So close, yet so far way

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Elder Cross Country at The Centerville Stampede

High school athletes work day in and day out to be better than the person opposing them.  There is one thing that is coveted by every high school athlete, a state championship.  The trip there alone is filled with twists and turns, but making it there is an accomplishment worth the trouble.

Stride after stride the sidewalks of Price Hill get pounded every day by the cross country team from Elder High School.  Dreams and goals are set during rigorous workouts in the summer, and there is one goal set at the beginning of each season — state.  This precedent was set with the four state titles the Panthers won in the 1980s.

The cross country “season” begins during the first week of June.  Fresh faces meet veteran runners at the front gate at 7 AM every morning, and the first week serves as the transition period for the incoming seniors.  The top runners run up to 50 miles a week in the summer and the younger runners will normally reach up to 30-40 a week.  Summer training is commenced with the Michigan Trip to Indian River, Michigan.

Once the top runners return from the Wolverine state, the season officially begins.  Practices become mandatory at this point of the summer, and the team is only a few weeks away from their first competition. The race schedule begins with a two-mile course at the Alumni Race, which was won by Jonathan Reiter,  followed by Eric Huff and Adam Gardner.

…it never gets old seeing people’s jaws drop when I mention I can run ten miles.”

— Noah Mastruserio

The rest of the season is filled with a tough a schedule which takes the team to prestigious races like Mason, Galion, and the GCL championships at Rapid Run Park, which is junior Michael Huschart’s favorite course.  These meets along with others are all a part of the prestigious road to state.

Many people ask why one would run cross country. Senior Noah Mastruserio has run on Elder’s squad the past four years.

“I run cross country because it’s been a defining factor in who I am for the last four years,” said Mastruserio. “My schedule, mindset, and goals have all revolved around running, and I’ve had experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything.  That, and it never gets old seeing people’s jaws drop when I mention I can run ten miles.”

The team this year won two regular season meets, The Wilmington Cross Country Invitational and The Centerville Stampede.  The GCL Championships were run at Rapid Run Park, and the eventual state champions, the St. Xavier Bombers, won the meet while Elder came in second.  There were a few members of the cross country team which made the GCL All-Star team.  Jonathan Reiter was awarded first team GCL by coming in seventh place, and Logan Steiner, Adam Gardner, Eric Huff, and Michael Huschart all received a second team nod.

Once the regular season wrapped up the Panthers roared into the state tournament.  The top four team advance from each stage of the tournament as well as the top 16 individuals.  Voice of America park in West Chester was the site of the district race. Elder finished in third place coming one point behind the Kings Knights.  The cross country team moved on to the Regional race in Troy, Ohio, the final step in the road to the state meet.

The gun went off at 3:30 in the afternoon, and the “Purple Pack” was off.  The first half of the race was very unpromising for the team because the pack was spread out and there was little to no movement towards the front.  Once Elder hit the one and a half mile mark, they started to pick off other runners one by one. The Panthers came storming through a crowd of cheers to the finish line.  Once all seven runners finished the race, they were greeted with smiles and cheers from coaches and fans alike.

The race was over, but the nerves were worse than they were before the race.  The coaches knew that it was going to be really close, but they did not know how close.  The announcer started to read the teams off from last to first.  The announcer said, “Placing fifth (pause) Elder,” and the team lost by only four points (179-175). The air was filled with silence from the Elder crowd, but in the distance the cheers from Beavercreek could be heard.

Senior Logan Steiner is a three year member of the varsity team.

“I feel the season went well not only for me, but for the team as a whole,” said Steiner. “Sure we didn’t make it to state which is always the goal, but we progressed and grew as a tougher team each week.”

Years of training, dreaming, and racing came down to just four points.  It was a very long, sad walk back to the Elder tent where the runners’ gear laid.  Each runner was able to keep his head up because it was the first time Coach Spencer believed the team left it all out on the course.