DARIEN — During a spring in which Darien High School appeared to have a monopoly on athletic success, the most monumental achievement was the nexus of skill, desire and selflessness.
“It was something I knew was possible,” Alex Ostberg said last week, days after winning the 5,000-meter title at the New Balance Outdoor National Championships in a state-record 14:16.61, the fastest time in the country this season and second in the history of the meet. “I talked with my coach and we thought we had the right strategy. I tried to use what I had learned over the years. I’m distance oriented, so the longer it is, the better I run.”
This has been a golden period for FCIAC track in terms of having more concurrent nationally ranked athletes. Yet Ostberg’s victory, despite the magnitude, seems not to have been afforded its rightful acclaim.
Perhaps it is because it did not take place in a bubble. Hannah DeBalsi of Staples won the 2-mile race at the New Balance, then followed that up by finishing second at the Brooks PR Invitational with a sub-10-minute time. Westhill’s Claire Howlett was third in the 5K at the New Balance meet.
Under normal circumstances, Ostberg would have had the spotlight to himself. That was even the case at his own school. His New Balance win came on the eve of the Darien boys and girls lacrosse teams completing sweeps of both league and state titles.
“What Alex did hasn’t even come close to hitting me yet,” said Tyson Kaczmarek, the Blue Wave’s boys track coach. “I still can’t believe it. I think I have watched at least part of the video every night since.”
Ostberg has been on a natural progression since breaking his fibula as a sophomore during cross country season.
At the Class L championships earlier this month, Ostberg won the 3,200 in a meet-record time of 9:08. He finished second in the 1,600 and was part of the 4×800 team that was a runner-up.
The warmup for the New Balance meet was the State Open championships, where Ostberg, essentially by design, did not win an individual title. He anchored the winning 4×800 team, and took second in the 3,200 and third in the 1,600.
“The New Balance meet was coming up four days later and we didn’t really want him running three events,” Kaczmarek said. “He really wanted to help the team win the state title. We wanted him for the 4×800. The mile we knew was the hardest event because it required him to sprint at the end. In the two miles Alex was not going to run but he wanted to get points for the team. He sacrificed an individual win for the team.”
Ostberg’s performance in the 3,200 was counterintuitive. “All we needed were team points,” he said. “It was smarter here to conserve energy and not kill the event so I’d having something left. We wanted the team win. When we got it, it was an incredible feeling.”
Ostberg felt everything was aligned for the New Balance meet.
“It certainly wasn’t a no-brainer, but winning was something I thought wasn’t impossible,” he said. “At the indoor nationals I had bronchitis. In cross country things went well. This race was in the making for some time, and it was amazing.”
Ostberg said he has an appreciation for the state of track in the FCIAC right now.
“There are so many All-Americans and it is cool competing against all these runners on a regular basis,” he said. “It is a big advantage.”
Ostberg said he planned to take a couple of weeks off before beginning his summer training.
Kaczmarek predicted his runner’s best is yet to come.
“He’s got more there,” Kaczmarek said. “He’s not maxed out at all.”