This past weekend saw Tampa Jesuit's James Osborne on the cusp of a coveted trip to compete with the nations best distance runners in the 27th running of the Footlocker/Kinney National Championships in San Diego. His game plan was simple. With perfect running conditions, he would line up on the right side of the start, get out quick, steer clear of the traffic in the woods, and hopefully have enough gas left after what was sure to be a freakish pace to be in the top 10 at the finish and start packing for the Harbor City.
There are those who think about greatness and then there are those who are willing to go to the outer edges of their ability to accomplish it - "runners with heart". Put James Osborne into the latter category. As the 9th fastest Footlocker South returnee, he chased the dream for a good portion of the race until every last ounce of energy had been drained and the mind could no longer overcome the physical. At least he can always say he had "the guts to try".
The Duke Blue Devil recruit and signee started chasing the dream as a freshman Tiger after receiving a letter from Coach Mike Boza telling him about the Jesuit Cross-Country and distance program. Up until then, like a lot of other good fellow runners, he had always considered himself a soccer player !
It wasn't long before James started excelling in his new sport. As a sophomore, he was in mid 16's 5K shape and it really wasn't until his Junior year of cross-country that he had his breakout race at the District meet, clocking 15:28 ( finishing second to his team mate Andy Biladeau) and letting the running community know that he had arrived.
To prove it wasn't a fluke or just a terribly fast course, James finished 6th at the State meet clocking 15:32, and followed up those fast times in the spring, where he ran 9:19 for the 3200, finishing 3rd at the Mobile Meet of Champions. Along with fast times comes increased pressure and expectations. James credits Andy, who knows a thing or two about dealing with pressure and expectations, with passing on a lot of good advice while they were team mates. One of the biggest tips from Andy was to be professional as a runner and to uphold the Tiger creed. It's safe to say that James has continued to carry the torch in elegant fashion.
Coach Boza has also played a huge part in James' rise to the top. James credits Coach Boza with instilling a work ethic that has allowed him to excel and has provided the inspiration over the years to seek new challenges in distance running. Coach Boza is described by James as being "intense", and that intensity allows those runners in the Tiger program to succeed at the highest levels in the state, year after year. The Jesuit Tiger Cross-country team have won 7 consecutive District Championships, 8 consecutive Regional Championships, and were crowned State champions in 1998, 2000, 2004, and most recently 2005 where James finished second to Bishop Kenny's Luke Russell.
As co-captain of this year's team along with Phillip Scrivner, James and his team mates had several goals going into his senior season. Their over-riding goal was to repeat as State Champion followed closely by qualifying for the Nike Team Nationals in Portland. Together the team raced in several high level meets the first of which was the University of South Florida Invitational where James finished 1st by a wide margin, running a 5K PR of 15:22. The Jesuit boys were the USF Invitational champions outdistancing Colonial in second place, 55-76.
The next meet on the schedule for Jesuit was the FSU invitational at Miccosukee Greenway and in line with previous years, Coach Boza had his top senior Osborne go up against the college men in the 8K for some early college seasoning. James sums up his experience this way, "Awesome, kind of like racing 100 Andy's". After finishing 29th overall in a time of 26:34, James 5:20 per mile over 8k was a benchmark on which Duke's Coach Ogilvie can envision a good many battles in the ACC in the upcoming years.
As team co-captain, James relished the opportunity this past season to guide his fellow team mates through the hectic cross country season that saw them ranked as high as #3 in the NTN Southeast rankings during the second and third weeks of the season. Although NTN's were always second to winning a State Championship, James and his team mates were in position to solidify a top ranking if they had a good showing at FLRunners VI against the likes of Chiles, Holy Trinity, and Seminole. After not participating in the Pre-State meet in 2004, the guys were more than ready to make a big statement but unfortunately didn't race well as a team, although afterwards James would say he felt he ran his "best race of the season", that saw him finish second to Flagler Palm Coasts' 2 time Footlocker finalist, Justin Harbour.
On that epic day at Little Everglades, James found himself in the lead pack with everyone else crossing the mile mark around 4:50. As the runners started to stretch out on the long upgrade the second time past the grandstands, Justin made a series of moves on the curves and James found himself running alone as they hit the infield. As Justin had cranked down the pace throughout the race, there was still way too much distance for James to make up on the homestretch as Justin started to falter during the homestretch. By then Justin had done the necessary work to guarantee the victory, and James had to settle for second, finishing with fine time of 15:34, holding off Jonathon Blocker of Chiles in third at 15:35.
With his senior season behind him, James can look in the rearview mirror but will undoubtedly tell you, the real action is still out the front window as he heads into his final Track season and then off to college. There's still a team State Track Title to reclaim and the ever so elusive title of individual State Champion to add to the resume.
After looking at schools such as Florida State, Florida, and William and Mary, James eventually saw the best fit for him based on Academics first and Athletics second, as a Blue Devil. With 3 of the 32 just announced Rhodes Scholarship winners being from Duke, it's evident that the schools prestigious academics are well regarded throughout the intellectual community.
There's rampant talk that this may be a banner recruiting year for the Men's Blue Devil program to complement the Ladies program which was ranked #1 nationally for much of the year and eventually finished 3rd at the NCAA Championships. James will join fellow Floridian Dan Daly, a former Fighting Scot from St. Andrews High on the men's team that finished 5th at the ACC Championships.
5K 15:22 - USF Invitational
1600 4:22 - FHSAA 2A Region 3
3200 - Mobile Meet of Champions