Each cross country season adds to Chase Condra’s knowledge.
The Peachtree Ridge runner picked up the sport in earnest as a high-school freshman, learning valuable lessons from a senior-laden team that season and adding more insight last season when he became the Lions’ go-to runner as a sophomore. He developed even more this season as a junior, but also kept up his production in earning Daily Post runner of the year honors for a second straight season.
“Chase, as a junior, has made some big strides as far as racing strategy and team leadership have gone,” Peachtree Ridge coach Matt Adams said. “He saw big gains going into his sophomore year for his fitness level and overall times. But once you get closer to your peak, it’s harder to see those big gains year in and year out. Sometimes we kind of plateau a little bit before our next breakthrough. He didn’t quite have the breakthrough as far as time that we wanted this year, but he did learn a lot as far as pace and leadership within the team. Those breakthroughs are going to come for him. Hopefully we see those breakthroughs in track (this spring).”
Condra was Gwinnett’s top runner throughout the season, beginning with his victory in the Gwinnett County Championships in 16 minutes, 8 seconds. He also won the area championship in 16:18, then hung with the state’s best in the Class AAAAAAA meet at Carrollton.
Sam Bowers won the meet in 15:58 ahead of the runner-up and his Milton teammate, Nicholas Yanek, who ran 16:04. The two seniors were followed by third-place finisher Kyle Harkabus, a sophomore at East Coweta, and Condra. Harkabus out-sprinted Condra to the finish for third place, posting a time of 16:20.69 to Condra’s 16:21.63.
“I felt like I did really good (at state),” Condra said. “I talked to my coaches and my dad and we all agreed I probably lost the race in the first 800 meters because Sam Bowers and Nick Yanek, they both went out really fast the first 800 meters and I kind of got boxed in. After the first 800, I kind of played catch-up the whole race, trying to catch up to them.
“The closest I got was probably at the mile-and-a-half mark. I was about like 10 meters away from them, and I was about 10 meters away from them for about half a mile and then they just kind of took off with each other. I was mostly running alone in third place until Kyle Harkabus out-kicked me in the last 50 meters.”
While the two Milton runners will head to college, Harkabus will be back for the 2018 cross country season with state title aspirations. Condra feels the same way.
“I like a challenge,” he said.
Condra also plans to run in college, so that decision looms in his future. He is wide open to his options currently, and has sent emails to some colleges, like Georgia Tech, Georgia and Clemson.
But up first is developing more as a runner with his junior track and field season on deck. He hopes to break the 4:20 mark in the 1,600-meter run this spring and clear the 9:15 mark in the 3,200.
“I’m excited for this track season,” he said. “Through workouts and everything, I’ve been feeling really great and I’ve been hitting much stronger than I was last year. … I feel like I’ve definitely matured in my running this season.”