Patrick Koon On FSU Pre-Nats, Nike Elite And Stanford

* Two-time defending Pre-State champ Patrick Koon wins the 2022 Big Bend Invitational.

Photo Credit: Dylan Jackson/MileSplit

WATCH LIVE: FSU Pre-State Invitational




The last few years, Leon Lion (FL) Patrick Koon has been the top dog in Florida.

He's won a pair of state titles on the track, and two more on the grass, holding off a plethora of talent in all four. He's not just winning in Florida, but also winning out-of-state meets and performing well at national championships. So far this season, Koon has been holding off in his first three races of the fall, but still winning them by a combined 3:03.

This week, Koon will get his first look of the season at perennial powerhouse Belen Jesuit, and the nation's fastest runner so far, Joshua Ruiz

MileSplit chatted with the recent Stanford commit over his upcoming race, the camaraderie of Florida's elite talent and his role in the Nike Elite Program.

Q: You're the course record holder, defending champ and top returner. Does any of that add any extra pressure heading into Pre-State?

Sure, I think there is a little bit of pressure just cause I've won the race the last two years, but I try not to let that build-up on myself. I just try to look at it as a race, and knowing that I'm prepared and ready to do my best going into it.

Q: How do you physically feel heading into race on Saturday? Any hiccups in recent training, or are you ready to fire on all cylinders? 

There haven't been too many hiccups, I'm really just ready to race. I've been hitting around 60 miles a week, but we backed off this week and we're tapering. Just wanted to keep the legs fresh and put out a good race on Saturday.

Q: You've opted to run a slate of smaller meets this season, skipping out on the Cecil Field Summer Classic and Big Bend. Is there a specific reason for that, or is that just the way it is?

Yeah, that was kind of the plan going in, but in the South and especially Florida, cross country starts really early, and last year by the end of November, I wasn't feeling burnt out, but just tired after such a long season. So my coach and I talked it over and discussed extending the season a little bit and making sure I'm ready to go in November and December. That was the plan going in, so I'd say this is really the first big effort, or season opener if you can call it that.

Q: You're getting the chance to go up against the Belen Jesuit squad for the first time this season. Are you excited to get a preview of them before you go head-to-head again next month at state?

Yeah, so I've been racing those guys for about my entire high school career, and they always have some amazing athletes, and I've been racing against Josh since I was in eighth grade, so we've known each other and have always been following one another. So it's always fun to race them, they've got such an amazing team and program, especially Josh. He's looking amazing this year, and he won the Southern Showcase in 14:38, which is a pretty amazing time. I know that course isn't as fast as some people think it is, but I feel like it's a legit course, so he's definitely looking fit and I think he's a great low-stick for Belen Jesuit, and I'm really looking forward to going up against them.

Q: Do you and Josh talk much outside of racing, or is it more of just a respected rivalry?

We talk and will slide-up every once in a while on Snapchat, but it's actually interesting. A lot of the top guys in Florida have a group chat where we'll all talk quite often, but I think that's a good thing about our state though, how most of the top guys can just talk.

Q: What are you shooting for on Saturday? Obviously you'd like to defend your title, but are there any other smaller goals you have in mind?

The big goal is always placing, so I'd like to go out there and get the win, but I'm not too worried about time. It depends on the weather and how the race plays out, but anything under 14:50 will be a step in the right direction. But I think the most important part is going for the win.

Q: Do you like running at Apalachee Park? We did some digging, and this will be your 11th (HS) race on this course. Do you feel like you have any advantage to having run this course so often?

Like you were saying, I've probably been racing out there since I was seven years old. I raced there in elementary school, middle school and now I've obviously raced there a decent bit in high school. At this point though, I'm not sure if it would necessarily be an advantage because I think all of the top guys know the course pretty well and have been out there often. Maybe there is an aspect of familiarity, just cause I've been out there so much and could probably run it with my eyes closed. I'm not sure how big that advantage is though.

Q: What's the post-season plan for you: RunningLane, NXN or Foot Locker?

* Patrick Koon represents the South region at the 2021 Eastbay Cross Country Championships.

Photo Credit: Daniel Hernandez/MileSplit

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I'm still deciding if we're going to go to NXR or Foot Locker South because our state meet is on a Friday and NXR is that following Sunday. It would be a difficult travel to go from Tallahassee to North Carolina, but I'll talk it over with my coach and see what the plans are going to look like. I'm not sure if I'll go to NXR or Foot Locker, but I could even try both with them being on separate weekends. 

Q: What has the experience been like so far being apart of the Nike Elite program? What are some of the best aspects of it so far?

It's been an amazing experience so far. When I was in middle school, they used to have the Nike Running Camp, and it was really cool to look up to those guys, especially early on in my running career. To now be apart of that group but in a slightly different way, it's been an amazing experience. I got to meet so many great guys and girls up in Portland. Clay [Shively] and Byron [Grevious] who are in my grade were there on the long distance side. Just such amazing guys and great connecting with them. The program has been great so far. We initially went up there and got some really cool gear, and that will continue as the year goes on, and obviously we'll be there for Nike Indoor and Nike Outdoor too.

Q: Congratulations on your commitment to Stanford earlier this week! We can imagine an athlete of your caliber had a lot of programs reach out over the last year or so. What put Stanford above the rest of the country?

I think it's just kind of the athletic and academic combination that Stanford had to offer. But also, the team was really amazing on my visit, and I know the other recruits in my class Byron and Paul [Bergeron] really well, and they're really cool and fast guys. There just wasn't much more I could ask for, so it made it a clear option.

Everything you need to know about the FSU Invitational tomorrow can be found here. You can also watch the meet live on MileSplit here and follow along with the live results here

Patrick is racing in the Elite Boys race, with the gun set to go off at 8:05 a.m. EST in Tallahassee, Fla.

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