Nathan Alford is excited to be engrossed in science, math and running.
The member of the the Lakewood High School graduating class of 2021, who qualified for the Division 2 Lower Peninsula Cross Country Championships and set a school-record in the 3200-meter run with the Viking varsity boys’ track and field team this spring, signed his National Letter of Intent to join the Ferris State University Mens’ Cross Country and Track and Field teams in February.
He has high hopes of making the Bulldog varsity roster as a freshman, but also knows that is going to be a challenge. While it was a freshman, American International College’s Ezra Mutai, who won the 2019 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championship [the last one held], that is not how the transition goes for most high school runners moving up from 5K to 10K and 8K races against more experienced athletes.
“What I have heard is that as a high school senior you’re killing all the competition all the time, and going into college as a freshman you’re going to get killed now,” Alford said. “I’ve been told don’t let it damage your ego, because people think I have a big ego.”
Alford chuckled a bit when asked if he thinks he has a big ego.
“I don’t know. I think I’m proud of my own accomplishments, but I think I have a reason to be proud because I have worked so hard. I don’t brag like, ‘I’m better than you,’ but if people ask about what I do I will tell them, ‘I win sometimes.’”
He won the Greater Lansing Activities Conference Cross Country Championship in October 2021, setting a new personal record with his time of 16 minutes 14.9 seconds, and then a few days later qualified for the cross country state finals with an eighth-place regional finish. He was forced into quarantine soon after and was unable to compete in the finals at Michigan International Speedway.
Alford felt like his senior year was cursed a bit, first missing the cross country finals and then battling an injury that limited him on the track all spring. He still managed to set new personal records in the 400-meter dash, the 800-meter run, the 1600-meter run and then finally set a new Lakewood school record in the 3200-meter run with a time of 9:56.08 at the Greater Lansing Honor Roll Meet of Champions June 1. He had been even a few seconds faster than that in the 3200 at an unofficial, timed event, Distance Night at the CAT, hosted by Grand Rapids Catholic Central a few days prior to the Honor Roll Meet.
He won the 1600-meter run at the GLAC Championship as a senior and was second in the 3200-meter run, behind Olivet senior Noah Griffith. Soaking wet and covered in mud, Alford leaned across the finish line at Turkeyville six tenths of a second ahead of Griffith to win the GLAC Cross Country Championship last fall.
Griffith also has plans to run for Ferris State University, and Alford said the two are planning to be roommates at Ferris State as freshmen.
“I am really looking forward to it,” Alford said. “I have been looking forward to college since freshman year. I wanted an environment that was more serious, more professional, especially when it comes to running and stuff … I have always wanted a team that has the same mindset as I do, of being that elite, next-level athlete. In school, I have always wanted to take the classes I felt would benefit me the most, not like art or history, I wanted to take science and math classes because that is what I want to do with my life. I have always wanted an environment that is more focused on my interests, and I always though college could be that place.”
The hard work continues for Alford this summer. He is working on strength training this month, and has plans to transition to more mileage based work as the calendar turns to July and in the lead-up to move-in day in Big Rapids in late August. He thinks he’ll be running 80-90 miles a week by then. He currently travels to AL!VE in Charlotte five or six times a week for CrossFit training – doing a lot of reps of light-lifting work and movements.
He has plans to run in a 10K or two before the summer is done to see what it is like to race at that distance.
Alford said he has been running as long as he can remember. His parents, Bill and Dawn Alford, met at Lansing Community College where they both ran competitively. Nathan also wrestled before high school and during his freshman year at Lakewood, but he decided to focus solely on running after a knee injury on the mat.
Since the seventh grade, when he got braces put on, Nathan has known he wanted a job in the dental field. He plans to get into the pre-dental program at Ferris State University. Nathan was one of the top scholars in his graduating class at Lakewood this spring, and is a member of the National Honor Society and the Lakewood Circle of Excellence.