Catawba Ridge runner Sam Rich, shown here during cross-country season, continues to up his status as one of the top runners in the country.

If one of the main things in distance running is to distance oneself from the competition, consider Sam Rich miles ahead.

Rich recently won the two-mile event at the adidas Nationals in Virginia Beach Feb. 27 in a personal record time of 8:58, giving him the top two-mile time in the entire country. A junior at Catawba Ridge, Rich improved on his No. 1 time in the country dropping it from 9:05 by seven seconds. The two-mile event was on an indoor track and was on the same track he set the 9:05 mark in January.

“I felt really strong going into the meet,” he said. “I felt really confident going in. I knew I had a chance of doing well.”

Running inside on a track and outdoors on a track is different in so many ways. For Rich, mastering both is something he has been working on.

“Indoor is a little bit harder,” he said. “Indoor track is 200 meters and there is more turns instead of a long straight away. Indoor is banked on the curves. It is nice not to have wind and worry about the outside elements.”

Rich said he doesn’t train or prepare any differently for running indoor versus outdoor, saying the biggest thing to do is keep his milage up so he is able to pull off the events without any trouble.

Catawba Ridge opens its track season this week. Rich has one more out of state meet in Texas in mid-March where he is running a 5K.

Rich, who won the 4A state cross-country championship last November, gave the Copperheads their first state champion in any sport. He is running the mile and two-mile events for the Catawba Ridge track program this spring. He has already put up a 4:16 outdoor mile in a pre-season meet for the Copperheads this season. It will be hard to find anyone to challenge him from a competition stand point for state championships in those two events.

“Those are two of my main goals this year (to win state titles in the mile and two mile),” he said. “Cross country gave me a lot of confidence. I know that there are some good runners. I feel like I got a good chance to win state.”

As talented as Rich is on the track, he is probably even more humble off. Putting up the times he has put up nationally already this year, he is turning the heads of college recruiters from major Division I schools. Rich isn’t naming the schools that are looking at him, really because there are too many to name, but he wouldn’t say that. However, with his talent and abilities Division I offers aren’t far behind. He plans on running both track and cross-country in college.

“Hopefully over the summer, I will be able to visit places,” he said. “It really depends on the right school and the right fit. I am not going to limit myself to any really area (geographically). Whatever is the right fit.”

Mac Banks:, @fortprep