Cypress Woods cross country runner Craig Nowak sets high standards for himself.

The state champion finished 14th in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego on Saturday with a time of 15 minutes and 31 seconds, qualifying him as an All-American.

Nowak was looking for a finish in the top five. He said missing his goal makes him hungrier to do even better the next time out. That's a scary thought.

"It was tough for me," he said after the race Saturday. "I ended up 14th, so it was a little disappointing, but I finished really strong and I'm still happy with the finish. I had a good finish last week. I think that was kind of my peak point in the season."

All Nowak has been doing all year is winning. Last week, he finished third in the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland before competing in the Foot Locker championships. Competing in both of those races is a unique challenge in itself. Both races feature some of the best cross country runners in the nation.

In the Nike Cross Nationals, he finished with a time of 15:27 and finishing in the top 21 gave him All-American honors in this race as well.

All this is after Nowak won the state cross country meet last month. Nowak's continued success adds to an already impressive resume for the senior.

"It's a real blessing," he said. "It's unbelievable to think of how far I've come since starting eighth and ninth grade. I never would've pictured myself being here right now. I have to thank my coach and all my teammates at Cy Woods for that too and my family."

Making everything that much sweeter for Nowak is the fact he represents Cy Woods in each race, which is something he is proud to do.

"It's a great honor," he said. "I hope to bring as much good attention to the school as I can and be a good example. Because coach (Greg) Zarate is building a great program over there and there are going to be some good athletes coming through here. I see some young ones right now with a lot of potential. It's nice to be able to be an example and show them where they can take the sport of running."

Nowak is far from done, too. There's still track season, where Nowak runs the mile and the two-mile races.

It's worth noting that Nowak has run a lot of races since the beginning of the school year, so some much-deserved rest is in order. One of his next big races as an independent will be in late January at an indoor meet at the University of Washington.

But track meets back home has Nowak really excited.

"Track is where I really come to play and I like taking a break this offseason just to give my body some rest," he said. "I'll be ready for track. It's going to be good and I have some big meets planned so, I'm just ready to go now."