DALLAS TWP. – With the start of the high school cross country season about to get underway, there is a young, upcoming star you might want to keep your eye on – Lake-Lehman freshman Dominic Hockenbury.
The 14-year-old from Harveys Lake – he turns 15 on Oct. 5 – will be competing as a freshman at the varsity level for the Black Knights. And he is determined to make his mark.
"My goal this season is to medal at states," said Hockenbury on Saturday before he was to compete in the Cliff Robbins Sr. Memorial High School Invitational Cross Country Races at Letterkenny Fields. "I've trained as hard, if not harder than anybody else. If my training pays off, I should do well."
Hockenbury's coach, John Sobocinski, has high hopes for the freshman.
"He is a student of the sport," said Sobocinski. "He pays attention to details. He had a fantastic summer and has set himself up – putting himself into a position to do some good things this season. He is very talented and a hard worker."
Hockenbury ran away with the Wyoming Valley Conference Coaches League Meet – a.k.a. the Ed Narkiewicz Coaches Association Meet – in October, an event which is held each year the week before districts.
He won the Junior Olympics Middle Atlantic Conference top honors in the 2.48 miler in Philadelphia in November. Later in November, he finished fifth in regional competition in Deerfield, N.J. And he finished 43rd at nationals in Myrtle Beach, S.C. in December.
In March, Hockenbury competed in the Wyoming Valley Striders' Winter's End (4.5 mile) Run at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. He ran in front over the first half of the race before he was overtaken by Bornfase Nyandusi Omurwa, the native Kenyan who now lives in Kingston (the eventual winner of the race) and former Lock Haven standout, Jeff Skwierz, of Forty Fort (who finished second). Hockenbury finished third.
Omurwa had some good things to say about Hockenbury after that race.
"I thought (Hockenbury) went out too fast early in the race and he would eventually come back to me," Omurwa said. "But he continued to run at a good steady pace. He has a great stride. Once I realized he wasn't coming back to me, I knew I had to pick up my pace a bit."
Omurwa caught and passed Hockenbury at the turnaround. Skwierz caught and passed Hockenbury going up the final hill.
Hockenbury is young and probably has some things to learn about race strategy. But remember, he was running against two very talented, seasoned veteran runners in that race.
In addition to running cross country, Hockenbury runs the 1 miler, the 2 miler and the 4x8 relay (3,200 meter relay) in track. The 2 miler is his best event.
There are lots of talented athletes who never reach their full potential because they just don't put in the hard work. That's not the case with Hockenbury.
Hockenbury and his training partner, teammate Kieran Sutton, a senior and Lehman's top runner, train about 60-plus miles a week.
"We run twice a day," said Hockenbury. "One day we do long runs. And the next day we do shorter distance speed work runs."
On Saturday in the Cliff Robbins Invitational Boys Varsity 5K Run Sutton finished sixth and Hockenbury finished eighth, running against runners from 29 schools, including a number of schools from outside the Wyoming Valley Conference and a handful of teams from outside District 2.
Hockenbury likes running with Sutton.
"(Sutton) is a really good runner," said Hockenbury. "He makes for a good training partner."
Sutton expects great things from Hockenbury in the future.
"He's going to be a top contender at states by the time he's a senior," said Sutton. "He may even be tough when he's a junior – maybe even when he's a sophomore. He's really driven."
Lake-Lehman will kick off its cross country season by hosting a tri-meet with Tunkhannock and Meyers Wednesday at 4:15 p.m.