For the past two years NEB graduate Casey Ellis has been a solid runner for East Stroudsburg University.
He’s a 2-time All-PSAC second team member and led ESU at Regionals both seasons.
This year, though, Ellis has been better than solid.
He’s now a National Qualifier
After taking a personal best ninth at the Northeast Regional race last weekend, 30 spots from 39th as a freshman, Ellis found out earlier this week that he would be going to the Division-II Cross-country National Championships.
“I was pretty excited, especially since I didn’t know I was going until Monday evening,” he explained.
The top six individuals advance automatically, along with the top four teams.
Then the NCAA committee selects 24 individuals from across all the Regions to participate.
Ellis wasn’t very bullish on his chances.
“A few individuals in my region were ahead of me so it’s very surprising,” he remarked.
In cross-country success in November usually begins in June with summer workouts and Ellis is no exception.
He credits this past summer’s training to faster times in the fall, running 95 miles a week.
“I trusted my coaches,” explained Ellis.
He would do a 9-to-10 mile run at 5:50 mile pace one day then do mile or 1-kilometer repeats at 5:15-5:25 pace the next, taking a short rest in between.
“That’s how I built up my strength,” he said.
Coming into the season they did a 6-mile race to gauge where everybody’s at and Ellis knew afterwards that this year could be special.
“I had a pretty good workout there,” he said. “It was an indicator that I would have a much better season than last year.”
Ellis took home PSAC Men’s Cross-country weekly honors a couple times during the year, ending the PSAC season with a seventh place finish at the championships.
He credits his workout regimen along with his teammates, who pushed him throughout the season.
During the year he would run 80-90 miles a week, with two to three workouts, depending on if they had a race on the weekend.
One type of workout would be a long run with a 3-4 mile pick up in the middle. He would quicken his pace down to 5:30-5:45.
This type of workout would be done during weeks without races.
At the beginning of the year he did longer workouts followed by quicker runs later in the season.
As the year went on he began running with the top runners in the PSAC, runners he’d struggled to stay with in prior seasons..
Then came Regionals at Lock Haven, which was a 10 kilometer race instead of eight kilometers.
“The longer the race the better I’ve done,” said Ellis.
He had a loose goal of top 15 but snuck into the top 10 and, now, to Nationals in Sacramento, California.
He’s keeping expectations down for the Nov. 23 event — ‘I’m just running to get experience,’ — as Ellis believes his time to shine will be next year.
ESU brings back at least six of their seven runners — possibly all seven — of a team that took sixth at Regionals.
Soon running will move indoors and Ellis will be focusing on the 5-kilometer race.
“The PSAC 5k is pretty wide open,” he said. “A lot of the top guys from cross-country won’t be there because their eligibility is up or their schools don’t haven indoor program. I will definitely be up there with the leaders.’
Of the three sports he does — cross-country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field — running in the fields is his favorite.
Running on those tight turns of those 200 meter indoor tracks is his least favorite.
But, regardless of where it is, Ellis is glad to be running, and succeeding.
His senior year of high school Ellis was the District IV champion and a state medalist. College is a different animal all together, though, as everybody has a resume.
“I thought it might happen but I didn’t know,” he admitted. “If I would have similar success as high school or be just another guy.”
This season, though, has been a dream come true.
“I was hoping it would be like this.”