Anthony Verdirame has always had a propensity to pick up outdoor activities.
For his entire life he’s been a fishing enthusiast, he’s ridden a mountain bike for seven years and just a few months ago decided to pick up kayaking. He plans on spending some free time during fall break hiking hills in the mountain ranges to the north.
But there’s another activity he picked up that consumes much of his time, especially when school isn’t in session: running.
Verdirame decided to run cross country in the seventh grade. His parents weren’t runners—it was just something he wanted to add to his long check list of hobbies. Fast forward to his junior year at North Forsyth high school, and he treats it as his primary focus.
He’s coming off a pretty good week. Verdirame set a new personal record last Saturday at the Warpath Invitational in Canton, leading the Raiders with a finishing time of 17 minutes, 26 seconds to finish 56th in the field of 186 runners. It’s not at the level of pace with runners at some of the other county schools, but the new PR is a signal of accelerated progression that Verdirame hopes will pay off in his near future.
The truth is, he got slower before he got faster, and he’s not embarrassed to admit it. After running below 18 minutes during his freshman season, he actually slowed down and couldn’t crack 18 minutes his sophomore year. It was a confusing fall for Verdirame, who was watching teammates speed up around him while he stayed on a baseline.
“It was horrible,” he said. “Just seeing improvement and I wasn’t getting any faster. I couldn’t, and I didn’t really know why.”
He admits he lost the work ethic to achieve goals—a brief period of distraction from being like any other high school student with more than one interest. He even, last year, played on the lacrosse team—that was on top of partaking in ultimate Frisbee in his spare time. It wasn’t that he wasn’t committed to running—he just didn’t realize how much more it would take to succeed.
So Verdirame re-allocated and re-committed his most recent summer break to obsessing over running.
“About summer time this year, I just realized that if I pushed myself this could be something I could do in college. That’s my goal, and I want to do everything I can to achieve that,” Verdirame said. “I don’t have a preference of where and am open to suggestions. I just think I can do it.”
Verdirame took himself out for runs every day, but not through the wooded, shaded trails of the north Georgia hills. Instead, he hit the track at North — one that’s beaten with the sun through seemingly every hour of the day. He’d walk down on his own, even on Saturdays, with bottles of water, fruits and a new attitude.
Instead of doing 350 miles he was shooting for 500. He ran 400-meter repeats, or laps, 12 to 15 in succession until he could barely stand up.
“The heat would suck the energy out of me,” he said. “But it was worth it.”
Now Verdirame feels like he’s in a groove. Sure, he got his PR at Warpath, but it’s not near what he hopes to accomplish this season.
“Normally as a runner you try to peak, and you want to at the right time. It’s different for every individual,” he said. “I’m still working to get to my peak right now, so each race is getting faster.”
The date circled on the calendar is Oct. 22, when the Raiders will return to Warpath for the Region 5-7A meet.
“I’m focused on getting back there,” Verdirame said. “I was expecting a new PR last race and got one. Now it’s about taking the next step.”