SKANEATELES, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — “I just couldn’t believe that it actually happened. I actually almost broke down crying at the finish line because that was my main goal of the whole season,” Caleb Bender said.
Bender is the first individual cross country champion in Skaneateles history, something that didn’t come easy.
Bender said, “I got beat by people all the time and I was happy with that. I learned from those races, I learned how to be better, I learned where I could improve. I tried I kept improving and it led me to this point.”
Bender had several sources of motivation when he began the season.
“I wanted to beat my dad. He ran back in college and back in high school and I really wanted to beat him and I got to that point and I just passed it and I remember how happy he was that he raised a son that was able to do that,” Bender said.
Caleb’s dad, also named Caleb, ran a best time of 15:56 and the younger Caleb passed that early in the season. His state title time was even better, finishing in 14 minutes and 41 seconds. Next up is regionals, which his mom, Elizabeth, convinced him to do.
Bender said, “She ran at Federations and she’s run at that course twice. She warned me this course was hard and when I heard that, I decided that I should do it because a hard course is a good fight and I like good fights.”
Always embracing a fight, and with track season next, never shying away from a challenge.
“I’m also hoping to set our school record for the mile and two mile. That’s one of my main goals for this high school career is to put my name up on the wall,” Bender said. “My mom still has her name up on the wall, she’s held it there since she went to school. So I’m gonna try to copy my mom.”