CARLSBAD, Ca. —
A year ago, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.)
High School's Darren Fahy was sitting in the front row seat of what would become a precipitous roller-coaster ride, his hands in the air and wanting to shout at the top of his lungs.
Since it followed what could only be graciously called an inconsistent cross country season, it meant a year of tantalizingly outstanding performances mixed with mystifying sub-par races which neither he nor his coach Bill Vice could fully explain.
Going 8 minutes, 55.53 seconds for 3,200 meters at the early-season Arcadia Invitational seemed to be a breakthrough that carried the hope of a sub-8:50 before season's end.
Instead, the blond-haired Fahy never improved and although he ran an 8:59.27 as one of 13 runners under 9 minutes in the California State Championships, even that was a disappointment since after leading early, he faded to finish 11th.
Then came the summer and another Big Dipper ride as he captured the United States Junior 3,000-meter run, speeding to a time of 8:35.17 at the national championships in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Fahy, who has run 8:20.71 over 3,000 meters, had the sixth fastest time in the world.
That was the exhilarating part of the ride. When they posted the list of athletes who would be competing in the World Junior Championships in Lille, France, he was not included. Frustration.
Instead of bemoaning his bad luck, Fahy went on a summer training regimen that assured a totally different cross country season and, he hopes, a just-as-successful track season this spring.
Beginning with the first cross country race, Fahy was undefeated, capturing the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational, Stanford Invitational, San Diego Section title and State Division II crown in the fastest time of the day. Although he was not 100 percent, he decided to go for the Foot Locker National title in his home town of San Diego, winning the Western Regional over the hilly 5,000-meter Mt. SAC course.
But illness that slowed him in the Regionals finally caught up in the national championship as he lost for the only time all year, finishing 17th in 15:33.7 for 5,000 meters.
Now the attention turns to track, where he is expected to be one of the nation's top 3,200-meter runners but hopes for some surprises as well.
"I want to run a couple of fast miles and try at least one steeplechase," said the long-legged Fahy, who will be attending Georgetown in the fall, looking toward a degree in Engineering. "I'm going to take the same attitude I had in cross country in that I don't care about times, I just want to win."
He wouldn't make any predictions but he did talk about what he'd like to run in general terms.
"I want to break 8:50 in the 3,200 and 4:10 in the mile," he said. "But I also want to have more fun. I have a game plan that includes running in the Junior National cross country championships, an indoor meet in Seattle and then focus on Arcadia, where I'd like to run a fast 3,200 time.
"Then I'll go back to training, looking to throw in those miles and that steeplechase before peaking at the state championships," he said. "Last year I led a lot of races but I never really had a strategy. This year I expect to sit back and let others set the pace, learning from my mistakes. I really have nothing to prove, I'll just run my own race."
Good words, but what sets Fahy apart is his competitiveness, which means when he senses it's time to move, look out.
"The thing about Darren is last year I never felt he couldn't do the things he was capable of doing," said his coach, Bill Vice. "Now he's taking things one step at a time and he's so much more confident in his abilities. I'm 99 percent certain because of his success in cross country and how he has matured that the things that bothered him a year ago will not ever happen again. He could run a sub-4:10 mile if he focused on it and he can run a sub-8:50 3,200."
One of the reasons Vice is so certain of Fahy's success is the senior doesn't have to train alone. Teammate Eric Causey is just a few steps behind and "not in the least intimidated by Darren," according to Vice.
So, while they're friends, they push each other to faster and faster times, turning that roller coaster to an E-ticket rocket ride.