Coming into the 2018 Div. III boys state cross country meet, Garaway senior Julian Shrock had his mind set on bettering his junior campaign finish when he ripped off an eighth-place finish to earn All-Ohio honors. Shrock was seeking to become Garaway’s all-time best placer, hoping to top the seventh-place finishes of his brother Alex Shrock in 2013 and BJ Schwartz last season.
While the entire field had to wait a whole week to line up at Great National Trail in Hebron, Ohio for the race due to inclement weather and a track that was deemed unsafe for the runners, the starter finally fired off the starter’s pistol on a chilly Saturday, Nov. 10, and the field went to work.
Shrock had wanted to keep pace with the lead pack, a group that included Inter-Valley Conference challenger and eventual runner-up Demetri Snellenberger of East Canton, who ran a scintillating 16:19.7 to get eked out by champion Noah Fisher of Ayersville’s winning time of 16:14.4.
Shrock was able to remain intact with the leaders and eventually duplicated his 2017 effort by placing eighth again, finding himself celebrating atop the podium again as an All-Ohioan. Oddly enough Shrock found himself one spot behind Shadyside’s Chase Stewart, the only runner who beat him at both districts and regionals this year, where Shrock settled for a runner-up medal.
While it wasn’t quite the finish he had hoped for because his time of 16:51 was well off the 16:14 he ran last season on a much cleaner track under much better conditions, it did make him the first Garaway boys distance runner to earn two top-10 finishes. The Lady Pirates have a three-time All-Ohioan who did that in Rachel Wentworth, who placed fifth, fifth and sixth her sophomore through senior campaigns.
For Shrock it was a fitting way to end what has been a record-setting career.
“This means so much to me, and any time I make it to state it is a great feeling,” Shrock said. “This is the biggest race of the year for everyone, and it is the one you work so hard to get to.”
While the top runners are there to compete for a title, the process of preparing for the big event is a grind that means a lot of hard work and preparation, both physically and mentally. Shrock said those challenges only drive him to compete even harder to get where he wants to be.
“I love putting goals out there and hitting them,” Shrock said. “I really do enjoy the chance to run with my teammates too over the years, and going to state by myself is a lot different and a lot less fun than being there with the entire team, but once you’re there, you have to put all of that aside and just focus on what you can do and try to stick to the game plan that you draw up.”
As for parlaying his talent into a record-setting career, Shrock knew having an older brother in Alex who came on the cross country scene and performed so well kind of set the bar high for him in terms of name recognition. However, he said he never dreamed of seeing himself standing among the top-10 runners in Div. III not once but twice.
“As a freshman you never really even think about seeing yourself up that high, doing that well,” Shrock said. “I think having Alex there showing me that it was possible definitely helped, and watching some of our other greats run was also really encouraging.”
Shrock came on the Garaway distance scene as a freshman in 2015 when he ran fifth for the Pirates at the state meet, finishing 128th overall in 18:20. His marked improvement of two minutes over the years shows how much he matured as a runner, and head coach Luke Immel said he is the type of runner that any coach would love to have on his team.
“I know in the past we have had a great string of runners, but it takes a special kind of kid to get to this level, and Julian has shown time and again he has what it takes to run among the top runners in the state,” Immel said.
Immel said the season does get long, and it takes a great deal of mental toughness and physical endurance to make it through the grind. He said Shrock has plenty of character in each aspect, and Shrock’s work ethic, focus and ability to maintain a level head in any conditions while always remaining positive are attributes that served him well.
“There are going to be highs and lows, but Julian’s ability to thrive whether he is doing well or struggling has been amazing,” Immel said. “There are never any highs or lows for him. He doesn’t get rattled by much, and he has that short-term memory that allows him to shrug things off when things don’t go his way. He is incredible with his positive attitude, and that has helped keep things loose, and it has rubbed off on our younger runners.”
Immel said the other thing that benefited Shrock was his ability to not put too much of an emphasis on the state meet, whether it was preparing for it or actually running in it.
“It’s smart running, and for him it’s just another race,” Immel said. “He just goes out and does the things that have made him the runner he is, and putting aside the mental pressure of a state meet is something that becomes key for him.”
Shrock’s pair of eighth-place finishes put him one spot off the Pirates’ top placer in school history behind his brother and Schwartz. In 2012 senior Logan Kettlewell set the state record for time, running a 15:51. That same year the Pirates placed a school-record third as a team with Brady Yoder (16:11) and Alex Shrock (16:14) placing 11th and 14th, respectively.