As a freshman at Loyola last fall, Michael Wegner excelled as one of the top cross country runners in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association.
An All-Metro first-team selection, Wegner played a big role in helping the Dons win another MIAA championship, and he started on a path to becoming one of the top runners in the state overall.
This year wound up being a different and unusual one for the Pikesville resident.
The sophomore decided to not run with Loyola this season, running unattached — working and training on his own. It was a difficult decision, and one that severely limited the races he could enter.
Wegner ran in the Maryland/D.C. private schools championship Nov. 10. He won easily, finishing in a time of 15 minutes, 44 seconds, good enough for a 20-second victory over Tai Dinger of St. Albans.
Wegner will run in the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast regional Saturday in Cary, N.C., and he's hoping to qualify for the national race Dec. 1 in Portland, Ore.
Kevin Wegner, Michael's brother, ran for Loyola as a freshman this season, helping the Dons to a fourth consecutive MIAA team title. He finished fourth overall as Loyola edged Calvert Hall by four points.
When did you eventually decide to run unattached this season?
I decided to run unattached at the end of outdoor track last spring. I decided to return to my dad's training at the end of ninth grade. My dad had trained me through middle school, and I really wanted to continue to compete for Loyola's team during my sophomore year while training for my dad, but Loyola wouldn't allow that.
That's an unusual decision. How tough of a decision was that for you to make?
I wanted to continue to improve in fitness. Training with the team had been a lot of fun, and I do miss that, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make in order to get the training that I feel works best.
What did you wind up doing this fall in terms of the training and running?
I've been slowly working back into it. After ninth grade ended, I took about two weeks off and did some easy mileage after that. I've been getting a variety of training. Cross country season has been just to get strength back into my legs. I did some tempo runs, some interval runs, long runs and I ran in some races. I finished third at PTXC-4, a big Pennsylvania invite. I won the Towson 5K road race and I won the private school state championship.
What are you going to do during the indoor season?
I need to talk to the coaches and see what I want to do. My focus will be on the mile and two mile, but I think I'll still be running unattached. I want to run with the team, but I'd like to continue doing my dad's coaching.
As for the Maryland/D.C. private schools championship, when did you find out that you could run?
I believe my parents talked to the director of that meet and asked if I could run in it a few weeks ahead of time because I still go to Loyola. My plan going into it was to win, and I'm glad I did and I was happy with the time.
Now looking forward to the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast regional in North Carolina on Saturday, what are you looking at doing or hoping for in that big race?
My goal is to qualify for the nationals. I'm going to do my best, just go out hard and hold a solid pace. My strength is endurance. I'm going to try to hang with the lead group and hopefully qualify for the Nike [Cross] Nationals. I think I have a good chance at it, but it's going to be tough.
Running in the regionals is a very big deal, and some people don't do as well in big races. How do you do with tough races like this and handling the pressure that comes with it?
I love the pressure. I love the atmosphere of big races, and I thrive on competition. It's great to have all those fast guys there, and I love being able to run with them.
How difficult has everything been this fall, with your decision and everything that took place?
The training's been great. I'm concentrating on one season at a time for now. I'm training hard and I want to get as far as I can. It's been a great season.
What's your goal for the future?
I don't have any goals for college yet. I'm taking it one season at a time. My focus for the next track season will be the New Balance outdoor nationals in the spring, and I'm also hoping to break the national sophomore 5,000-meter indoor record.