There comes a time in a cross country runners world where they come to an understanding that this is not their day, that things aren’t going there way and that regardless of what kind of effort they put forth in the final moments of a race, they aren’t going to achieve the goals that they had set forth at the beginning of the year.
For Hiland senior record-holder Hunter Yoder, that day was Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Pickerington Div. III boys regional race, and the time was about 10 minutes into the run, when he found himself well behind the pace needed to secure one of the top 20 spots who moved on to the state meet with automatic qualifying berths.
Yoder nearly duplicated his 2015 performance at the Pickerington Div. III regional. Last year his time of 18:08 placed him 52nd. This year, the senior ran an 18:06, which placed him 53rd in the field of 135 runners.
After qualifying eighth at the Cambridge district meet a week earlier, Yoder had loftier goals than simply matching last year’s performance.
However, after a decent first two miles, it just never materialized as a strong field put him behind the proverbial eight ball.
“He was in decent shape through two miles, but as a runner, you can get to the place where you know it just isn’t going to happen,” Hiland coach mark Fowler said. “He said his legs got heavy, and then when that happens, your mind gets heavy, and you start realizing that there are too many runners up ahead of you to get where you want to be. Even though he has the strongest mental ability of any runner I have ever coached, it can still weigh heavily enough on a runner psychologically that it takes away your will.”
Fowler said that Yoder’s mental strength as a runner developed throughout the past two years. He noted that three years ago, Yoder would finish races with excuses as to why he wasn’t doing well. Last year and especially this year, Fowler said Yoder had figured out how to be a great runner from a work standpoint and from the mental side of the sport.
Fowler said that despite the disappointing finish, he told Yoder that he would leave Hiland as the single most successful male cross country runner in school history, having become not only the first two-time regional qualifier, but also turning in a school record performance at the Inter-Valley Conference meet of 17:07.
“He’s come a long way and made his mark,” Fowler said of Yoder. He has done things nobody else has ever done, so he should hold his head up and be proud of all that he has accomplished. We have two kids running collegiately right now, and they never hit marks he is hitting. Hunter has a bright future in front of him, and will be exciting to see him move ahead into the future to compete.”