Chris Moen is one of the most outstanding middle distance runners in the history of Montgomery County. In just his sophomore year, he broke the County Championship Meet Record in the 1600 with a time of 4:15.9. As a state champion in the 1600 that same year, he was on top of the world. He came out in his junior year of cross country dominating everyone he ran against for most of the season. He elevated himself to national prominence during indoor track when he clocked a 4:16.76 mile to win the New Balance Games Invitational Mile in New York City. He again broke county meet records and won the state title in the 1600. But something happened at the end of that season. For some reason, he was not the same runner during outdoor track. He couldn't touch his previous mile times. Fans speculated about what was wrong but no one had the answer. It was not until nearly a year later that he appeared to be back in form, breaking the county and state record in the 800-meter run.
Moen is the most talked about and least understood athlete in the state of Maryland. Coming off of his state record performance, Moen opens up and talks about the wild ride that has been his high school career.
MoCoRunning: How did you get into distance running? When and why did it all begin?
Moen: I always had a thing for running. In elementary and middle school whenever we had competitions in which we would run I was always up for the challenge. I've always had a pretty competitive nature and I always played a lot of sports. In elementary school and middle school I was pretty good at soccer and b-ball but I played for teams in which I was more or less a weak link. Running was the only sport in which I was the best, and it was always really fun to give it my all and come out on top. But I really did love to run. I didn't like it just because I was the best. I ran with my dad occasionally and always had a good time doing it. I just never got the same level of satisfaction playing a ball sport as I did sprinting the last 2 blocks of a run all out. So from there I pretty much knew running was what I wanted to do. The summer of my freshman year I started running with the WJ team which was such a cool experience. Danny George, Andrew Jesien, Ben Fowler, Julian Stern, Greg Decker, Jared Schneider...all of those guys were a lot of fun to be around and I'm very thankful for them.
MoCoRunning: Most of us know that your older sister won a couple of hurdle titles for WJ a few years ago. Is track something that the entire Moen family gets involved with?
Moen: Not at all. My dad grew up a skier in Connecticut. He also played a boatload of sports like soccer, basketball and baseball. But he never ran much and for the most part was a skier more than anything. (Now he's an avid tennis player and has enjoyed running over the last couple decades). My mom also did a lot of sports like swimming and tennis. She actually high jumped one year and I think she was pretty good, but never really took it that far. So all in all I come from a pretty athletic family but I wasn't very predisposed to it.
MoCoRunning: Everything happened so quickly for you. By the time you were a sophomore, you were taking down some of the best runners in the state every week. You were running down Ryan Janes, outkicking Malik Zafar, winning burrito miles...when you look back at your sophomore year of track, were those some of the best times of your life?
Moen: Sophomore year was amazing for me. Just like freshman year but I was faster. I'd say what made it so much fun for me was the fact that I was just a sophomore. I had a lot of runners that were older than me like my sister and it made running less stressful. Also I was more or less an underdog so that aspect gave me a lot of motivation.
MoCoRunning: Junior year you went unbeaten against MoCo athletes during cross country and put together an incredible string of races in the mile indoors. Was this a natural progression for you or did you increase your work load to get to that next level?
Moen: I wouldn't really call it natural progression. I think I was just really exited to be an upperclassman and really shine. Outdoor sophomore year gave me so much momentum. It made me really exited to try and be #1. I also did the best training of my life that summer. I did a lot of running with Jesien - I don't think I need to explain much further. But it got me in the best shape of my life. I came into junior year with an absolute fearless mindset and was really motivated to win.
For those two seasons I was on cloud nine. I guess you could call it one huge sugar rush. It gave me so much experience and I do not regret any of the heavy training I did over the summer, but at the same time it was a drastic increase to what I had been doing previously and it really put me at a level I couldn't maintain.
MoCoRunning: In the previous question, I alluded to that string of races that included the Montgomery Invitational, New Balance Games, Montgomery County Championship, Virginia Tech, Millrose Games, Regionals, and States. You seemed damn near invincible during that stretch, taking on some of the best runners in the nation. What was that wild roller-coaster ride like for you?
Moen: It was really awesome. I never felt more competitive in my life. The time period of Moco Invite, New Balance and Counties was the best series of races in my life. I didn't have any anxiety and was always ready and motivated when I toed the line. There was just something in me that wouldn't let me give up. It was a really awesome time period but it made me wonder...how long am I gonna be able to keep this up?
MoCoRunning: After your junior indoor season, you could not get back to form in the mile. You chose to focus on the 800, and did quite well. You also struggled for part of this past cross country season. Can you look back now and tell why you were struggling or is it as mysterious to you as it is to us fans?
Moen: I think over time I've been able to grasp my struggles better. I kind of explained a little bit of it in the above questions but all in all it was mental breakdown. It became harder and harder to get adrenaline pumping into my legs before races. I just didn't have the burning desire, always toeing the line with doubts. It was completely natural and I wouldn't say it's a mystery to why I couldn't get rolling. The sugar rush was simply dying down and I didn't have an answer. But I did have a good post season in outdoor for what I ran. I didn't run a 4:10 or anything but I was happy with my results in the 800 especially considering the early struggles. After track I took some time off, then some more...then some more. The summer was not as intense as the summer before to say the least. I wasn't really worried about it at the time. I used some pretty ignorant logic to not running seriously that summer saying base is overrated and all it did was burn me out. I should have approached last summer a bit less pessimistically. But on the other hand, I think it was good to wind down after my strenuous junior year.
MoCoRunning: You just won the indoor state title in the 800. Can you give us any details on what your training has been like this winter to get back to the top?
Moen: Training was very good. It wasn't as intense as last winter racing wise. I think that helped a bit. I came into indoor with the thought of getting back into the mile but after a crummy 2 mile and moco invite mile, me and my coach decided that the Mile is still a very stressful race on me (mentally) and that it would be best to give it my all in the 800. Personally, I feel pretty comfortable with the 800. It's a quick race. It gives me less time to think about how much pain I'm in at this moment..haha just kidding...but I just feel very comfortable with the distance and as of right now it is the event in which I'm least intimidated by.
As for training...most of it was strength over pure speed. With the exception of one speed workout there was hardly any fine tuning throughout the season. It was all strength work. I also kept my volume up in the later phases of the season which I've never honestly done before. It really helped mentally. It made me go into the postseason not having to worry if I'm backing off too much or too early, the training was never something I doubted this year. I'm also really happy with the outcome and am thrilled for the potential of our 4X8 going into outdoor track.
MoCoRunning: It has been a long and bumpy road, but it looks like you are headed to college in the fall. How did you come to the decision to go to Appalachian State? Can you tell me a little bit about the running program there? Will you run cross country or just track?
Moen: My decision to go to Appalachian State wasn't all that easy at first. I was looking at nearly a dozen other schools. I was talking to coaches every week. I was too busy to do anything with all of the college essays that I had to write. So I went down to App State and talked to the team/coach and got to know the campus. But I still felt that there was something missing. Like the last piece of a puzzle. But soon I found it. Me and Josh were heading over to the cafeteria to eat then go to a class. We both got breakfast burritos, the ones he had been raving about all yesterday. I was rather pessimistic not knowing one could fall in love so deeply with cafeteria food. I was wrong. After having this burrito I contacted my parents and notified them that I was going to attend App St. next year. I signed right then and there, with a pen in my right hand and my second breakfast burrito in the left.
I'm just kidding. But the burritos there are exquisite. Going into my college search I knew that one of the most important features would be the environment. My dream was to be at a school that is very outdoor oriented. A place with awesome running, hiking, camping.... a place where you can have fun being outside. I knew that these features would be the most influential upon my overall happiness. At first I thought I wouldn't find it unless I went to Boulder. This wasn't going to happen. I thought it was just a dream and I would have to compromise. But, with much thanks to my mom, I got in contact with Appalachian State and was blown away. For me it was everything in one. The setting, the coach, the track program, the athletes and academics, and of course the notorious breakfast burritos. I was so amazed by how similar App State was to my initial "ideal school." I feel really lucky to have found it.
Program - their program is real solid. They are in the Southern Conference (with schools like Davidson, CofC, Furman, Elon) and are a big powerhouse within there division. They seem a bit in the middle of nowhere but are only 3 hours away from VT and also very close to Duke/NC State/UNC. They get great competition and definitely set high standards within their program. Also, I will be doing cross country and am much exited about it. They placed 10th in the regional meet just beating Duke and losing to Wake Forest by 2 points. A whole handful of the guys are returning and are really exited about what they can do next year. It'll be fun to work hard and try to be a part of that.