By Tom Renner
Valerie Fox's brothers set an extraordinarily high bar for their younger sibling in helping Danbury HIgh School win state cross country and outdoor track championships. So far, the freshman distance runner has been up to the challenge, and could even surpass the lofty heights set by her male kin.
Fox qualified for the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in the freshman girls 3,200 by running 11:32.99 at the Loucks Games in White Plains, N.Y. on May 13. She is the top-ranked freshman in the state in the 3,200, and owns the 13th fastest time in Connecticut. She also has run 5:25.3 in the 1,600, which puts her among the top six in the state for freshman girls.
These performances have earned her a spot in the Danbury Dream Invitational where she will be racing against some of the fastest girls in Connecticut.
"Coming into the spring, I knew that I was close to meeting the time for the outdoor nationals and that was my primary goal,'' Fox said. "The other thing I wanted to do was bring my times down in my other races. I knew my times would get better from the indoor season."
Valerie found inspiration from her older brothers, Ryan and Bradley, both of whom were captains for Danbury's cross country team, a perennial state power. Her twin brother, Adam, also runs for the Hatters. The Running Foxes -- their mother, Sandi, is also an accomplished distance running athlete -- have supported, pushed and motivated each other since their days as young runners with the Danbury Flyers youth program
"I definitely felt a little bit of pressure to live up to what my brothers did,'' Valerie said. "I didn't say anything about it. I just kept it to myself and didn't discuss it. I knew how much effort I had to put in."
And like all good runners, Valerie learned by watching when her older brothers hit the track. "I learned how to go into a race even when I'm feeling down and not feeling my best,'' she said. "If it doesn't turn out great, so be it. You still have to go out there and put up your best effort."
Fox rarely runs with her older, and faster, brothers. "I don't think,'' she said, "that they really like to run with me." But she does follow some of their training plans, and has found the benefit of even pacing by watching her brothers. "I really like running the longer distances,'' Valerie said. "I can get into my comfort zone and find my pace. The mile is hard because it requires a lot of focus."
Valerie also played midfield for a soccer travel team prior to high school. She chose to forego soccer when she entered high school. "I preferred running,'' she said. "At some points during middle school, I really thought about that. I figured that running was what I was meant to do. I'm definitely more confident running than I was as a midfielder on the soccer team. I just liked it better. I found soccer to be a little bit boring."
Now that she's running full-time, Fox has evolved quickly. She moved into the varsity lineup for the Hatters' cross country team, finishing 41st in the Class LL championship. She has continued to improve during the winter and spring.
"In middle school we only ran every other day,'' Fox said. "In high school we're running six days a week. That makes a big difference. I feel more fit, faster. We do a lot harder training."
Fox's emergence as a standout distance runner should not be surprising, given the family's pedigree. It is safe to say, however, that Valerie's distance running future is as bright as the sun."It's been a really good spring,'' she said. "Most of my times I've cut down by 30 seconds or so. When I look back on it, it's definitely a surprise. All of the hard work has paid off."