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Photo by Pete Brannan - Daily Local News
East Marlborough >> Unionville High School senior Aryan Abbaraju, the Daily Local News Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, has come a long way in four years of running for the Longhorns.
A few weeks after earning a ninth-place finish at the PIAA 3A championships, Abbaraju said, “I ran this same course as a 9th grader and it was special to see how far I had come. It was great to talk to my teammates after we finished our race – we reflected on how the season had gone and felt excited about the future.”
Unionville head coach Mark Lacianca said, “Aryan has had a great progression as a student-athlete at Unionville. I had forgotten that he was 140th in the state as a 9th grader, the last time our team went to States before this fall. The COVID pandemic hurt him, as it did for most runners progressions, and he didn’t get the opportunity his sophomore year.
“The last two falls, everyone has seen a terrific progression from Aryan. He ran really smart this year.”
Abbaraju, who finished third at the District 1 meet and first at the Ches-Mont Championships, feels that his best race this fall was at States.
“The key to my performance at States was definitely pacing the race correctly,” said Abbaraju. “I came through the mile in about 30th place, and worked my way up the rest of the race. Coach Lacianca put a lot of emphasis on running a patience race, especially on a tough states course.”
Abbaraju’s favorite memory from districts this fall was helping the Longhorns team qualify for States.
“It meant a lot after we fell short last year – making states was a goal we had throughout the summer and it was great to finally see it happen,” said Abbaraju. “Going to states with the team is a much better experience than going alone – I’ve experienced both.
Abbaraju said his favorite meet of the 2022 cross country season “probably” was the Ches-Mont Championships, where he finished first by a comfortable margin and the Longhorn captured the top spot.
“Everyone on the team did great at Ches-Monts,” said Abbaraju. “That was a really enjoyable day for the team.”
The Ches-Mont Championships were held at Downingtown West, which happens to be Abbaraju’s favorite high school course.
“For racing, my favorite local course is definitely Downingtown West’s course,” said Abbaraju. “I like this course, it’s very flat and the grass is cut very nicely. … For distance runs away from school, Smithsbridge is my favorite spot. I like the shading that the trees provide at Smithsbridge. It’s also nice to swim in the Brandywine River with the team when it’s warm after a run.”
Abbaraju, who will run for Cornell University next fall, began running cross country in third grade, in the STRIDE program at Hillendale Elementary School.
“I found that I had talent in the sport early on, but really put more effort in once I got to high school,” said Abbaraju. “Without a doubt, Coach Lacianca has been the biggest factor in getting me to where I am. He has a consistent coaching strategy that makes it easy to track my progress through workouts. His presence makes it easy to stay motivated during any practice, rain or shine.
“Lac taught me the value of consistent effort, which is something I’ve been working on to this day. My parents have also been really supportive regardless of how I did during a race, which I really appreciate.”
Last spring, Abbaraju ran the 3200 meter run for the Unionville track team and did well, receiving second team All-Area honors from the Daily Local News. His favorite memory of the track season was at the 17th Henderson Invitational, where he posted a PR 9:19.40 despite the rainy conditions.
“It was a wonderful experience regardless of the rain,” said Abbaraju. “I’m looking forward to a (hopefully) dry Henderson Invitational under the lights this coming spring.”
Lacianca said, “Aryan has shown the same progression on the track that he has in cross country, and I think he has a chance to run close to 9:00 in the 3200 next spring.”
Abbaraju is currently in winter training.
“Our goal is to build up a base for spring — when the intensity picks up,” said Abbaraju. “We practice on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. We usually cross train on Tuesdays and Thursdays and take Sunday off. We aren’t pushing too hard right now so we’re fresh when May comes around.”
For the day of a race, Abbaraju likes to set up a routine.
“I’ll usually eat a light breakfast in the morning of a race,” said Abbaraju. “I don’t eat too much, but usually it’ll be some combination of granola bars and eggs. After that, I keep the eating to a minimum. I like to get to the course about an hour and a half before my race. After this, I’ll wait 30 minutes and warm up an hour before the race. We’ll do drills, minutes, and eventually put our spikes on. About 15 minutes before the race, we’ll do flex (striders, karaoke, skips, etc). After that, I’m ready to run.
“I currently run in the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3s. I race in the Nike Dragonflies. I used to run with the Nike ZoomFly 3s and 4s, but opted for the Speeds because of their nylon plate. I found that the ZoomFly’s carbon plate wasn’t something I could continue to run in every day.”
Abbaraju is a busy student at Unionville, participating in the Speech and Debate Club, Robotics Club and Future Business Leaders of America. He plans to major in computer science at Cornell.
“I think it would be really interesting to go into software development in the future,” said Abbaraju.
Lacianca appreciates the standard that Abbaraju and the other Unionville seniors set for the Longhorns cross country program this past fall.
“It was great that Aryan was one of our leaders, as our team returned to the state meet this fall,” said Lacianca. “I think we are set-up for next fall after Aryan has graduated, thanks to the program the seniors have built.”