While the Garaway Pirates boys’ cross country team didn’t quite reach their intended goal of a sixth straight state berth, one of their team members did, although it took a team effort to get him there.
Senior B.J. Schwartz, who has run at state the prior three seasons with his Pirates teammates, had not run an event all season. However, when the Pirates placed second at the district meet to advance to regional, Schwartz’ teammates paved the way for his return in the regional meet.
Schwartz went from the biggest cheerleader at the districts to nearly the biggest performer at Div. III Pickerington regionals Saturday, Oct. 29, placing second in 16:24, just five seconds and one spot behind champion Austin Hallabrin of Mount Gillead.
Schwartz got out early, stayed in front and even entertained thoughts of a regional championship until Hallbrin kicked it into an other-worldy gear as the pair exited the woods to the final 700 meters.
“I was right where I wanted to be, but honestly, I thought the race went a lot slower than I thought it would go,” Schwartz said. “But I did what I had to do and I did what I was told to do, and that was enough.
“It feels amazing, but I just wish the team would have made it. I would not even be here if it weren’t for them, so I owe a lot to them for getting me this chance.”
As for Hallabrin’s final push, Schwartz said he was somewhat amazed top watch him quickly pull away.
“We cane out of the woods and I was right behind him,” Schwartz said. “The he just let loose, and I thought. ‘OK, there is no way I am catching him now.’ He found another gear, and I had heard that is his kind of race.”
Schwartz said he was hoping for a time in the 15:50s, but the slow pace pushed that thought to the side. He also said he was hoping to get as high as second place, so he did accomplish that mission.
He went on to note that running by himself at state will be a very different experience having had his teammates there beside him in each of his previous state efforts.
The rest of the Pirates team did not fare as well, as the team was unable to muster enough points to grab one of the top four spots to advance. Garaway’s seventh-place finish was not what the team had hoped for coming into the race, and
With the top 20 individual runners automatically advancing to state, sophomore Julian Shrock got close, placing 28th in 17:34. Nathan Wicker finished 49th in 48:01, Noah Wentworth was 83rd in 18:39, Braden Shupe placed 87th in 18:46 and Collin Hochst4etler was 95th in 19:01 while Kristian Stocksdale was 111th in 19:32.
Garaway coach Chuck Zobel said they knew they would have had to do something special to move up by at least two of the teams to grab a spot at state.
That never happened, and each of the Pirates runners fell a bit off of their pace.
You come here, you make all kinds of predictions and run the best you can, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but we will live to fight another day,” Zobel said.
Despite the disappointment, Zobel said he saw the lights go on for several of his returning runners for next year, and noted that the group has had to fight through plenty of things this season. That has led to some great growth across the board, and points toward big things in the future.
“I hope these guys come back and have the attitude that we are going to be a very good team next year and they can go as far as they want to go,” Zobel said. “I think this team showed a lot of guts and a lot of heart this season, and the experience is only going to help us next year.”