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for a high school athlete. The award comes on the heels of a season where Alhamra finished second in the Class 5A state cross country meet and didn’t finish lower than third place in any meet throughout the season.
In winning the award, Alhamra beat out Denver East senior Cerake Geberkidane, who won the 5A state meet by more than 40 seconds. Niwot’s Elise Cranny was honored as the Colorado Gatorade girls’ runner of the year.
“I had no idea that I would actually win this award. It’s such an amazing feeling,” said Alhamra, who found out when his family texted him as soon as the news surfaced. “I never thought I would have this good of a year running, and it seems like it’s just getting better and better.”
As a sophomore, Alhamra wasn’t sure this day would be possible. During the track season, the long-distance runner shot up more than four inches in height in less than two months. That, along with his slender frame, forced added wear and tear on Alhamra’s body, which was riddled with one injury after another in the months that followed. By the end of the season, he’d qualified for only one event at the state track meet, finishing ninth in the 3,200 meters.
“I just couldn’t stay healthy. Even after the season was done I struggled running without pain,” Alhamra said. “But running is what makes me happiest. If I’d given up running I’d be depressed, so I kept at it. I ran 60-mile weeks, ate right and just found a way to get through all those nagging issues.”
Alhamra won the Liberty Bell Invitational, the 5A Metro League meet and the 5A Region 5 meet before he finished the state meet in 16 minutes, 29 seconds.
“I think the astonishing thing was how consistent he was,” Pine Creek coach Mark Weeks said. “He works harder than anyone I’ve ever coached, so I knew his ceiling was limitless, but I was honestly nervous he might peak too soon. But it never happened.”
Alhamra, who is a National Honor Society member with a 4.72 GPA, also finished 20th in the Nike Cross Country Finals last month.
Brent W. New, The Gazette
Twitter: @brentwnew @gazettepreps