LOCK HAVEN - Every time former Indian Valley athlete Alex Monroe puts his running shoes on, it seems that he is destined to raise the bar another notch in terms of individual achievements.
With already a multitude of accomplishments and honors already on his list, it appears as though the sky might be the limit for the Lock Haven University junior as he prepares for the home stretch of his collegiate career.
"I sat down over the summer with my coach and told him that I wanted to make a statement because I had a whole summer to train unlike last year," said Monroe. "I knew that I had the time to sit down and figure out what my goals were going to be and they (goals) were as high as they have ever been. I definitely wanted to go out there and see how close I could come to reaching those."
Sentinel file photo
In this Sentinel file photo, Alex Monroe runs for Indian Valley during a track meet against the Lewistown Panthers, 2010 in Lewistown.
While establishing himself as one of the premier runners not only in District 6 but statewide as well, Monroe had what some people might consider one void in his career. While running for Indian Valley, he never won an individual district or state title in cross country.
He finished third in the District 6 cross country championships as a junior and one year later, he repeated that effort. As a result of his efforts, Monroe was accorded all-state honors in cross country as a senior.
"I don't look back a whole lot," Monroe says. "My high school coach set me up to do really, really well in college. He didn't over-train me because he didn't believe in that. I definitely feel that I reached my potential in high school and then when I got to college, I tried to step my game up in aspects of running. I think my development was just a matter of maturing as a runner and I think that is what made the difference."
During his career thus far at Lock Haven, Monroe put his name on a lot of medals and trophies as well as in the LHU record books. Possibly his biggest accomplishments have been winning back-to-back PSAC and Atlantic Region championships in cross country while finishing well up in the pack in the NCAA Division II championships. For his outstanding effort, Monroe was chosen as the Athlete of the Year at both the PSAC and Region levels.
He finished 32nd as a freshman and 10th as a sophomore before cutting the top 10 field in half with a fifth-place effort as a junior with a time of 29:18.6 over the 10K distance. For his efforts, Monroe became the first Bald Eagle to earn All-America status three times.
"I think those accomplishments are something that I will look at down the road because that is pretty impressive that I was able to do that two years in a row," Monroe said. "I don't look at those things during the season because I am constantly looking on what we are going to be able to do at nationals. Our conference (PSAC) is very strong this year, especially up front. I am extremely happy to have been able to pull that off again for the second straight year."
Now that Monroe has established himself not only at the local and regional level, his goal for his senior season is a simple one to identify. He wants to win a national championship.
"Going into it this year my goal was just to put myself in contention to win it," he said. "I thought if I did that the worst that could happen was to finish in the top five and I couldn't be happier than I am with the fifth-place finish. I think I was the third American (in the top five) so it was definitely a strong year for Division II. I am definitely not disappointed by placing fifth, but I think what was cool for me this year was that I knew I was definitely one of the best this season. Being a contender for one of those top 10 spots was really cool, but to also be in contention until the last mile of the race was an amazing feeling."
Although he has made strides in his career, Monroe was quick to point out the fact that progressing in distance running is sometimes a difficult thing to do.
"It is definitely hard to progress as a distance runner the way you want to all the time," he said. "It is very taxing, both physically and mentally, and I feel really blessed to have progressed the way I have been able to. I have gotten better each year and that is essentially what you want to do as a distance runner. What makes it difficult to do is that it is a constant, year-round thing. You never get a lot of off time, especially if you are running all three seasons. Cross country is my favorite, but again, being able to constantly progress each year is a difficult thing to do."
Now with three outstanding years under his belt as a Bald Eagle athlete, Monroe feels that with the success he has had, if it isn't broken, don't try to fix it.
"It will all start with work on the track," he said. "Indoors I want to try and get to nationals in the 5,000 and also in the DMR. Outdoors I will be trying to hit a fast 10K time to go to nationals like I did in cross country. Hopefully one of these times I'll come out with a title."
When asked if he is satisfied with his accomplishments thus far, Monroe said, "I am never satisfied, but very pleased with what I have been able to accomplish thus far."
So what has Alex Monroe meant to the LHU track and field and cross country programs?
"Alex has had an obvious impact on our programs from the second he set foot here," cross country and track coach Aaron Russell said. "He is a guy who is constantly setting new goals for himself, but at the same time, he is a very humble individual who doesn't like to throw out there that he is going for this or for that. Coaches across the country now know that it wasn't a one-time thing with him and he isn't afraid to put his nose in any race. Coming from a smaller town with a tradition of producing great athletes, he is leaving footsteps for hopefully younger athletes of the future to follow."