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New Fairfield's Raneri on the right track for success

News-Times, News-Times
Published 1:00 am, Sunday, February 22, 2009
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There is no shortage of superlatives when New Fairfield High track coach Tim Murphy discusses John Raneri, the Rebels' star runner.

He speaks with an unmistakable enthusiasm and admiration, eager to laud the junior who in January was named the 2008-2009 Gatorade Connecticut Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Murphy, the 23-year coach who coaches the indoor and outdoor track teams, as well as the cross country team, has seen hundreds of athletes on both the collegiate and Olympic level, and sees similar potential in Raneri.

"In all honesty, I don't even think he's scratched the surface," said Murphy. "He's one of those athletes we get once in a lifetime. I don't think you can find another kid who runs with the tenacity he runs with both in cross country and on the track. He's a special kid, and my gut instinct -- providing he stays healthy, goes on path he's on -- we're looking at one of greatest athletes to leave this area."

This winter has been a memorable indoor track season for Raneri, who won the 3,200 meters at the State Open championships on Saturday with a time of 9:22.12. At the Class M state championships a week earlier, Raneri placed second in the 3,200 and helped lead the Rebels' 4x800 relay team to victory.

This past cross country season, Raneri placed first in October's Class M state championship with a time of 16:22, leading the Rebels to second place as a team. He also took second at the State Open championships, earned ninth place at the New England Cross Country Championships and finished 18th at the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional.

Raneri still has a year left, but so far there is little he hasn't been able to accomplish by ignoring the pain in his exhausted legs and pushing forward. At the Class M meet, Raneri's endurance and mental fortitude carried him to a one-second victory over Tolland's Ryan King.

"In that race, yes, my legs killed, they felt terrible that last 1,000 meters," said Raneri. "But I just really try to tune that part of my body out, focus on the race, focus on winning it."

Murphy has been more impressed with the junior's resilience than his technique.

"His style is almost ugly," said Murphy. "It doesn't look natural, he's just such a strong kid, his will to win surpasses any style you could put under someone's feet. It's not really smooth where he glides like some premier runners who almost float through the course. He's a bulldog. When you watch him run he's determined, and that supersedes any style; you can't coach it. That's something in a kid's heart."

Raneri runs about 60 miles a week during the indoor season, and sometimes reaches 70 miles in a week over the summer, often running twice in a day and up to 12 hours total. In addition to his running, Raneri has maintained a 3.46 GPA, receiving early interest from Brown, Iona and the University of New Hampshire.

"Sometimes, it's really tough to find that balance (between school and track)," said Raneri, who currently aims to focus on Biology in college. "Sometimes I have procrastinated, gone through all-nighters working on a project. I just try to concentrate, know that I've got to find the balance, go to school the next day, do the workouts, then go to school all over again."

For now, Raneri is doing plyometrics to help improve his form, and hopes to eventually trim 20 seconds off his time in the 3,200 meter event.

"I certainly want to accomplish more," he said. "My goal is to make Foot Locker Nationals (in cross country), so I'm setting my standards pretty high right now."