John Valeri experienced a memorable conclusion to his cross country career at Army West Point. The senior from Pembroke placed 160th at the NCAA men’s cross-country championships, turning in a personal best of 31:14.13 for the 10,000 meter course. It was Army’s first appearance in the championship race in more than a decade.
“This meet is full of world class talent, and if you aren’t focused you can easily get chewed up and spit out,” said coach Mike Smith. “We set out to compete against the other service academy runners, the Patriot League athletes, and shoot for a top-half finish. John ran to his potential and achieved most but not all of our goals.”
Valeri was the top Patriot League runner, beat all of the runners from Navy, and cracked the Air Force top five.
He was a Boston Globe all scholastic in 2013 when he was captain a Pembroke High School. Upon graduation in May, Valeri will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry of the US Army.
Q. What was your strategy entering the nationals?
A. I wanted to position myself in the top half of the race by 3 kilometers, then surge at the 5 kilometer mark. As always, I raced to beat the midshipmen of Navy, and, for the first time in my career, the cadets from Air Force. I really had to control my excitement level racing at the “Big Dance.” Toeing the line with the best collegiate runners in the world can be overwhelming, but I remained calm and collected approaching the national championship. I owe my physical preparation to my teammates and coaches at West Point.
Q. How did it feel to compete in such a prestigious race?
A. I’m still a little overwhelmed. This is the best race on the planet, and I’m very fortunate to have been part of it and been able to compete against the best in the country.
Q. Any pre-race rituals?
A. I am very particular about consistency in my pre-race routine. The same sleep time, warm-up routine, breakfast, and music. I listen to The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” before every race. Most importantly, I like to gauge the feel of my team approaching the race and review strategy.
Q. What do you like to do in your spare time?
A. In my spare time, which is hard to find, I enjoy playing piano, golfing, and watching football.
Q. Do you have a role model in life?
A. I have been fortunate to have many incredible role models and exemplary leaders, both civilian and military. However, my greatest role model is my dad, AJ Valeri. He consistently demonstrates how success is not a passive feat. Seeing him work his tail off day after day, and providing so much for everyone around him, inspires me to follow in his footsteps.
Q. Favorite meal?
A. My father’s chicken and eggplant parmigiana is out of this world. It typically follows a celebration or family gathering.
Q. What drove you to serve in the military?
A. I believe that the United States is the greatest nation in the world. Our country has provided my family and I with incredible opportunities for generations. I am a firm believer in trade and reciprocity, and am certain that serving in the US Army is the best way for me to give back to our country. Additionally, the cohesion of the military is unmatched in any other profession; joining the ranks of incredible men and women allows me to represent something greater than myself.
Q. Do you hope to stay involved with running after graduation?
A. I will stay involved in one way or another. Commissioning as an infantry officer will require great endurance. I plan to run the Boston Marathon down the road, but I am uncertain if I will continue running competitively at this time.John Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.