A season of excellence and acknowledgement may only be the beginning of personal bests for Southern Oregon distance phenom Cameron Kruez.

A season of excellence and acknowledgement may only be the beginning of personal bests for Southern Oregon distance phenom Cameron Kreuz.

Kreuz, a senior, has already qualified for nationals in both the 800-meter run and the 1,500. He owns the nation's fifth-best mark in the 1,500 (3 minutes, 48.50 seconds) — he broke an SOU record and finished sixth at the prestigious Chico State Invitation on April 11 — and the 12th-best time in the 800 (1:52.68).

"The last 300 definitely made that race," Kreuz said of his record 1,500 run. "I knew I was up against some of the best guys in the country. It was the deepest field I've been in yet."

Kreuz, 21, hails from Portland and has been competitively running cross country since his freshman year at Lincoln High School. He began competing in track and field his senior year finding his second collegiate sport.

"He continues to get better and better," said SOU track and field coach Brent Ericksen. "It's fun to watch him keep improving like he is."

Running took his focus after Kreuz stopped playing tennis competitively as a high school senior. His dedication, which led to an All-American honor as an SOU cross country runner in the fall, proves it.

"I played tennis since I was 8 competitively and my junior year I switched focus to running," Kreuz said. "My dad always had me doing fun runs when I was younger but nothing I ever trained for or was competitive in."

As a high schooler, Kreuz qualified for the state cross country meet twice, finding dedication in one of his life's enjoyments. Kreuz found a group of athletes that he connected with after about 10 years of tennis.

"Tennis is much more of a mental sport," Kreuz said. "With running you just go out there and do it."

The heat pads before practice and ice baths after illustrate Kreuz's dedication, which has been amped up for his senior year.

"At first running was really for a social aspect, (now) it has become more of a way of life," Kreuz said. "It has definitely made me a tougher person and increased my work ethic."

Kreuz prepares for meets by focusing on trying to peak his form for nationals. There are strategies discussed during meetings with coaches followed by meals that feature the endurance runner's traditional pasta a night before the race.

"I try not to focus on anything but the meet and do some visualization and technical breathing," Kreuz said. "With most endurance athletes, pasta is big for getting that carbohydrate-loaded meal."

Kreuz intends to run for many more years and says he's willing to do what it takes to both compete and live the runner's life, which was instilled by his parents.

"I definitely want to stay involved in running, either through coaching or competing if that works out," said Kreuz, who will graduate in June with a bachelors degree in health and physical education.

"Not only is he having a special year," Erickson said, "but if he wants to continue on, there are opportunities to do that."

Cerebral about his sport, Kreuz comes up with a game plan prior to every race. Part of the strategy Kreuz considers is his closing speed, or final 300-meters. It's here that most races are won or lost.

"I sit down with the coaches and go over strategy or what my splits should be," Kreuz said. "We try to find a plan to go there and race my best."

Coaching and practice have been essential to his success this year, and it has all come together after the challenge of working with three coaches in four years.

"We are focusing more of the aerobic aspect of training — we have been hitting more miles," Kreuz said. "We have hit about 70 miles a week now to peak at nationals."

Nationals are scheduled for May 21-23 in St. Louis, Mo. Kreuz remains dedicated to the lifestyle and season with two meets left before the Cascade Conference championship, May 7-9 in Portland.

"Conference is a big race we all take seriously," Kreuz said. "We are also setting things up and looking towards nationals."

Kreuz and the coaching staff are undecided which event he will take on at nationals. It could be just the 1,500, the 800, or both.

"With multiple heats and races," Erickson said, "Cameron has the speed that can handle those kinds of meets."

Setting a personal record is the goal every time Kreuz takes the track and he remains dedicated to the group he's connected with.

"I' definitely like the attention," said Kreuz about his three Cascade Conference athlete of the week awards. "I feel like the spotlight has been on me a lot lately, but I am sure someone else will get it soon."