CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Buffalo cross country runner Hayden Harrison ranks among the state's best as week-in and week-out he paces the field, with an unusual strategy that allows him an edge on his competitors.
Harrison, a sophomore, lists sixth best in boys Class AA/A, according to www.runwv.com, and he leads the Bison with a different approach as he admittedly struggles to keep a constant speed throughout a race.
"I'm not really good at keeping pace," Harrison said. "I just try to do it as fast as I can."
To combat the pacing problem, Harrison employs a running technique called "fartleks," Buffalo cross country Coach Patrick Hart said. The technique hinges on quick, intermittent bursts of sprinting in between a slower, more tempered speed.
"He might take 30 steps quick, really fast, then slow back down to race pace," Hart said. "That way you don't kill yourself the whole race."
Harrison said he's noticed the benefits of the technique, as well as how it affects his competition.
"It cuts seconds off, if you know how to do it," he said. "You kind of speed up in the middle of the race: slow down, speed up, slow down. It kind of confuses the runner on what you're doing."
As other runners work to maintain a constant pace, Hart said Harrison's bursts allow him to build a bigger lead.
"I think it gives him an advantage over the other runners, because I'm sure other runners know about it, but I'm not sure that many of them use it," Hart said. "If you're with someone, then sprinting 30 steps and get back to your pace, you're that much further ahead of them and they're not going to catch you if they're running the same pace as you were previously."
Beyond finding a running method that best suits him, Harrison's success can also be attributed to the hours and miles he puts into his craft.
"He comes to practice and does what he's supposed to do and then he does a little extra running on his own every day," Hart said. "He has a great work ethic."