More than halfway through the regular season, it is hard to imagine anyone catching Alec Gironda ’24 as he chases yet another individual win for the Middlebury men’s cross country team.
Gironda has seldom taken his foot off the gas this season, taking home two wins in both the Aldrich Invitational home competition (6k: 19:57.1) and at the Vermont Technical College (VTC) Maple Syrup Challenge (8k: 27:05.50). Coming off of two fresh victories, he put down a personal best time in the Mike Woods invitational at SUNY Geneseo on Saturday, crossing the finish line with a time of 24:56.3 (8k): a personal record by 35 seconds that landed him in fifth place.
In a sport based on pure tenacity and stamina, finding motivation in the most painful moments is a critical component of crossing the finish line with a win. On his strong start to this season, Gironda cited the competitive nature of the team as a key driver in their pursuit of a title. In such a unique environment, Gironda’s ability to perform on race day is undoubtedly enhanced by the support he feels from his teammates.
Whether it be on race day or in the midst of a hard workout, he reflected on the grit and passion he and his teammates bring.“When it’s mile four, and you’re hurting real bad out there, you’re really doing it for one another,” Gironda said. “You make it hurt for one another.”
Teammate Owen Johnson ’26 commented on what it has been like to compete alongside Gironda this year, noting his energy and dedication to every workout. “He is a talented and dedicated runner,” Johnson said. “Just watching his workouts you can see the improvements week to week.”
Humble when speaking of his accomplishments, Gironda was also quick to praise this year’s captains, Zander Kessler ’22.5 and Luke Lorenz ’23, as key role models in his college athletic experience. “They set such a good example for the team when it comes to hard work, optimism and having fun,” Gironda said.
That hard work is paying off. With several Panthers on the leaderboard every week, Middlebury cross country is off to a strong start and is hungry for a record-breaking season. The current program-best was set in 2013 with a seventh place NCAA finish; alongside a strong group of returners from a strong season last year and coming off of a dedicated summer of preparation (and a lot of mileage), Gironda wholeheartedly believes this team is on track to shatter the previous record. With Gironda leading the pack, all eyes are on Middlebury men’s cross country in their push to break records this season.
The men’s cross country team races next at the Connecticut College Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 15.