Based on the early season results, Sunrise Mountain senior Brandon Kocmoud is one of the top cross country runners in the state and a favorite to win the Division II title in November.
And he’s got to be the only one of those contenders who wasn’t originally planning to run this year.
“Originally, I was going to do football instead of running,” Kocmoud said. “I was going to do football, basketball and maybe track in the spring. But I was afraid to get injured for basketball. Now, since I’m getting better in running, it’s like, do I want to risk injury in basketball to running.”
It’s been quite a metamorphosis from spring to fall for Kocmoud. He placed 11th at the 4A-I state cross country meet and wasn’t sure he could — or wanted to — continue his running career in college.
Now, several Ivy League and Division I schools have showed interest, and he’s focused on his running career like never before — to the point that he might have to join the basketball team late, if at all.
“Year by year, it’s been a matter of getting him to push a little more to understand what it takes to be at that level,” said Sunrise Mountain cross country coach Torrin Lattie. “I think he finally realize that. After many conversation about what these top guys do, now he’s finally putting in that kind of work.”
After starting his season in sixth place at the Sept. 4 Sole Sports Festival in Scottsdale, Kocmoud announced his arrival the next two weeks.
He bested a field littered with solid Division I teams Sept. 11 at the Chandler Invitational, holding off Gilbert Highland senior Cory Breinholt.
Against an even deeper field at the Sept. 18 George Young Invitational in Scottsdale, Kocmoud placed third. He outpaced defending 5A-I state champion Jorge Martinez of Phoenix Alhambra, but finished behind Breinholt and the winner, Phoenix Brophy Prep senior Will Firth.
In an odd quirk of Arizona’s new division setups and the allure of private schools, Kocmoud could win a state title without being the best distance runner in his neighborhood.
“Will Firth has always been one of the kids I looked at, because he was so much better than me as a freshman,” Kocmoud said. “He lives right across the street.”
While he won’t face Firth, Breinholt or Martinez at state, Kocmoud has plenty on his plate in Division II.
Those runners, along with Deer Valley senior Josh Espinoza are in Division I, composed of all the old 5A-I and most of 5A-II.
The smaller 5A-II schools and the largest 4A-II schools, including Cactus, are now with all of the old 4A-I classification in the new Division II. That means Kocmoud picked up a rival in Phoenix Camelback senior Eric Zuza, whom he beat at Chandler.
But the main obstacles to a state title come from Tucson and placed ahead of Kocmoud at the 4A-I state meet last year. Catalina Foothills junior Rex Woodbury finished third, Canyon del Oro senior Daniel Wong was fourth and another Catalina Foothills senior, Dylan Souza, came in sixth.
“He’s aware of all those kids. That’s what I think has given him more confidence, that he’s gone by some of those kids,” Lattie said. “I think it’s got him a little on edge that he hasn’t seen those southern Arizona kids yet. We may schedule that Desert Twilight meet in Queen Creek so he can compete against those guys before state.”
Kocmoud said Sunrise Mountain has a good shot at the team title, aided by fellow senior Nicholas Hogan. Again, Catalina Foothills is the favorite.
Once the in-state season is finished, Kocmoud is looking at running in the Footlocker West Region meet Dec. 4 in Walnut, Calif. A good performance there would sew up a spot in the Foot Locker nationals Sept. 11 in San Diego.
This is at the start of basketball season, hence Kocmoud’s conflict. He was the second-leading scorer, top rebounder and leading assist man for Sunrise Mountain’s 4A-I playoff team as a junior.
“We’re looking pretty good. I’m looking forward to the season, but I’m not sure if I’ll go out for the team,” Kocmoud said. “It’s up in the air, especially because there’s races like the Foot Locker during basketball season.”
If he stays with baskeball, Kocmoud will have another transition to track season. He said his best event is the 1,600 meters and he also runs the 3,200. In 2009, he placed fourth in both events at the 4A-I meet.
In college, Kocmoud wants to continue his cross country and track careers, and his early results have colleges coming out of the woodwork.
He’s heard from Columbia, Brown and the Naval Academy, as well as Colorado State. No schools have made a formal offer yet. Kocmoud is interested in studying criminal psychology.
“I’ve really improved a lot and I’ve put in a lot of hard work. It’s great to see that pay off,” Kocmoud said.