WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — He runs with his mind initially clear, setting his pace comfortably enough without cluttering the consciousness with the useless static that might throw off his stride.
Just watch him sometimes: left foot, right foot, form perfect and confidence soaring with each passing meter.
“I try not to think, as much as possible,” Alex Korczynski said. “Usually I zone out for a couple of laps, then I try to bring it back for the last 600 meters by trying to think about something that will get me energized to finish the race, something that’s up-tempo, like keeping a good pace and staying focused.
“I think about the training I’ve done, how much work I’ve put into the season. It’s helped with my confidence, which obviously is so important when you are going into a race, to believe you can hit the time I want to hit.”
As the indoor season has evolved, inching ever closer to the CIAC classification championships and State Open, it’s become increasingly clear that no one in the state has tackled distance in multiple denominations as spectacularly as Korczynski, a senior at Windham High.
“He is coming with fire under his feet in this indoor season,” Windham coach Becky Howard said. “He has taken hold of what he wants to do, what he likes to do, how he likes to challenge himself. He’s a good kid. He’s one of those anomalies that make you wish for a kid once in your lifetime in coaching. He is that good.”
By every other measure, he is a normal kid, the second of four brothers who lives within the shadow of his high school. He excels in the classroom, rides his bike to school, works at Subway and aspires to study mechanical engineering once he gets to Northeastern in the fall.
“My best skill (at work) is likely cutting bread,” Korczynski said.
But put Korczynski on a track and something entirely different comes to the forefront. He is different; exceptional, really.
As last week began, Korczynski, who never ran cross country at Windham because of his love for soccer, is seeded first in the state in the 1,000 (2:31.98), 1,600 (4:16.19), mile (4:16.57) and 3,200 (9:25.41). His mile at the Yale Invitational was a personal record and qualified him for the New Balance nationals in March.
“I’ve been playing soccer since I was little; I love the sport,” Korczynski said. “I realized I would be doing cross country in college and not playing the soccer, so I wanted to enjoy my last few years. . Soccer is not an easy sport and, in a way, it helped train me for track.”
His state dominance might seem impressive enough had he not also been ranked fifth nationally in the 1,600, seventh in the mile and seventh in the 3,200.
“I am a little surprised, especially looking back at my freshman year,” Korczynski said. “I was aiming to do something like this as a junior and then follow through as a senior. . I’ve always thought I was capable of it, but consistency would be the key. . I find it interesting when I see that someone runs a really fast time. I think it’s cool, and I like to see where I stand among them.”
These accomplishments represent a natural progression from his junior season, when he won the 1,000, 1,600 and 3,200 at the Eastern Connecticut Conference championships. He continued at the state level, winning the 1,600 at the Class S championships and State Open, and was second in the 3,200 in Class S.
Korczynski followed the state success with a sixth-place finish in the mile at the New England High School Indoor Championships with a time of 4:19.04, his best of the season. And last June, just for kicks, Korczynski competed in the Connecticut steeplechase at Willow Brook Park in New Britain for the first time and finished first (9:45.41), more than 10 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
“I don’t think it’s (the improvement) just been over a summer,” Howard said. “He’s done his homework. He runs at home in the summer, on the weekends, when he was prepping for soccer. He’ll get up on a Sunday and run before he goes to work at Subway.
“He’s a humble kid. I thought he’d be in the running (for this season’s accomplishments), and I think it verifies his work ethic. He works hard, and I’m sure he’s excited, but he’s such a quiet guy you wouldn’t even know it.”
With the exception of the summer before his junior year, when he cut his foot fooling around at a running camp and missed a month of soccer, Korczynski has remained remarkably healthy.
“In terms of runners who might possibly get stress fractures, fortunately, he hasn’t had that,” Howard said. “He’s strong, and he’s healthy, and he’s that way because he works at it. . Alex has great form. I don’t think I’ve ever had to correct his knees, his heel kick, his arms or anything. He’s like a machine.”
The machine has high aspirations for multiple championships this season. With his eye on his greatest competitors – William Landowne (Staples), Troy Cormier (Hall), Drew Thompson (Fairfield Prep) and Brendan Murray (Cheshire) – Korczynski said he wants to run, and win, three events in the State Open.
“I like the mile the most,” he said.
So if you are hanging out in Willimantic soon, keep an eye out for Korczynski, who says he runs between 40 and 50 “quality miles” a week to keep in shape and keep the smile on his face.
“I run for fun, but I also love to compete,” he said. “If I finish the season ranked high (nationally), I feel I can accomplish the same at the NCAA level.”
Information from: Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com