Many athletes whose parent or sibling was a star often try to avoid the comparisons that naturally arise.

Patrick Rono of Lyndhurst, N.J., doesn't avoid comparisons to his dad, 1988 Olympic 1,500-meter gold medalist Peter Rono, he embraces them.

How else can you explain that the Lyndhurst senior, the North Jersey boys track and field Athlete of the Year, got permission to wear the red running shorts that his dad wore when he won his gold medal for his final high school meet and then went out and had one of the greatest state Meet of Champions competitions?

Or that he watches videos of his dad's win before almost every big race?

"I do embrace my dad's achievements because he has been a great role model to me," said Rono, who has verbally committed to Arkansas and will continue his running career there.

"I remember when I came home from my first day of cross-country practice as a freshman, I was exhausted, and he just said stick with it -- you'll get it." And Patrick Rono certainly did.

He was third in his first race, and rarely finished below that for the rest of his career.

And this past spring he enjoyed one of the greatest seasons any track and field athlete could possibly have.

He lost only one race all season, the special invitational 1,600 at the Aviator Relays, where he was beaten by Ramapo High School's Brad Paternostro by less than a second as both athletes tried to earn a last-minute qualifier to Penn Relays.

It was unsuccessful, but little else was the rest of the year. He led the Golden Bears to their first Bergen County Relays title, the C division, running on four winning teams and anchoring the 4-x-400 relay win that clinched the two-point victory over Pascack Hills.

Then he scored quadruple wins in the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at the NJIC Meadowlands Division A and Bergen C individual meets, and added a third quad as the Golden Bears dominated North 2, Group 1 for their first sectional crown.

He won the Bergen Meet of Champions 800 in a pulsating rematch with Paternostro.

He then repeated his 2010 Group 1 wins at 800 and 1,600 before pulling off an incredible double in 90-plus-degree heat, winning the 1,600 in a personal-best 4 minutes, 10.01 seconds and then overtaking Paternostro in a classic 800 to win in 1:50.10, taking down a Bergen County record in the latter.

"That race and the Aviator race were the only ones all year that I doubted myself," said Rono.

"That's how good Brad was as a rival. To beat such a great runner, who's become such a good friend, is really special."

And so, too, was Rono's entire scholastic career, which led to him graduating in three years. And the influence he's had on his teammates going beyond the gold medals.