West Xtra: Moon senior just enjoys running

HIGH SCHOOL TRACK & FIELD

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When it comes to running, Chris Culley is a multi-tasker.

A senior on the Moon Area High School track team, Culley's races range in distance from 400 meters to 5,000, the distance of a high school cross country race. But regardless of whether Culley is on the track or the cross country course, he really just loves to be at the heart of Moon running.

Last spring, Culley placed third in the 800-meter race at the WPIAL Class AAA championships. His time was 1:56.84, and Culley qualified for the PIAA championships. In the 1,600-meter run, Culley placed seventh in the WPIAL and recorded a time of 4:24.68. He missed state qualification by 0.46 seconds.

"It is, actually [a goal to get to states in the mile]," Culley said. "That was one of the things my [assistant] coach [Larry Covelli] and I were talking about ... I put a little bit more mileage on over the winter. Mostly everything else is the same, though, because last year I was so close."

Culley had a great fall season in cross country, placing sixth in the WPIAL and 41st in the state. He attended the Tri-State Track Coaches Association indoor championships this past winter, where he ran the 400-meter race and placed fifth (51.40).

So, how does Culley go from the 5K pace of cross country to a 400-meter -- practically a sprint -- and stay competitive?

"My dad was a sprinter in high school," Culley explained. "So I originally tried to be, like, a shorter distance guy."

The early track experiences in sprints taught Culley the mechanics and strategy of the races. He retained the ability to race shorter distances, even after becoming a skilled distance runner.

"My dad ran like 49s, 48s in the [400-meter race]," Culley added. "It was my goal in the 400 to try to beat his time."

Culley noted that the good-natured family competition remained a driving factor.

"[Culley] can run any event 400 and up and be competitive in those events," Moon Area track coach Nick Bulat said.

Despite Culley's versatile talent, it's the longer distances he prefers.

"I'm definitely a cross country person," Culley said. "I like the change of scenery. Whenever I'm on the track, it feels a little like I'm a hamster."

Culley also noted that the camaraderie of the Moon cross country experience was something he would never forget.

"It's a lot of fun," he said. "Our cross country team, we're like a big family. People get jealous of our team because everyone joins the cross country team in Moon just to have fun."

Next year, Culley will run track and cross country for Duquesne University. He intends to study in a double major in math and physics with a minor in German.

But, until then, Culley will keep up his spirit and dedication for the Moon track team.

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