June 15 was four years in the making for Fairfield Prep’s Christian Alvarado.
The Jesuit senior’s path to his final high school race involved a backstory that featured a lot of winning and some stunning losses and failure. But the end result, his first national title and finally claiming the elusive All-American status, was worth the wait.
“It’s cliché, but the journey is what made the destination taste so sweet,” Alvarado said. “Winning a national title is so special because it puts you in the most elite category of high school athletes in the country. To me, it’s the ultimate accolade for a high school athlete.”
Despite an impressive running résumé — Alvarado was virtually unstoppable his senior season in the 1,600 and 3,200 — a strong performance on the national stage was missing.
This past spring, Alvarado didn’t have the best showing in the prestigious Penn Relays. Last winter at Indoor Nationals, he finished in the top 20 and fell short of becoming an All-American. Last fall during cross country, same scenario.
“I certainly felt I had unfinished business to take care of in my final outdoor high school season,” Alvarado said. “I didn’t want to admit it to anyone though, because I didn’t want to let a few races on the national stage that didn’t pan out to what I had hoped for overshadow all the great accomplishments I had on the state and regional level. I didn’t feel like I had anything to prove to anyone but myself, specifically to reach my own expectations on the national level. I don’t think anyone has higher expectations for me than I do.”
In his final high school race, in what turned out to be a blessing in disguise, the Register Track and Field Area MVP ran the mile at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina. Despite being undefeated in the 1,600 and 3,200 in state competition, Alvarado was not favored to win. In fact, he ran in the slower of two heats.
But he used that to his advantage. Instead of the mounted pressure to perform well, Alvarado ran his own race with ease and confidence. He went out hard and smart and wasn’t challenged as he crossed the tape in a personal-record time of four minutes, 6.88 seconds.
Alvarado had to sit and wait for the faster heat to run. After a few agonizing hours, his time held up and he finished the day with the fastest time of 25 runners, earning a long-awaited national crown.
“It’s indescribable to define a moment like that, because although it was that one amazing race and experience that I will never forget, it was the result of four years of hard training, success and even failure to get me to that moment,” he said.
The national title was a memorable finale to Alvarado’s sensational senior season. He won the Glenn D. Loucks Mile crown in May and then set the school record in the 800 (1:52.60) in winning the Danbury Dream.
He went on to claim victories in the 1,600 and 3,200 at the Southern Connecticut Conference championships and the Class LL and State Open meets. He set the Class LL meet record in the 3,200 (9:06.67).
“In my years of coaching, I have witnessed some great runners, many from our own Southern Connecticut Conference. No runner comes to my mind, however, that expressed such dominance over the entire conference,” Xavier cross country and track coach Chris Stonier said. “If I could harness one trait from Christian and give it to all of my athletes, it would be his refusal to achieve anything lower than the highest of expectations that he sets for himself on a weekly basis.”
And it’s safe to say, the Georgetown-bound Alvarado will be remembered in Connecticut track history as one of the best.
“It’s so easy to get distracted senior year and lose focus of the task at hand, but more importantly of your dream,” Alvarado said. “Sometimes you need something more to stay motivated, something extra to challenge yourself. For me it was going after history. I had won multiple titles at the conference, state and regional level during my junior year, but I still didn’t feel like I made a big enough impact to get remembered.
“In each season during my senior year, I felt I made a big enough impact on Connecticut high school cross country and track to get remembered. Whether it was breaking state records, winning multiple events on the state level and finally winning a national title, I think I was able to separate my name from the state champions to the elite state champions.”