There have been plenty of head coaches who have had players send them to the verge of tears, but usually it is because they are malcontents and headaches.
On Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Div. III boys state cross country meet in Hebron, Ohio, Garaway head coach Luke Immel was brought to near-tears by junior runner Julian Shrock, not because of a headache, but because of the way Shrock’s unending commitment and drive paid off in one of the greatest finishes in the school’s ever-growing list of cross country achievements.
Shrock was all smiles following his eighth-place finish as he fell one spot shy of where his brother Alex set the mark for best individual finish in school history.
“Unreal, just unreal,” Immel said of Shrock. “He looks like he is about ready to pass out, but what an effort.”
Shrock aligned himself in the top 25 almost immediately as the race began, and never wavered in moving up piece by piece as he picked runners off to advance up the ranks.
The result was an effort of 16:14.2, an amazing improvement from his previous best of 16:41 earlier this season.
“Oh my, yes, I had absolutely no idea what my time was,” Shrock said after the race.
Shrock picked the perfect time to go off, and it left him standing pretty high up on the podium as an All-Ohioan.
“He was lights out today,” Immel said of Shrock. “He went out, he fought hard and deserves this. Man, what an effort. I didn’t expect to be this emotional, but I’ve seen the effort he’s put in. Every day he comes in, works hard, never complains and always has a great attitude. I’m just so proud of him.”
Shrock said he ran his game plan to near perfection, and although he said he was about done near the end of the race, he still had enough guts to kick it into a gear he wasn’t sure he had left to pass a couple of runners late.
“I thought I was done coming into the final stretch, but I knew I had to give it everything I had left and leave it all out there,” Shrock said. “I wasn’t even sure where I was, but I thought it was top 10.”
Colonel Crawford’s Chad Johnson defended his state title in a winning time of 15:33.3, winning by 12 seconds. Shrock found himself in a battle from fourth through 12th and proved he could kick when he needed to at the end.
“The first mile my legs didn’t feel very good, but I knew I was where I wanted to be, and I had to fight through,” Shrock said. “I wanted to be at top 15 after the mile, and I think I was.”
Early in the year Shrock’s main goal was to qualify for state, which he did with a strong regional run. With that accomplished, he set his sites on bigger things.
“I was excited to be here, but to come here and get top 10 is beyond what I could have imagined,” Shrock said.
What does this mean for next year when Shrock will try to chase down his brother’s top finish? He said top three and maybe top five would be nice, but for now he will revel in an accomplishment that few imagined possible when the year began.