AUBURN —If Faisal Noor has his way, Cheverus’ Jack Terwilliger will have some company at the Class A state cross country meet in late October.

Terwilliger, the Cheverus senior widely considered the top runner in the state, might want to note that when Noor sets a goal, it usually takes a viral attack to keep the Edward Little senior from reaching it.

“I’m hoping to go after Jack Terwilliger and just stick to him,” Noor said. “I don’t care if he beats me or not. If I don’t win, I’ll get second. I just want to get a good time.”

Some cross country runners might just settle for good health after the frustrating fall and winter Noor had last year.

“I had a good start of the season, then at the end of the season, the whole team got sick,” he said.

A bout with pneumonia dropped Noor from a time of 17:27 and ninth place at KVAC’s to 17:48 and 15th place at regionals, then 18:03 and 43rd place at states.

“During the race, people were asking me ‘What’s going on?'” he said. “Then they passed me.”

Noor got off to a strong start during indoor track, too, but was again weakened by illness at the end of the season.

Undaunted, he ran outdoor track in the spring.

“When it came to outdoor, I actually stayed healthy,” he said.

And he saw what he could actually accomplish when he stayed healthy. He finished fifth in the 3,200 meters in Class , keeping pace with Terwilliger and other top cross country runners from last year.

Bolstered by the encouraging end to the 2009-10 school year, Noor trained hard through the summer. A practicing Muslim, Noor knew that Ramadan would start and end 10 days earlier (Aug. 11 -Sep. 9) this year, which  coincides the start of high school fall sports practices and the first week of the regular season.

The holiest month of the Muslim year, Ramadan requires observers to refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. That means Noor can not even have a sip of water when he is running. But he shrugs off any physical hardship.

“It’s not that bad when you run,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for four years, so I know how to run through it. I do the workout that coach gives me. Like yesterday, we did four miles at 5:50 apiece. I did it. I was five seconds faster than the workout.”

The 2010 season is off to a promising start. Last Friday, Noor easily won the Red Eddies’ season-opening meet with Lewiston, Cony and Brunswick in 17:11.

Noor’s family is from Somalia, but Faisal was born in Kenya, where his family fled to escape the civil war in their home country. They moved to Auburn at the end of 2006 and Faisal, the fourth of nine children and a life-long soccer player, took up cross country even though his family was skeptical and he himself knew little about the sport.

“They said ‘You’re going to kill yourself. Why are you running? Blah, blah, blah,” Noor said.

“My freshman year, I didn’t even know what cross country was,” he said. “I didn’t even know what three miles was. I’d ask the guy I was running with ‘How long do we have until we get there?’ I would sprint at the start and then I would die. I was running (the 3-mile course), like, 26 minutes. I was second-to-last the first meet of my life. My sophomore year, I trained hard and jumped to 18 minutes.”

Noor has been training to break the 17-minute mark consistently at the start of the season. EL coach Ralph Fletcher, who is filling in for longtime coach Dan Campbell while he helps a friend organize a marathon out West, said it’s a reachable goal.

“He’s a hard worker,”Fletcher said. “He’s got a wonderful attitude and good leg speed.”

“He usually has a smile on his face,” he said. “He pretends he’s tired and lazy, but we all know the truth.”

Noor may keep up a languid appearance to try to catch the competition off-guard, but he isn’t fooling anyone. Self-motivation is one of his strengths. He credits Campbell with fostering that strength by having him run with the Eddies’ top competitors as a sophomore.

Besides Terwilliger, Noor’s targets for 2010 including helping the Eddies with their goal of winning the KVAC and Eastern A. Individually, he would like to threaten 16 minutes once the championship season arrives.

“That’s what I promised myself my sophomore year,” he said.

With good health, he may just fulfill that promise.


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