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Boys Cross Country Runner Of The Year: Mitchell Rome, Dallas

November 27, 2018 GMT

Mitchell Rome ran through the finishing chute of a season-opening invitational seven seconds behind the race’s winner. That was on Sept. 1. Rome didn’t see the back of a runner’s uniform much more the rest of his senior season with Dallas cross country. In fact, he almost didn’t again. Rome dominated the Wyoming Valley Conference and won the league’s championship meet for the first time by 42 seconds, in 16:30 on Oct. 17. The following week’s District 2 championships didn’t offer any more resistance; he won his first Class 2A title by 43 seconds, in 16:46.4. It took all the way until the PIAA Cross Country Championships for the competition to finally catch up to Rome. For a few moments, it almost didn’t at states, either. Rome — the Mountaineers’ only scoring runner remaining from their PIAA team titles in 2015 and ’16 — shot from 11th place at the one-mile mark to first place in his final race with Dallas on Nov. 3. Though he ultimately crossed the finish line in fourth place, 16 seconds behind in 16:45, he still left his mark on District 2 cross country in doing so. The WVC’s top finisher at states since 2015, Rome was clearly its best runner wire-to-wire this year. Rome’s last season with Dallas made him the clear choice for The Citizens’ Voice’s Boys Runner of the Year honors, making him the third straight Mountaineer to receive that recognition. Several days after his latest honor — earning Second Team status on the PTFCA’s all-state team — Rome recapped his last four years and more with staff writer Eric Shultz. Q: Was there a moment where you realized you had potential to do something special with Dallas cross country? A: I think I feel like I always did. Just seeing my sisters doing so well, I feel like I’m like them. Maybe I can replicate that success. Even when I was so much younger, I felt like I always could. Q. How much did your family influence or motivate or help you along the way? (Rome’s sisters, Regan and Ally, are collegiate runners. His mother, Amy, is an assistant coach for Dallas, and his dad, Craig, wrestled collegiately.) A. They were definitely a big motivation for me. Seeing them do something, it’s almost like a precedent of: They did that, and it’s something that I can do as well. … I don’t think it’s a pressure. I think it’s more of a cool thing that I can do that. Q. When you look back on the four years you competed at Dallas, what are you going to remember most? A. I think I’ll definitely remember the two state championships and this year, taking fourth and making all-state. That’s definitely the top ones. I feel like the first two were special, especially my freshman year (title) because it was a more team thing. We all worked together. Freshman year was kind of like a big surprise. This year kind of gave me the opposite end of that, where it was something that I worked on by myself and achieved through my own work. Q. Since states, have you been taking it easy? A. I kind of just continued right after states because I’m going to Foot Locker (Northeast Regional) and I did a 2-mile race about a week ago. I PR’ed in that, so that felt pretty good. So right after states last year, I kind of dropped off and still went to Foot Locker. But this year, I made sure I’ll train the whole time until Foot Locker and try to do my best there. Q. What kind of race is Foot Locker like? (Rome later ran the regional meet on Nov. 24 at VanCortlandt Park in Bronx, New York. He earned a medal and Third Team All-Northeast status by placing 30th of 193 boys — fifth among Pennsylvanians — in 16:19.) A. It’s funny. It feels like how states did when I was a freshman. It hasn’t really felt like that in while, where there’s just so many people ahead of you and you’re running in a pack. I haven’t really had that feeling all year except for maybe at Paul Short. Q. Do you have any plans set up for college yet? A. My main two colleges are West Point and the Naval Academy. I’m being recruited to run on either one of those teams. They’