Published: Dec 14, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Dec 14, 2011 02:06 AM
It was the last high school cross country race for Cary Academy senior Thomas Graham, who had accomplished almost everything a runner could in his four-year career.
At Balboa Park in San Diego, Calif., Graham finished ninth overall competing against the nation's best cross country runners at the Footlocker National meet Saturday.
That ninth-place finish, which took just 15 minutes, 24 seconds, earned him all-American status.
"It's what I've been pointing for in my entire running career to this point," Graham said. "It feels really good to have achieved that."
Graham was the third-fastest boys' runner from his region, and he helped lead the South to its first victory in the event in 33 years.
The South boys won the meet with 44 points against the Midwest (58), Northeast (63) and West (63)."I don't think a lot of North Carolina guys have finished much higher than I did," Graham said. "To even be mentioned with those guys who have gone on to do really great things in their college careers is pretty cool. Hopefully it means I'm on the right track."
The experience from last year's event had Graham prepared to succeed this time. "Last year I was a little bit star-struck," he said. "I think that lulled me into contentment that kept me from performing as well as I would have wanted to last year."
Graham's trip was also noteworthy because he came to a decision on where he will run in college: Stanford.
Graham won four straight individual N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association championships, the first runner to do so in state history. He broke the 15-minute mark in the south regional qualifier this year, running 14:52 at Charlotte's McAlpine Park.
Graham is also a defending state champion in outdoor track & field, which begins in spring.