O'FALLON — In a lot of ways O'Fallon High School senior Patrick Perrier's summer workouts were much different than they had been the previous two years.
Perrier put in more miles than he had before -- between 700 and 800 -- and worked hard on becoming more of a "power runner."
Another difference? The loss of running partner Alex Riba. One of the Midwest's top high school distance runners over the past two years, Riba is now a freshman competing at Texas A&M. That leaves Perrier as the leader of an O'Fallon team expected to contend for a Class 3A state championship for the fourth straight season.
"I had a great summer of workouts. It was probably the best summer I've had,'' Perrier said. "But it has been different because Alex is gone and I don't have him to run with me.
"But I've got some great teammates to train with every day, and Dorian (Gordon) has really come on to where he can run with me.''
O'Fallon's harriers will begin their season Saturday at the Granite City Invitational as the top-ranked Class 3A team in the state according to Dyestat.com, and it's ranked in the top three in seemingly every other poll. O'Fallon was the Class 3A state runner-up each of the past two seasons.
Third individually at the 2012 Class 3A state meet in a time of 14 minutes, 15 seconds, Perrier is considered one of the runners to beat for this year's state crown.
"I would be crazy if I said that winning the state championship, both teamwise and individually, isn't my goal. It is,'' Perrier said. "I'd also like to see if I can break 14 minutes at the state meet. There haven't been many people who have done that. That's some pretty exclusive company there.
"I think being ranked No. 1 puts a little bit more pressure on us. But we can't be concerned with what other people think. We have some lofty goals and high expectations that we've already put on ourselves. This team is different, though. We're senior-dominated and we've all done this before. I think because of that, we're a much closer team. We're willing to fight for each other.''
If the pressure of being the top runner on the top team in the state weren't enough, Perrier is going through the college recruiting process. He has it narrowed down his choice to four schools -- Michigan, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Stanford.
Former Edwardsville High School standout Garrett Sweatt is a member of the cross country team at Stanford.
"I plan to announce my decision by early October,'' Perrier said on Wednesday. "I went to Notre Dame last week and I'm going to Wisconsin this week. I'm planning on visiting Stanford the first weekend in October.
"You've got four great schools there with four great cross country programs, which are all ranked in the top 25. But they are all great academic schools as well. I want to be a great runner, but you can only be a great runner for so long. I want to get a great education, and I'll be able to at any one of these colleges.''
Perrier plans to major in political science/pre law.