Lewis Mills standout Sullivan wrapping up stellar XC campaign. By John Nestor
BURLINGTON - Kevin Sullivan has come a long way as a cross country runner and he is still pushing himself to see how far he can go.
The Lewis Mills senior is putting the finishing touches on a stellar senior campaign that has included a state title, All-State and All-New England honors. He'll be competing against the top runners from up and down the east coast later this month in the Foot Locker Cross Country championships at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
Currently, Sulluivan is one of the top runners in New England but he didn't start that way and the Lewis Mills cross country program's rise and Sullivan's development follow the same arc.
As a freshman Sullivan and the Spartans just wanted to be competitive, in his junior season they fell two points short of a Berkshire League title leading up to the 2012 season that has been nothing short of outstanding.
"We lost to Nonnewaug by two points in the Berkshire League championship last year and our goal was to come back and win it this year," Sullivan said. "We got together and worked hard, we trained hard over the summer with that goal in mind."
That goal became a reality and the Spartans cruised to the BL title. From there Sullivan just kept on going, adding accomplishment after accomplishment this season and surprising even himself along the way.
He blitzed the field to win the Class M state title by 18 seconds, covering the 5,000 meter course at Wickham Park in 16:24. Tolland's Colin Sauter was second (16:42) and Neal Hulstein of Ellington third (16:48). It was a sweet victory after finishing fourth in Class M as a junior. That win sent Sullivan to the State Open back at Wickham Park and again he exceeded even his own expectations.
"Winning the Class M meet was a surprise, I was 4th as a junior and coming in my goal was second or third," Sullivan said. "I thought I could stay with leaders for a while and make my move but I got a lead about halfway through and went from there. It was probably my best race and I was really happy with that."
After missing out on a spot in the New England Championships the year before, Sullivan left nothing to chance this time around and finished sixth against the best runners in the state. It was a result that Sullivan didn't expect.
"My reach goal was top-10," Sullivan said of the Open. "I didn't make New England's the year before and that was my main goal and making it this year was great."
In Maine, Sullivan again came through, overcoming a large and talented field and sloppy conditions to earn All-New England honors with a 24th-place finish. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and growing confidence.
"As a team we worked hard and I trained a lot more," Sullivan said. "I knew I had a decent shot to win the league, and during season when I won the all the dual meetsand was first at two invitationals second at another I knew I could accomplish some of my goals."
But for all his individual success, Sullivan looks back most fondly on the Spartans' team goal, winning the BL title.
"We really wanted to win the league meet, it was a big goal and we did that," he said. "The highlight of the season for me was winning the BL, winning individually is great, but to win as a team, to know all hard work you put in was worth it was awesome. It really took away all the bad feelings from the year before."
Now Sullivan heads to New york where he will face runners from Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, D.C. and U.S. citizens in Overseas Military Installations. But now he's playing with house money, already the best in his class, one of the best in the state and an All-New England runner.
"If you would have told me that all this would happen in the summer, I would have never thought I could do it," Sullivan said. "I couldn't ask for much more out of this season."
But the way he has run so far this far, there may yet be just a little more in store.