There are so many things to think about in a cross-country race.
But Sam Taylor has whittled his list down to two.
When he steps onto the trail Friday in the Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association Cross-Country Championships at Kinsmen Park, the 17-year-old from White Pines is determined to improve his time from last week's city meet and also earn a berth at the all-Ontarios.
Last Wednesday, the Grade 12 student finished second in the Senior Boys Division behind the champion, Daniel Turco of St. Mary's.
Taylor ran the 7-kilometre race in 25:49.60, nearly a minute and 15 seconds back of Turco, who finished in 24:35.58.
"I tried my hardest, but I could have been more confident in my run," said Taylor. "I went in confident, but I needed to be more confident on the trail."
Asked to explain his comments, Taylor, though pleased with his finish, believes he should have been more aggressive. He said he should have attempted to keep up with the pace Turco was setting.
"I know I can run at that pace," Taylor continued. "Dan ran really hard and I just need to always be pushing."
While acknowledging his drive to finish first, Taylor said as long as he runs his best "I was definitely exhausted afterwards," he noted then he's satisfied.
However, he wishes his strategy had been a little different and that's something he hopes to adjust when it comes time to face Northern Ontario's best on Friday.
Taylor plans to be more aggressive as he seeks the top-3 finish (plus top two teams) needed to qualify for the all-Ontarios. This year's OFSAA event is slated for Nov. 5 in Ottawa.
"I'm excited about NOSSA," said Taylor, who's finished second in the Senior Division the only two years he's been involved in the sport.
A year ago, he was No. 2 overall behind Korah's Jack Carlyle in the city meet.
"I'd really like to close the gap between Turco and I," Taylor said of Friday's event, which is scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m.
Action starts at 11 a.m. with the midget girls race.
"But I realize it's more important to stay focused on all of the competitors," Taylor added. "There are a lot of good runners coming from Sudbury and North Bay."
Taylor was fifth at NOSSA a year ago and went on to place 74th at the OFSAA meet. He calls the provincials "a great experience. It was wild there."
Despite always thoroughly enjoying running, Taylor didn't participate as a Grade 9 student living in Wawa and attending Michipicoten High School.
He also didn't run as a Grade 10 student, having enrolled at White Pines after moving to the Sault.
But during the summer of 2010, Taylor met Lorri Purnis, who coaches the Sault Athletic Club.
"She really showed me how running was a true sport and she taught me to really push myself," Taylor said of Purnis.
And he credits his high school coach, Kevin Magill, for motivating him to do his best.
While running track-and-field last spring, Taylor was among the senior boys elite locally. He won the 800 metres and finished second in both the 1,500m and 3,000m at the city meet.
"I love running," Taylor says. "Compared to other sports, I'm the one who controls the outcome. And I love the feeling of being totally exhausted when the race is over."