There is about an 800-meter run before the field of runners at the state cross country meet rolls in front of the massive crowd gathered in the grandstands at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio.
In that span runners jockey for position in hopes of landing a spot in the top 24 runners to earn All-Ohio status.
One look at the determination on the face of Garaway senior B.J. Schwartz as he passed in front of the crowd, and anyone could see that Schwartz meant business during the running of the Div. II boys state meet.
Schwartz had positioned himself in the top 14 runners in a huge swarm, and after the first mile marker, he had settled into the top 10.
Then he began picking guys off one-by-one in an attempt to move higher than no Garaway runner has ever placed.
In the end, Schwartz placed seventh, tying him with former Pirate great Alex Shrock for the best finish ever in the school’s history. His time of 16:05 was actually 15 seconds ahead of Shrock’s time in 2013, and would have placed him second in that race.
For Schwartz, the key was forgetting the clock and running his race.
“I got through the first mile, and I saw the clock and I got scared, so I said to myself, ‘No more looking at the clock.’” Schwartz said. “I figured I’d just run with the guys I was with and beat them in a sprint at the end. That clock really played with my head. I thought to myself that I was away too fast, but then I told myself I needed to stop freaking out and just relax.”
Schwartz knew he was in good shape as far as where he was positioned. He watched as a couple of the big names run out to a big lead, and entertained the thought of running with them, but then came to his senses.
He settled in at ninth place then a huge kick at the end moved him by two more runners and into seventh place.
Despite the big push, he said he was spent.
“I had nothing left at the end,” Schwartz said. “But there was no way I was going to let anyone pass me and knock me out of the top 10.”
Schwartz said he was hoping for a top five, and he just missed that goal. He was hoping to somehow break 16 minutes, and he narrowly missed that mark.
But the one thing he did accomplish was something that was very near to his heart. Schwartz ran his first race of the season at regionals, placing second, and ran in just his second meet all season at state. He said one of his overriding goals was to run to represent his school, and more importantly, his teammates.
“I had to do this for my team,” Schwartz said. He has now been to state four times, the past three with his teammates, but this time it was him on an island.
“This was my last year, and they didn’t have me the whole year, so this one as for them. I’ve got to do this for them as much as for myself, because they gave everything they had this year. This felt absolutely amazing, but it would have been so much more fun if I had my whole teams here running with me.’
Instead he had to settle for hearing their cheers and encouragement along the way.
“I heard them all over the course,” Schwartz said. “I heard my name being shouted everywhere. That was awesome. These guys are my family.”
Head coach Chuck Zobel said Schwartz finishes as perhaps the greatest runner in school history. His placement and time at state certainly justify that.
“The strategy was to get out and go, then sit for a little while and see where we are,” Zobel said. “He did that nicely. He finished out an amazing era during his four year career, in which he got to run with some pretty amazing teams.”
Chad Johnson of Colonel Crawford won the race in a blistering time of 15:18, winning by 16 seconds. Ft. Loramie won the team title, with St. Thomas Aquinas placing second.