October 1, 2013 at 5:00 AM
CHATHAM, NJ - Pat Barry didn't see anything special when Will Mitchell came out for the boys cross-country team as a freshman two years ago.
"He didn’t show any remarkable super talent. He was a very average runner," Barry, the Chatham's boys cross-country coach, said. "Last season as a sophomore, right about now, he started really coming on. By the end of the year, he was our No. 2 man. This year, he took over as No. 1 right away."
"He's a very determined kid. He made up his mind that he wanted to do well at it and he did it."
Mitchell, a junior, has been Chatham's No. 1 cross-country runner in all but one race this fall, with a personal-best of 16:38 over the 5,000-meter course at Greystone.
He is TAP Chatham's Athlete of the Week.
"He’s very similar to Anthony Malatesta, who graduated two years ago," Barry said. "Malatesta was one of the top 10 runners in Morris County and that's saying something because of the talent in the county. I can envision Will Mitchell putting himself among the top runners of Morris County, eventually."
Mitchell has attended the Monmouth University running camp the past two years and it's helped him hone his training skills and race tactics.
"When I’m running, I do a lot of thinking," Mitchell said. "I've always trained on the mental aspect, being in control of your body. I start off many races where I feel terrible, but I think about my form and who I'm going to keep up with on the course. I don't zone out like some runners do. I'm always thinking of race strategy."
Mitchell runs for Chatham throughout the year, but the fall season is his favorite. In the winter, he's run a 10:01 two-mile race and clocked a best time of 9:52 in the two-mile during the outdoor track season.
"This is the strongest cross-country team I've ever been on here," Mitchell said. "We are doing well to keep up with other towns in the state. For me, personally, I want to keep on improving.
"I always liked running and found it to be fun when other people thought of it as something strenuous. As a sophomore, I realized if I focused it was something I could do well. So I changed everything that had to do with training and taking care of my body and I took three minutes off my best time."