Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Mill Creek's Eric Westog has emeressed himself in cross country. The sophomore, who took fourth at the Gwinnett County championship, tracks all of the top runners in the world and emulates their training habits.
Eric Westog is a wealth of running knowledge.
The way he talks about the sport, it's a little shocking that he's only been involved with cross country for two years.
"He's a student of the sport," Mill Creek coach Andy Christie said. "You can throw out any African runners or anybody in the world and he'll tell you their stats. We'll joke around about it. He's totally immersed in the running world."
Westog treats running the way many teenagers follow fantasy football teams or baseball playoff races.
He reads running magazines, checks out running websites daily and can give you names and times of runners like some people recite Peyton Manning's touchdowns passes or Albert Pujols' batting average.
"Last year when I started running, I fell in love with it," Westog said. "I decided I wanted to try and be really good at it. To be really good at it you have to run like the best and see what they are doing."
Ask Westog the top runners in a variety races from the mile to a 10K to a marathon and he'll give you their names like he just saw their highlights on SportsCenter. Their top time and if it's a world record will shortly follow.
"I know all the big names, every time they've run," Westog said. "I love everything about running."
Westog has turned into a pretty good runner himself in just a short time. He took fourth at the Gwinnett County championships earlier this month and has already broken the 16-minute mark.
Christie could tell he had a special runner last year when Westog was in the top seven at the team's time trial.
"At the time trial, I thought people were maybe taking it easy or something," Westog said.
As a freshman, Westog was 24th at county, 12th at the Region 7-AAAAA meet and took 54th at state. It was a pretty strong showing for a first-year runner.
"He automatically had the drive to be the best he can be," Christie said. "I had to hold him back sometimes because he wanted to do more. He just always wants to do everything to a T."
From stretching and ice baths to visits to a chiropractor or a massage, Westog does all the little things to help him be a better runner. It's those kids of things that he's picked up on while following some of the world's top runners, including his favorite Chris Solinsky, the former 10K world record holder.
"They are so good I can't imagine it," Westog said. "I just want to get to that level."
Westog holds a personal record of 15 minutes, 54 seconds, which he set at the county meet. He's one of a handful of runners that Christie has coached to break 16 minutes and the first sophomore to reach the milestone, including former state champion Bobby Reyes.
Westog is familiar with Reyes' success under Christie. His knowledge of running isn't just of the world's top runners. He has a firm grasp of the running hotbed in Gwinnett County.
He rattles off some the county's all-time greats like Brookwood's Tyler Anyan, Grayson's Kirubel Erassa and Berkmar's Girma Mecheso.
"I know every time they've run and all the course records," he said.
Westog is a Wikipedia of running knowledge, studying all of the top names and times in cross country. But if his success continues, he might be reciting some of his own records some day and maybe even a state title.
"I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but yeah that would be one of my goals," Westog said.