Bergeron was fearless as he crossed the finish line in State Championship

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Noah Brown

Paul Bergeron appears with the XC State Championship trophy minutes after his win.

Elitsa Koleva, News Editor

Even for the most capable runners, the Cross Country State Championship is a feat too great to accomplish. Despite their initial confidence, they often find themselves falling in the face of a setback, unwilling to put in the work needed to hurdle over it. But the rare few that do end up coming out on top are usually the most self-aware and focused on what they do. They know that the key to success, whether it be against an opponent or an injury, is to keep training, be fearless, and have a supportive team.

During the XC State Championship last Saturday at Devens, MA, junior Paul Bergeron once again proved what a real champion looks like after he won the 5k race with a time of 15:02:06. With this performance he not only made history as the first WA Cross Country runner to win the State Championship, but it also marked an incredible victory over Bergeron’s closest rival, senior Samuel Burgess of Framingham High School, against whom Bergeron previously lost to in the Divisionals. 

“I wrote ‘no fear’ on my hand and trusted my training. I just knew that I had it and that I’m capable of doing things even though I lost last week and even though this guy [Burgess] is going to Harvard and he’s All-American and everything. I just had to remind myself that it’s possible,” Bergeron said. 

By staying with the lead group until two and a half miles, Bergeron was able to push on the last downhill and abruptly pull ahead near the finish line, where he ran his absolute hardest. According to Bergeron’s teammate, sophomore Jack Graffeo, who finished eighth in the race, Bergeron’s ability to push through his pain while everyone else was getting winded is what ultimately drove him to the win.

“He’s really good at realizing when other people are hurting and that’s when he knows to push. Because when he’s around mile two, he knows that that’s what he needs, no matter how much it hurts for him,” Graffeo said. “He knows that other people around him are going through the same thing and he knows that he can most likely take more than them.”

Bergeron’s incredible performance also comes from his deep-rooted connection to the sport, which has persisted ever since he was a little kid running alongside his parents. In middle school he began competing, and eventually he joined the Greater Lowell Road Runners club at Stony Brook Middle School in eighth grade. That same year, his training culminated in a first place finish in the Middle School XC State Championship, right before quarantine began.

“In sixth grade it was more sociable and just hanging out with my friends and then it got a little bit more serious after that. I was well trained going into my eighth grade year, which kind of separated me from other schools,” Bergeron said. “So having that little burst of success in middle school helped me have a good mindset towards quarantine.”

According to Bergeron, although he continued doing mileage during the lockdown, his lack of workouts resulted in a massive shock to his body coming in freshman year of high school. Among the injuries he experienced was knee and ankle pain, which left him significantly behind on his training. Although Bergeron was fearful and doubted his recovery, he soon came to realize the importance of doing strength workouts to prevent similar injuries from happening in the future.

“When you’re going through an injury, it’s important to focus on things outside of running because it’s a slow process and you just can’t do as much as you want. And when you’re able to come back to full training, then you have to make it count. It’s really just about being grateful and staying healthy,” Bergeron said.

Since freshman year, Bergeron has focused on integrating cross country and track into a bigger part of his life. As of right now, he is working out and training year-round everyday, whether it be on his own or with his team. During the summer he does the most training because there are not as many meets, and during cross country and track season he makes sure to lighten on the training, get plenty of rest, and eat a good, healthy amount of food.

“I would say, for him [Bergeron], running is a lifestyle that goes beyond a hobby. Not that he doesn’t have other interests but he just forces his whole self into it and cares about the sport and his future. And I think it’s not one thing that leads to success, but it’s a whole lot of things,” Boys’ Cross Country Coach Scott Hafferkamp said.

According to Bergeron, the reason why this lifestyle choice appeals to him is because of the structure it adds to his day and the great feeling he gets at the end of every run. Not only that, but the team culture surrounding cross country really helps push him to be the best he can be.

“I have a great coach, Mr. Hafferkamp who pushes the team and I got some great guys that really push me day in and day out like Jack Graffeo, Austin DeSisto, Owen Schultz, Davis Haines. Just guys that, without them, I don’t think I’d be where I am. Even though this might be individual [the State Championship win], it really takes a group of people for one person to succeed,” Bergeron said.

Beyond the XC State Championship, Paul Bergeron will continue his cross country season in the hopes of placing in the Foot Locker Regionals in New York and potentially qualifying for Nationals. He is also excited for the track season, which will involve frequent travel out of state and a chance to show what he is capable of in what he believes to be his biggest strength.

“I don’t really think of myself as a cross country guy so I’m excited for track. This year I think will be a big year and I think I’m gonna run some times that put me more on a national scene than the times where I crossed [did cross country] just because [cross country] isn’t about time, it’s about winning,” Bergeron said.