Dominic Sclafani, from Oxford Hills, nears the end of the Class A state cross country championshps in Belfast in Nov. 2016.

PARIS — The top boys’ cross country runner in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference is the best for a reason.

He researches. A lot.

“I’m a math guy, so I look at pacings a lot,” Dominic Sclafani said. “I’m not really a biology guy, but I do look up how going out fast will affect lactic acid buildup during a race, so I do typically try to start slower so it doesn’t happen too quickly.”

The Oxford Hills senior is the top runner in the KVAC — based on times — and one of the top runners in Class A, and he attributes a lot of his success to delving into the times and tendencies of his competitors.

“Over the years, I started to look for racers that run similar to how I do,” Sclafani said. “I would just look for them at the start of races and then after the first mile I just do my own thing after that.”

Sclafani’s growth as a runner is something that Vikings head coach Luc Roy has taken note of and has tried to accelerate his runner’s growth the best he can.

“I’ve had other runners take it serious but not have the same results,” Roy said. “He works harder than pretty much any runner I’ve ever had. We’ve had to modify the workouts to try to fit his goals.”

At the Festival of Champions meet at Belfast last weekend Sclafani ran a time of 16:37, good for 28th overall in a race that included runners from all over Maine and New England. His workouts were catered for running well for the largest race of the season, but it went deeper for Sclafani and Roy than just running fast.

“We knew where we wanted him time-wise,” Roy said. “We compared seasons past of athletes he wanted to run against to try to figure out what group he wanted to go with. We even broke it down to which box we were in so we could find runners to go with and sideline along.”

As with any Festival meet with perfect weather, the top runners went out fast, which ended any real race preparation that Sclafani may have had in place. Sclafani came through the first mile at just over five minutes.

“This has always happened to him at the Festival of Champions, where he breaks out a little too hot and ends up in the top five,” Roy said. “But he handled it pretty well when he came through the first mile at 5:10 and didn’t blow up like he did the previous time through. His goals change from week to week because he will look at who will be there and his expectations based on who is competing.”

Sclafani didn’t always run long distances. The senior was scouted by Roy in middle school after the coach saw his distance-running potential in track and as a soccer player.

“I was a very mediocre soccer player so I thought ‘hey let’s try something new,'” Sclafani said. “In my freshman year I didn’t really know how to race a 5K. I had never run more than a mile before freshman year, so that was interesting.”

As Roy mentioned, Sclafani worked harder than anyone on the team to get to where he is now. This was evidenced during his win at Leavitt on Sept. 22.

The Vikings senior was working on pacing with his coach and was told not to lead the first mile.

“At Leavitt, the mile marker is kind of disputed,” Roy said. “I was standing at the actual mile marker and I kind of reprimanded him for being in first when he came by. But, he ran away with it there and he was really excited to get his first win on that course.”

After the race, Sclafani said he was surprised that he won after doing frequent long runs. The surprise may have come from — as Roy put it — not realizing the connection between his speed workouts and his growth this season as a runner.

Since then, Sclafani understands that his speed workouts are crucial.

“I think (the speed workouts) have helped a lot with the last mile because that’s where I slow down the most,” Sclafani said. “I don’t have a kick at all at the end, I usually just kind of putz in.”

The senior wants to peak for the state championships, after an injury ruined his junior season.

“I definitely wanted to do well at states and try to qualify for New Englands,” Sclafani said. “That would be nice because last year I sprained my shoulder right before KVACs and so I was kind of slow for the rest of the year.”

After high school, Sclafani is pondering his running plans, as well as his major.

“I like to read a lot,” Sclafani said. “I have thought about running in college, but it would have to be at a D-II or D-III college … it would take up a lot of time. I am interested in majoring in general chemistry and working as a lab researcher after that.”

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