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Swift Spartan: Desai attempts golden close


Last month, Solebury School profiled senior Aum Desai on its Instagram account.

At the Young Artist Series Concert.

Desai plays alto sax in the school’s jazz and classical ensembles.

“I enjoy playing saxophone,” Desai shared. “I find the intentionality of the practice of music and being disciplined, attention to detail and breath control play into my running and the two things have made me better in both departments.”

While Desai is a talented musician, it is his distance running that leaves competitors singing the blues.

In February, Columbia-bound Desai repeated as a two-time gold medalist at the PAISAA Indoor Track Championships – the state championships for private schools – winning the 1,600 meter in 4:38.52 and the 3,200 meter in 9:48.45.

“He is such a hard worker. He was inspired by the better runners when he was a freshman and he wanted to be them,” noted Solebury track coach Terri Miller. “He took the coaching to heart and taken it to the next level … and the next level. And he is inspiring other kids to do that.”

Desai has dominated conference meets. He led a Solebury 1-2-3 sweep at the Penn-Jersey Athletic Association cross country championships in October; his 5K time of 16:19 beat runner-up and teammate Sawyer Betz by nearly one minute.

Last Wednesday, in his final race on his home track, Desai took home three golds in the PJAA championships – in the 800 meter (2:06.01), the 1,600 meter (4:45.31) and the 3,200 meter (10:20.91), making for a good afternoon’s worth of work. Desai won the 3,200 meter by over 26 seconds, giving him ample time to reflect mid-race.

“This was the track where I trained so hard with countless workouts and long runs,” Desai remembered. “It was a culmination of all of those memories so to give back to the community one last time was really emotional.

“An important aspect of being an athlete and competing at a high level is focus, trying to block out the distractions and execute to the best of your ability,” he continued. “My last event was the eight laps and every lap a different memory came up.”

Desai gets one last chance to win some hardware for Solebury when the PAISAA championships take place on Monday.

His summer highlight will be the chance to compete on Father’s Day weekend at the Nike Outdoor in Hayward Field in Oregon … the Lambeau or Wrigley of track. Desai ran in both the 3,000 meter and 2-mile run at the Nike Indoor Nationals at the Armory last March, showing he can compete with the nation’s best.

A Flemington day student, Desai started running in eighth grade because his best friend did too. “As a sophomore, I started taking it more seriously because I saw I had potential,” Desai shared. “But I didn’t realize how competitive the sport could be. The summer going into my junior year is when I put in all of the work – 50 or 60 miles a week – and I jumped from a 5:00 flat mile to 4:20.”

In the summer going into his senior year, Desai put in even more miles and work. “Most weeks, I don’t have a rest day,” he admitted. “I prioritize going very easy on my easy days.” Desai pointed out that frequent easy days not only builds his aerobic base, but removes the temptation to go hard – and thus be susceptible to injury – on easy days. Desai’s durability is a big asset.

“The state championships and national qualifiers starting coming my way. I’m proud to have made these big jumps,” Desai shared. “I try and to train the right way, I’m confident in my preparation and that preparation has led me to where I am now.”

The September 5K Mill Street Run in Bristol served as Desai’s coming out party from good to great. He finished eighth in 2022, admittedly a little overwhelmed by the fast pace out of the gate. In 2023, “I made notes to start hard while relaxing at a faster pace and train my body to not tense up,” Desai reflected. “I worked through three packs and won the race in the last 200 meters.”

Desai interjected a comment as the interview wound down. “Something special for me to include: all of the achievements wouldn’t have been possible without my amazing Coach Miller and my wonderful parents,” he credited. “My parents, coach and teammates are the reason I can say all of this.”

Let Desai break down his race strengths and weaknesses, but he clearly closes well.

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