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A powerful source of motivation hangs off a light fixture on the wall near his bed in his East Lyme home.
Ben Ostrowski regularly looks at his runner-up medal from the Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division 1,000-meter race last year, especially on the day of a big race.
The medal reminds the East Lyme High School senior about what he considers a disappointing finish and helps drive him to succeed.
"I knew I could have done better and it wasn't what I went out there to do," Ostrowski said. "I needed to remember that feeling and that medal has that feeling in it somehow.
" … Just from then on, I have sort of turned that into motivation each and every race. My times have dropped and my career has gone up. Something about that medal is very motivational."
Ostrowski has been named The Day's 2012-13 All-Area Boys' Indoor Track Athlete of the Year, the second straight year he's earned that distinction.
He delivered in every big meet, winning the 600-meter title in the ECC Large Division, Class M and State Open. He capped off a terrific season by placing second in New England in a personal best 1 minute, 21.35 seconds. He also ran a leg on the winning Class M 4x800 and sprint medley relay teams, as the Vikings finished second in the team standings.
In the State Open, he came in as the top seed in the 600 and admittedly failed to follow his prerace game plan.
"I wanted it so bad and I wanted to be standing there afterward at the final line and be that champion," Ostrowski said. "I went out the first lap too fast, way faster than our plan. I was so pumped up."
Ostrowski held a short lead through two laps but started to fade a bit. With 5 meters left, he lost his stride and "started flopping all over the place."
With his competition closing fast, Ostrowski launched himself across the finish line for a not so graceful end to a great win. He was thinking about his second-place medal when he made his final push.
"It was not very graceful, not very smart and not very pretty," Ostrowski said. "It wasn't a PR or anything. But, at the same time, it was exactly what I wanted. I just wanted to be a state champion. There's something mystical about it."
During his high school career, he's also been an accomplished cross country runner - helping East Lyme win an ECC title for the first time in 42 years this fall - and baseball player.
Make that former baseball player.
He's dedicating himself full-time to track, running outdoors this spring for the first time in order to prepare for competing at Brown University in Providence next year.
To think he had to be convinced to compete in indoor track after playing basketball his freshman year. He's glad that he started running.
"It's grown into something I actually enjoy and have a passion for," Ostrowski said. "You'll find me doodling little pictures of guys running. It's not something that I just do, because I don't think you can keep coming back to it if it's just that."
Ostrowski is a fierce competitor on and off the track. He's a well-rounded student, owning an impressive 3.7 grade point average. He's the editor of the school newspaper and a member of the class senate.
His biggest passion is writing. He hopes to pursue his interest in that area at Brown.
"Academics are very important for me," Ostrowski said. "I applied to other schools but Brown was my top one. I value creativity a lot and Brown seems like the perfect place to foster that. That's really exciting."
First, he wants to finish his senior track career in style.
No matter how many medals he adds to his collection, the runner-up one will always mean something special to him. When he packs up his belongings for his freshman year at Brown, the medal will go with him.
He'll continue to use it as a source of motivation.
"I bet a lot of guys have something like that, an attachment with spikes or something," Ostrowski said. "But your spikes changes every year. I think that will probably stay with me as long as I'm running."
Player of the Year: Ben Ostrowski (East Lyme)
55 dash - Orrin Parke (New London)
300 - Joe Carter (Ledyard)
1,000 - Connor Gralton (St. Bernard)
1,600 - Kyle Liang (NFA)
3,200 - Jesse Joseph (Montville)
55 hurdles - Tyler Latham (Fitch)
4x200 - Ledyard (Joe Carter, Alex Paterson, Steven Servedio, Alex Hintz-Valdez)
4x400 - Fitch (Chris Bond, Luis Crisostomo, Tyler Latham, Lake Wyld)
4x800 - East Lyme (Ben Ostrowski, Tim Myers, Scott Butler, Andrew Bernard)
Sprint medley - NFA (Martin Lewerk, Joe Trahan, Kobe Amos, Kyle Liang)
High jump - Nico Ramos (New London)
Pole vault - Eric Powers (Fitch)
Long jump - Lexus Gordon (Fitch)
Shot put - Chris Byars (NFA)