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After Rocky Start to Penn Men’s Track Career PHS Alum Roth Primed for Sophomore Year

ON TRACK: Alex Roth is competing for the University of Pennsylvania men’s track team in a meet last March at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. Former Princeton High standout Roth ended his freshman campaign by taking ninth in the 10,000-meter run at the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal Championships this past May. Last week, he returned to Penn to begin preseason practice for his sophomore cross country season. (Photo Provided by Penn Athletics)

By Bill Alden

Alex Roth enjoyed a dominant senior season in 2016-17, setting the pace for the Princeton High boys’ cross country and track programs.

In the fall, Roth placed first in the county cross country meet, fourth at the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet, and second at the state Group 4 meet as the Little Tigers finished first in the team standings at each competition. He ended the historic campaign by helping PHS win the Meet of Champions (MOC) for the first time in school history as he placed third individually.

Over the winter, Roth placed first in the 3,200 at the indoor county, sectional, and group meets and second at the MOC.

Roth earned more titles in the spring, finishing first in the 3,200 at the outdoor county and sectional meets.

As he looked to compete at the college level, Roth decided that attending the University of Pennsylvania and competing for its men’s cross country and track teams would put him on the road to more championship runs.

“On my official visit to Penn, it felt like I clicked well with them; they seemed like the kind of guys that had the motivation to go for it,” said Roth, who had also considered Columbia and Cornell. “They had a championship mentality that I was looking for in a team.”

Although things didn’t click as well in his freshman season for the Quakers as Roth would have hoped, he gained some valuable experience along the way.

“It was a big adjustment; I had a pretty rough freshman cross country season,” said Roth, who ran in four meets in the fall season.

“My form wasn’t that good. I am not sure what exactly what it was, it could have been an iron deficiency. There are a lot of adjustments to be made, like running with a new group of people, handling the work load of school, living away from home. It took some adjusting throughout the year. I kind of figured it out.”

Having worked through those adjustments, Roth returned to Penn last week ready to hit his stride for his sophomore campaign.

“The main focus is being a factor and being able to help the team,” said Roth.

“I would like to be able to contribute on our top seven for cross and be someone who can score, indoors and outdoors. Instead of just going to the conference meet, it is being able to compete, not being on the outside like I was.”

In assessing his freshman year, Roth started contributing more during the winter season.

“I ran a couple of good races indoors. Not all of them were good, but there were a handful of good ones.” Roth, who took third in the mile at the Princeton Invitational, placed ninth in the 5,000 at the Dr. Sander Invitational in January in New York City, and came in 11th in the 3,000 at the Penn 8-Team Select in Staten Island, N.Y.  “I ran a 3k at Ocean Breeze that helped me feel like I had my feet back under me and that I was back to my old self.”

Ending his debut campaign on a high note, Roth placed ninth in the 10,000-meter run at the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal Championships this past May.

“It was cool because it was a little bit tactical; pace was swinging back and forth with a couple of fast laps and then it would slow down,” recalled Roth, who clocked a time of 30:33.10 as Penn placed second in the meet to Princeton.

“It was a little bit physical, so I also had to manage my space a little bit and try not to fall. There was a fall right in front of me. I definitely feel like I learned a lot. I wasn’t quite able to finish with the competitors who were able to place, but I felt I was there for most of it. My goal was to be able to race with some good guys and I feel like I did a good job with that, and that was exciting for me.”

For Roth, that Heps race gave him a major boost of confidence. “It showed me the next logical step; I was knocking on the door, being competitive,” said Roth. “The next step is to actually run with those guys. That was very very important, especially for this fall in cross country. Being able to compete there would help our team eventually win a Heps title.”

In order to take things to a higher level, Roth headed west after school ended.

“I have been in Colorado for most of the summer, it has been good,” said Roth, who was based in Granby, which sits at an altitude of approximately 8,000 feet, and dealt with some nagging injuries as he fine-tuned his training.

“It is a new experience. It has had its adjustments. I feel like I am in good shape even though I haven’t been able to run as much as I would like.”

Looking ahead to his second college campaign, Roth is determined to keep adjusting and moving forward.

“I have competed against good runners before; there are a lot of things to learn in terms of competing against this group of people,” said Roth.

“As a competitor who has competed for a long time, I feel like I can make that adjustment pretty quickly. I may not be able to compete and score right away, but as long as I am learning from each race experience and learning how to compete in the league, I will feel that the year is a success.”

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