ATHLETE OF THE WEEK North Bergen's Rondon sets new record at HCTCA cross country meet
Nov 18, 2008 | 1992 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
He had been enjoying one of the best seasons ever recorded by a Hudson County cross country runner, but Danny Rondon wanted a little bit more.

So when the North Bergen High School junior prepared for the Hudson County Track Coaches Association championships last Saturday, Rondon had a little bit of history in mind namely the meet record.

It didn't matter that the record stood for 26 years, held by a former North Bergen runner, Mike DiVincent, in 1982. It didn't matter that the record was a sizzling 15:52. In Rondon's eyes, the record was attainable, there for the taking.

"My goal was getting the record," Rondon said. "I knew about the record and went out a little hard with the record in mind. I just kept myself at a challenging pace."

"I always felt confident that he was going to win the race," North Bergen cross country coach Yael Martinez said. "I didn't think that was in question. But getting the meet record? It was going to take a great effort."

After watching him run for three years, Martinez didn't do anything to dissuade Rondon from his goal.

"He's on top of everything," Martinez said. "His workouts, his training; he knows when to cool down. I don't have to say anything. He's very prepared."

So when Rondon went out from the start, Martinez knew that he had a mission in mind that meet record that had been etched in stone for more than a quarter century.

Rondon said that as the race began to wind down, fatigue started to sink in.

"I felt pretty tired, but I knew I had to find the extra energy somewhere," Rondon said. "My arms were burning, which is usually the first thing to happen when I'm having a bad race. I just had to tough it out."

"Where I was standing on the course, Danny came by me and he was at 13:13, which meant he was right on pace," Martinez said. "I yelled at him and told him that he could do it."

Rondon reached inside his inner being and pulled out the necessary energy to get the job done, even though the nearest competition was a good quarter mile behind him. There was no one to push Rondon. He had to push himself.

"I honestly wasn't feeling that well," Rondon said.

"He just turned it on," Martinez said.

Sure enough, when Rondon hit the tape, his time read 15:51. He broke the HCTCA meet record by a single second.

"I didn't even see the time," Rondon said. "I didn't even look when I crossed the finish line. I didn't know if I broke the record until a few minutes later."

Martinez knew. He greeted his standout runner at the finish line with the good news. Rondon had his slice of Hudson County history.

"It feels pretty good," Rondon said. "Especially since the record was so old and stood for so long. I broke a record that was held by a North Bergen guy. It's pretty special."

The HCTCA championship comes two weeks after Rondon also captured the HCIAA championship, winning that race in 15:59. So he has the impressive double as HCIAA and HCTCA champion.

For his efforts, Rondon has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Martinez said Rondon is far from done. He heads to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV championships this weekend at Garret Mountain in West Paterson as one of the pre-race favorites.

"Under great conditions and with him being healthy, the sky's the limit," Martinez said. "I'm looking forward to the race. His times, compared to the other top runners, are very impressive."

Rondon knew that he wanted to take a step up this season. Sure, he won the HCIAA title last year, but he did so in a much slower time than this year. Rondon ran second in last year's HCTCA championships.

"I trained very hard over the summer to get ready for this year," Rondon said. "I just wanted to do the right thing and stay healthy by the end of the season. I think it helped that I started training a little earlier in the off-season and put in a lot more distance, like 60 miles a week. I also did some weight lifting to make my upper body stronger. That's what I really needed. I had this season in mind all the time. I wanted to do my best."

Martinez said that Rondon has already earned his place of prominence in Hudson County history.

"He's at the top of his game right now and he's only a junior," Martinez said. "Even when he's bad, he's still pretty good. But he's been solid all year. He broke the HCIAA record. He broke the county [HCTCA] record. I mean, that's a great year and it's not over. He's better than anyone we ever had, including [former state champion] Javier Cuevas. He's better right now."

Martinez said that Rondon has another record in sight the 16:07 time that Roger Munoz of Kearny set in 1994 in winning the state sectional title that year.

"He has the potential to do that," Martinez said.

Rondon has a bigger goal in mind.

"I want to go to college and run there," Rondon said. "I would love to study engineering in college. I don't know what kind of engineering yet. I'm still thinking." After all, Rondon's only a junior. He has some time to ponder those thoughts, as well as the incredible legacy of success he is etching during this cross country season.

"I feel pretty good and confident right now," Rondon said. "I don't worry about the future. I just want to keep getting better and hopefully stay healthy. If it means that I will have more records, that's fine. I just want it to keep going."

There's no sign of Danny Rondon stopping any time soon. After all, he's making history. - Jim Hague
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