All is quiet. Bundled up fans and observers watch the shivering runners line up before the spray-painted grass line. An official blows a long whistle, splitting the silence of the frigid late-October day, and a deep gunshot fills the air. Hands clap under mittens, and the runners sprint towards an open field.
This is the Ohio High School Cross Country State Championship on Nov. 1, at the National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio. Amid the long legs striding through the ice-cold air is sophomore runner Hunter Moore, just the second runner in school history to make it to states.
For Moore, the atmosphere at states was inspiring. “It was very nerve-racking getting warmed up, but at the same time it was also an amazing experience because of the excitement of the crowd and the fact that I was by some of the top guys in the state,” Moore said.
By finishing ninth at regional championships with a 5,000-kilometer (around 3.1 miles) time of 16:21.20, Moore qualified for states. Moore wasn’t expected to win the race, or even come close. The goal was really to finish.
Being a sophomore, the idea of running at states for Moore was to get a feel for the course and the conditions for next year. “I told Hunter to have fun and enjoy it since he is a sophomore. And then the strategy was to go out around 40th or 50th [place] and move up from there,” Head Coach Adam Walters said.
Moore started out slow, picked up speed around the first mile, and finished in 20th place out of 142 with a time of 15:58.43.
The winning time of the meet was a 15:34.53 by senior Michael Vitucci of St. Xavier High School. Other mentionable names were Anthony Sasso of Olentangy, who finished in 73rd, and Jonathan Kissel of Thomas Worthington, who came in ninth place.
Moore followed Coach Walters’ strategy and picked up speed as the race progressed. “I wanted to be all-state, so I went out conservative to make sure I didn’t die [wear out] the first mile; then I really put the hammer down the next two miles,” Moore said.
Moore’s success was the result of hard work over the summer and winter, and his participation during spring track in 2014. Since then, Moore has decreased his time by over a minute.
The making of a great runner occurs during the offseason. “Hunter worked very hard all year, summer and season. He used all of his training to give him confidence that he could run with the best kids in the state,” Walters said.
Walters is hoping that the hard work of Hunter can rub-off on the rest of the team and will propel the entire team to states next year. The team certainly has impressive younger talent that could make running as a team in states a reality.
Besides Moore, the varsity cross-country team also consists of sophomore Brandon Lane, whose best time is a 15:58, junior Brandon Morrow, whose best time is a 16:15, and freshman Jackson Schiefelbein, the second fastest freshman in school history with a 16:59. The team will lose senior Kyle Beneke, its fourth-best runner, but will gain promising rising freshmen such as current eighth-grader Andrew Schroff.
The young team certainly has the potential to make states but actually getting there requires quite a bit of devotion.
“We must run consistently for the next year, get stronger in the weight room and work on speed. If the team commits itself to doing all the work that it can possibly do to becoming their best, then reaching states is a realistic goal,” Walters said.
Coach Walters is hoping that Hunter’s success will serve as a precursor for the future of the team, and, with nearly double the amount of runners than last year on the team, the goal seems likely.