After suffering a rare injury to his back and hip in his junior year of track and field, Littlestown High cross country runner Xavier Sauvageau spent his offseason vigorously working to come back stronger than he was.

"I wanted to come into the season prepared and ready to perform my best," Sauvageau said. "I didn't want to work through the season and come to the end and have it not end the way I hoped it would because I didn't prepare.

"I put a lot of miles in over the summer. I was really focused and tried to keep my diet perfect. I did all of the little things to make sure I didn't get hurt."

That preparation included running around 50 miles per week during the summer, including runs with his brother, Chris, who ran for Delone Catholic and now is a sophomore runner for Canisius, and his dad, who ran cross country on a full scholarship for LaSalle.

Some of his best training sessions came when the three of them would go for runs.

"A lot of times we would start out going easy," Xavier said. "At the end, me and my brother would sprint to the finish. It was just good fun, though."

Not only did Sauvageau stay healthy all season, but he put together the best year of his career and earned the All-Area Boys' Cross Country Runner of the Year award.

His path to cross country was an unorthodox one.

He spent his freshman season playing soccer full-time and running cross country on days when Littlestown did not have a soccer game. He began his sophomore year running cross country full-time and playing soccer part-time.

He decided before his senior season that he wanted to dedicate the year solely to cross country.

"I was playing at a pretty high level of soccer at the club level, but I knew that it would be a lot harder to get into college and play soccer," Sauvageau said. "I knew I didn't want to sit on the bench in college, and I thought running would just be a better fit."

The decision proved to be a good one.

He highlighted his season with a fifth-place finish in the YAIAA Championships, a fourth-place finish in the District 3 Class AA Championships and an eighth-place finish in the PIAA Class AA Championship. He also set several course records throughout the season.

"I really wanted to try to and break some records on some different courses," he said. "At Susquehannock when I broke that record, I was really excited because I knew I could compete. That was a big turning point. At the Delone course, I was really excited to break the record because that was my brother's home course, and I knew he was really trying to break that and being able to do it felt awesome."

The ultimate highlight for Sauvageau was his performance at the PIAA Championships in which he finished with a time of 16 minutes, 39 seconds.

"I surprised myself," he said. "Honestly, when I was coming down the last hill and knowing my position was in the top 10, still I was wondering what was going on and if it was real. I feel like it was right, though, because I put in all the hard work to be in the position I was in, but it did surprise me. I feel like it was as good as it could get. Making the top 10 at states was a dream come true."

One person that was not surprised was Littlestown head coach Dan Lawrence.

"By far, Xavier was the hardest worker on our team," Lawrence said. "All season long when we would do distance work, he always wanted to go longer or further. When we did speed work, he wanted to do those extra one or two reps. That last kick at states, that was the fastest that I had seen him going in the homestretch all season long."

Sauvageau hopes to continue his cross country career in college. He is leaning toward Coastal Carolina, a school that he has already accepted him.

Before he makes a decision on colleges, he has some unfinished business in track. Until then, Sauvageau can reflect on his cross country season.

"It feels great," he said, "especially after being injured. That period of time, I felt terrible about what was going on. I knew I would have to work hard to get through it, and it is just a dream come true to be where I am now. I couldn't have done it without my parents, friends and definitely all the competitors -- Aaron (Gebhart), Ryan (Hertzog), Nick (Poole), Brady (Wilt) and all of my teammates."

mrubin@eveningsun.com; 717-637-3736, extension 143. Twitter: @michaelrubin6.