By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Anthony Wallis is a thinker. Wallis likes to plan out his strategies ahead of time on the cross country courses, figure out what his pace should be to start out or how hard to take the first hill.
However, once a race starts the Strasburg senior likes to keep it simple.
"I don't really think when I run, just focus on running," Wallis said.
While he may not think when he's running, Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy said it's Wallis' intelligence that helps set him apart from other runners.
"He's an incredible cerebral runner in making decisions about race strategies, paces, when to attack, when to hold back and save energy," Rudy said. "Just an incredibly gifted and intelligent runner. With running there's athleticism and intelligence, and he possesses both."
Wallis didn't start running until his freshman year during track season. He ran as a sprinter on the track team, and Rudy saw some potential and convinced him to come out for the cross country team his sophomore year.
Rudy knew he could be a really good runner, but didn't expect Wallis to blossom quite as nicely as he did right off the bat.
In his sophomore season, Wallis finished seventh in the Region B meet, and was one of Strasburg's top runners.
"It was my first season," Wallis said. "It was new to me and I kept improving and improving. And it just kind of encouraged me to try harder."
He went on to place second in the Group A state meet in the 1,600 his sophomore season. Last year he won the Region B meet in cross country.
Wallis said it was a good feeling winning the regional title.
"During the race I wasn't really expecting to win, it just kind of came at the end," he said.
Perhaps the highlight of his running career came this past spring in track season. In the Bull Run District meet, Wallis broke the school record, and also the district record, with a time of 4:22.73 in the 1,600.
Wallis said it was a very proud moment for him to break Mark Stickley's record, which was set in the 1979-80 school year.
"I'm just glad I got it last year, because I wanted it my sophomore year, but I didn't quite cut it," Wallis said. "I'm just going to keep trying to improve it, make it a little faster so it's harder to beat for the next person."
Wallis said he runs pretty much every day, but he typically doesn't keep track of how many miles he runs. The sport has just come naturally for him.
Rudy said Wallis is a special runner, the likes of which hasn't been seen at Strasburg in a long time.
"It's been a pleasant surprise to see what he's been able to accomplish and the speeds with which he's been able to run," Rudy said. "Something Strasburg hasn't seen really since -- Mark Stickley. To break [the 1,600 record] is a pretty special accomplishment."
For his senior cross country season, Wallis said he just wants to be consistent and keep getting better.
Strasburg's boys cross country team lost several strong runners from last year's squad, which finished sixth in Group A last year. Wallis said he's trying to be more of a leader this year, and he wants the team to keep improving.
"I'm hoping we can do almost as good as we did last year, if not better," Wallis said. "I really want to do good since it's my last year. It's my last season of high school cross country."