HEBRON — Eaton’s Seth Gard, a junior runner for the program, placed 30th in the state cross country championship held at National Trail Raceway in Hebron on Saturday, Nov. 7.
In a race that held 147 competitors, Gard placed well within the top-quarter of the competition, clocking a time of 16:28. His sights were aimed a little higher though, as it is with all great competitors.
“It’s not quite what I wanted, but it’s pretty good for a junior,” he said. “I’m proud of myself even though I wanted to get top 16 and get on the podium.”
Gard jumped out to a quick start, holding the 15th spot in the first mile before falling to 19th after the second.
“The first mile, I knew I had to get out fast because I wanted to stick with that top pack. After the first mile, I let myself and that first pack separate a little bit,” he said. “After the second mile, I knew I couldn’t get up to that pack so I was just going to stay in the position I was in. That’s when my legs felt like they were logged and when I felt tired. That’s when other kids started passing me.”
Although Gard was disappointed in his overall finish, the meet is the most difficult race in the season. Pair that with his team just missing an opportunity to advance after the regional championship, and it can take a toll on a runner.
“People don’t realize how difficult it is once you get up here. It’s not just another race even though try to think of it that way. When you are running against the top kids in the state, there’s a lot of pressure. For Seth, I’m sure after the letdown on the team not getting through – as happy as he was to get here individually, if your team has a shot and you don’t make it, that takes a little bit out of you,” said head coach Randy McKinney. “He ran the kind of race he had to. He’s still another year away. It’s not something that’s an easy task to be on that award stand. It’s something that takes time.”
This is the second season Gard has qualified for the race, placing 42nd in a time of 16:45 just a season ago.
“He made a lot of progress over last year. I’m pleased of where he’s at. The biggest thing now is to take that disappointment that he has and channel it towards next year,” said McKinney. “He had a great season. He learned a lot about his running and he took another step up. Next year, he’ll take another big step. That’s the kind of athlete he is.”
Gard finished the year winning the SWBL championship race, third in the district meet, and fifth in regionals. The Eaton boys cross country team were also SWBL and district runners-ups and placed fifth in the regional race.
Jeremy can be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH.