Tallahassee Leon seniors Sukhi Khosla and Hunter Scott go 1-2 in the mile at Chiles' Capital City Track Championship. Khosla signed with prolific Oklahoma State on Wednesday, ahead of hometown Florida State.
Being at the top can get lonely sometimes.
Ultimately, that was the reason Tallahassee Leon star distance runner Sukhi Khosla used to make his much-anticipated college decision.
Having long been known as a decision between Oklahoma State and Florida State, the commitment became official when Khosla called both programs from his home Wednesday night and informed them of his choice.
Winning the services of the four-time state champion (and perhaps six-time if he repeats as 1600- and 3200-meter champ in two week's time) were the Cowboys and head coach Dave Smith, whose Oklahoma State program has won three NCAA cross country titles since 2009.
"After however long, I made the decision," Khosla said. "They're tough to beat right now. They've got like six sub-4:00 milers right now. It's tough to beat that. I feel like now is a good time to test the waters and get out of my hometown and see what it's like in the world."
Khosla called it a "safe opportunity," despite having a hometown connection to FSU and head coach Bob Braman. He's the local kid, raised at Raa Middle School, who once finished dead last in his first race, that went on to prolific Leon High, where he not only won, but ran 8:59 two-mile times, broke 15:00 in cross country, and ran 4:05 to win last year's 1600 state title.
What's safe is Smith told him that if he absolutely hated his first semester, he'd grant a full release from his scholarship no questions asked to return to his hometown, where Braman said he'd wait with open arms.
"It was always all about the running, but at first it seemed obvious I should stay in town for a good program where I have my coach and a good support system," Khosla said. "I know there are fantastic trails here. When OK State first called me, I said, 'I know I'm not going to Oklahoma.'"
But Leon coach Andrew Wills told him to keep an open mind and to explore all his options. That meant a trip to Stillwater this past February, where Khosla was blown away by the experience and ready to sign upon return to Tallahassee.
And then Wills told him to keep an open mind again, to take his visit to FSU. And again Khosla was blown away, finally settling for completely torn between the two great opportunities.
"I was right back on the fence," he said. "I sat down a few days ago and thought about everything. I had a conversation with Dave Smith and he basically said it was a safe time to leave home and give it a try. And he's definitely right, and had the right things to say to me."
Khosla, whose current track season hasn't been the record-shattering season he planned, has labored at the front for a while with no one to push him throughout a race. Finally, he thinks that caught up to him, and it was resulted in times not reminiscent of his quality.
He suffered his first loss in two years at the FSU Relays, dropping the mile on the final straightaway, his 4:17 a reminder that he needs people faster than him to train with, to take the pressure off.
"All that definitely came into play, but it came into play on both sides," Khosla explained. "At FSU, I wouldn't be the No. 1 guy going in, but if I get where I want to be, by year two or three I should be No. 1. And then I'd be running right back at the top again. At Oklahoma State, I may not even make top seven next year unless I have a good year. If I'm off, I'm not even on the varsity team.
"It's completely different," Khosla continued. "I'll have no pressure and can run with 10-20 different guys each day, who are close to the same level as me."
Khosla knows he's not running at the same level as he did last year. That means upcoming races in his respective region meet and then the state meet will be tougher. He's not sure if he'll even attempt the distance double again, perhaps opting to run a leg on the 4x800 instead of either the 1600 or 3200.
His competitive nature says to go for it, repeat as champion. It's that same drive that he believes will help him succeed at OK State, along with a well-deserved rest period before training with his desired new orange and black teammates.
"My senior year hasn't gone the way I pictured it, but you've got to take the good with the bad," Khosla said. "I'm going to shut down for one or two weeks, which I've never really done before, and then just reset for a good freshman year of college. I don't see this lull I've had as the end of my good running. I still have high goals for college and Olympic aspirations. We'll see where it takes me."