Steamboat Springs Nick Sunseri packed everything he had and pulled up and out of a sunny and warm Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon, climbing Rabbit Ears Pass for the final time — for now, at least — with his eyes firmly set on a dream he temporarily forgot he harbored.
A determined and fast local can win the Steamboat Springs Running Series by showing up to the races and logging a few high finishes. Sunseri won last year’s season-long circuit by proving to have elite running talent, however, and on Thursday, the 26-year-old set off to see just how elite that talent really is, beginning a move to Guelph, Ontario, where he plans to pursue a second bachelor’s degree and train with a distinguished running club.
“I decided I had to give it a go before I got too old to do it,” Sunseri said. “I’m still fit. I still have time, and I want to really go after it. I want to see what I’m made of.”
Sunseri swept into Steamboat 2 1/2 years ago with many of the credentials of a great runner but little of the desire. He ran at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, then finished up his college running career and a bachelor’s degree at Florida State. Between those stops and one stint training with the Guelph group he’s leaving Steamboat to rejoin, he rubbed elbows with some of the world’s best runners, Olympians and national team members.
He all but gave up the sport upon graduating and moved to Steamboat to ski.
Although he barely tied on running shoes in his first year in town, that competitive fire was relit during his second year. He dominated last summer’s local running scene, easily winning the area series as he regained shape and rediscovered goals.
“I was screwing around too much, and it wasn’t until last summer in the Running Series that I really hit the trails around Steamboat,” he said. “Then I was able to reflect on my previous year, and I noticed how depressed I was while I wasn’t running and how happy I was hitting those trails.
“In the last couple of months, I realized I’d like to take it a step further than the Steamboat Springs Running Series and maybe make another national team or, in the best case scenario, an Olympic squad.”
Sunseri has his eyes set on a warm summer day in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics. He said that he plans to work on his 10-kilometer and half-marathon times in the short term but that his best chance of realizing his dreams to compete for Canada, where he gained citizenship as a child, may come in the marathon.
He said Guelph could be the key to those goals. He also plans to work on an engineering degree — a challenge in its own right and a far cry from the international relations degree he secured from Florida State.
On Thursday, he set out to discover just what was possible.
“The coach there is great, and it’s a real open, friendly group. If you work hard, they’re willing to take you in,” Sunseri said. “I want to see what I’m made of, and I won’t know unless I’m somewhere where there are faster guys to run with.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com