CEDAR GROVE, NJ – While some athletes may have relaxed this summer, Cedar Grove High School cross country runner Pat Smurla was already training for the fall season, running more than 50 miles a week. His dedication has paid off, earning him first place finishes in four out of the five SEC races against CGHS competitors and giving him TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove’s Panther Athlete of the Week honors.

“Over the summer I was running 50 to 60 mile weeks so when the pre-season started I jumped right into training,” Smurla said. “In my first meet I took first against all of the teams we competed against so that was a great season opener.” 

“Pat is a very key member of the boys’ cross country team. He has worked tremendously hard to get ready for the season, and that is showing through the meets that he has run so far,” said coach Colleen Bulger. “Pat has placed first in four of the five SEC races against the teams we have scored against, and second in the fifth race.  Even as a junior, he is a great leader on the team and he is always there to support his teammates during their races.”

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Smurla’s leadership is key, as the team lost several top seniors and moved from the Colonial Division to the more challenging Liberty Division. 

“We moved up a division so we are seeing much better competition,” Smurla noted. “We are all working really hard and want to see a title from this division.” 

Smurla said he is pleased with his team’s performance so far this season and is proud that they have a 3-3 record at the midway point of the fall season. For himself, Smurla is happy that he is already under 18 minutes for the 5K, but sees room for improvement and has set some high goals for himself.

“It feels great to be Athlete of the Week this early on. It’s definitely an accomplishment. I feel like all of the hard work I put in over the summer is paying off early and I am really proud,” Smurla said. “My goal for the season is to break 16 minutes in the 5K and to make it to the Meet of Champions.”