CHATHAM, NJ - Will Mitchell isn't running for any office, but the Chatham senior cross-country runner sure sounds like he's on a campaign stump.
Mitchell is out to earn the consensus vote that would name the 2014 Chatham cross-country team as the best in school history.
"I would argue that we're the fastest Chatham cross-country team yet," Mitchell said. "The team average we had in the NJAC championships was the fastest for a Chatham team on that course. No Chatham team has ever made the Tournament of Champions. If we can finish in the top three at the Group 3 meet, we'll be the first to qualify for the Meet of Champions."
Mitchell is doing his part to make the case for the 2014 team he co-captains with Grant Hauck. On Oct. 21, he ran a 16:20 at the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Championships to help the Cougars win and establish a record with a team average of 16:33.73.
A week later on Oct 28, he paced Chatham to the Morris County Championship, the second in school history and the first since 2006.
Will Mitchell is the TAP Chatham Athlete of the Week.
"When I was a freshman, I didn't think of cross-country as a team sport," Mitchell said. "I looked at it like a bunch of individuals trying to run their best time. I was surprised to see how they worked together as a team."
Chatham will have its work cut out if it hopes to repeat as state sectional champion. A year ago, Chatham edged Morristown by one point to win the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 title. This year, Morristown is in a different section and powerhouse Summit is the team to beat in Chatham's section.
Chatham coach Pat Barry knows that Mitchell is likely to lead the way for the Cougars.
"He was away on college visits the last week. He had to be worn, but he still had enough to lead the team," Barry said. "He's been our No. 1 or No. 2 runner since late in his sophomore year. Very few have beaten him this year."
Mitchell also runs indoor and outdoor track for Chatham, but there is something about the time of year that makes cross-country special.
"In track, you're running around and around. It just isn't the same as being outside in the fall," Mitchell said. "A lot of people look at running as torture. I enjoy the sport. I recommend running a 5K race to anyone. It's fun."
Mitchell, who joined the Chatham High Robotics team this year, has one more goal to achieve as a cross-country runner. A year ago, he ran 16:01 at Greystone. He'd like to break the 16-minute mark when he runs in the upcoming sectionals on the same course.
"Individually, I think I've been a little below where I should be," Mitchell said. "Next week, I want to improve on my second and third miles and break 16."