Bernstein had a strong career in the distance events. He was a three-time state qualifier in cross country. As a junior, he won the District 11 AA title before placing 41st at states. A year later, he was second in District 11 AA, but then took 15th at states in Hershey, earning a state medal.
On the track, he won the District 11 title in the 3,200 meters, running a career best of 9:34.50 for the victory. He also took third in the district in the 1,600 meters in another PR of 4:26.38. Bernstein also holds a 2K steeplechase PR of 6:34.69. He answered some questions for PennTrackXC reflecting on his career below.
What was your most memorable race/competition?
My most memorable race was the Ridge Twilight 3200 race my junior year of track. My goals for my junior season were to break 9:40 in the 3200 and qualify for states. While I was able to win my conference meet, I only took 3rd at districts, missing out on state qualification by 1 spot. Although I initially wanted to bag the season at that point, with the support of my family and coaches I decided to give 9:40 one more shot. So I signed up for a late race at Ridge HS, and solo'd a 9:39. This race taught me the very valuable lesson that true success is not marked by awards or even times, but by refusing to quit even when you're down.
Where did you face your biggest competition?
My best competition was in the state 3200 final in track my senior year. In cross country my school is AA, so it definitely was a big shock racing against the best from AAA in track. It was great to run against such talented runners in my last ever high school race.
Out of all of your high school accomplishments, which stands out the most?
Winning the District 11 AAA title in the 3200 my senior track season definitely stands out the most to me. One of my major goals at the beginning of the season was to qualify for outdoor states for the first time. The week before Districts I had a bad conference 3200 race where I only ran 9:57, so I was super nervous and not too confident going into my biggest race of the season. I was dropped by the leaders early in the district race and going into the last lap I was in 3rd place, 50 meters behind them. But, I was able to throw together a good kick from 300 meters out and win, closing in 1:02 and setting a new PR of 9:34. It felt great to realize my season goal and to come from so far behind. It's a race I'll always remember for sure.
If you could do it all over again, what would you change about your athletic career in high school?
There isn't a whole lot I would change since I haven't had any major injuries throughout the last 3 years, but if I could go back in time, I would've done 5-10 more miles each week in training. I bet with the extra mileage I could've improved all of my PRs, and to me I think that would've been worth the slight risk of injury.
What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
The most difficult obstacle I had to overcome was during my senior cross country season. Coming into my last season of cross, I was the defending conference and District 11 champion from my junior year. The first three-quarters of my season were awesome: I won the Lion Invitational, broke 16:00 for the first time at Paul Short, and broke 2 course records. When the postseason came around, I was super confident. I was the favorite to win both the conference and district, but I came up short in both: 3rd at conference and 2nd at Districts, not even breaking 17:00 in either race. It felt awful to have started the season off so well, but then to underperform in the races that really mattered. With the help of my family and my coaches, we were able to deduce that the reason for these races where I was not running like my usual self was due to low caloric intake. So, the week and a half before states I upped my daily calories by 600-800, and it did the trick. I felt incredible at states, and was able to come away with 15th place to get my first state medal.
What will you miss the most?
My teammates for sure. I made many good friendships with my teammates throughout high school and will miss all of those guys a lot. I know the younger runners that are still on the team will do great things this season.
Do you have any advice for younger athletes?
If you put the work in, I can almost guarantee that you will have success and get the results you want. At the same time though, be smart with your training. Work hard and be dedicated, but be sure to include easy days. Over-training is worse than under-training.
How have your coaches influenced your performances and your life goals overall?
I was fortunate enough to have extremely dedicated and knowledgable coaches throughout my 4 years of high school. If it wasn't for them, I would never have even ended up running in high school, as it was one of my coaches who recruited me off of the middle school soccer team. To Coach Kolosky and Coach Sheridan, thank you for all your support and mentorship; I would not be the runner I am today without you.
What are your post-high school plans?
I will be attending Washington and Lee University and running XC and track there.
Shoutout to the Colonial League distance boys (Thomas Matsumura, Jake Martinez, John Koons, and Colin Cramer) for being great friends and competitors these last 4 years; and my parents for supporting me through the good races and the bad.