DANVILLE — Cross-country is a demanding sport, requiring endurance and stamina.
It’s not one in which coaches can call a timeout or insert a pinch runner.
It’s one in which the role of coaches often is minimized.
St. Thomas More’s David Behm has heard the cliches. He even uses one with his Sabers. “I say if you want to improve your time, run faster,” Behm said.
Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac’s Jon Davis ran faster than anybody Saturday in the Comets’ annual invitational at Kickapoo State Park. His 16-minute, 9-second time also was quicker than anyone from his school had ever run on his home course. Justin Jones’ previous record time was 16:10.
Davis’ win was punctuated by a stirring finish, one in which he overcame an estimated 15-meter deficit in the last 200 meters to beat Heyworth’s Cade Martens by three seconds.
“Jon has an amazing kick,” O/A-P coach Doug Robinson said. “Nothing like I’ve ever seen. He can turn it on. He keeps outdoing himself.”
While there is no substitute for the speed that enables runners like Davis to finish strong, coaches agree they do play a role.
“The biggest thing is the mental game,” said Hoopeston Area coach Rich Stipp, whose girls won team honors in the 11-school field. “The biggest competition is themselves.
“If you can convince them they are capable of what you know they’re capable of, that’s the biggest hurdle. If you can defeat yourself, you can win.”
Hoopeston Area’s Maddie Brown conquered that battle. She was victorious in the girls’ race, running the 3-mile course in 21:07.
“She has struggled with a stomach disorder and is literally running through the pain,” Stipp said. “To have this performance was a surprise. It shows strength from above. Our entire team was awesome. They’ve started coming on the last two meets.”
Paxton-Buckley-Loda coach Becky Kasten helps her squad keep the big picture in focus.
“We started in the summer thinking about the end of October,” Kasten said. “We keep saying, ‘every race is preparation for sectionals.’ You want to get physically prepared as well as mentally prepared.”
PBL’s top finisher was Audrey Bloomquist (fifth).
“This was a good race for her,” Kasten said, “but she’s capable of being faster.”
St. Thomas More teammates Julia Welle and Randa Harshbarger — the homecoming queen — placed third and fourth, respectively. The Sabers were without their normal No. 1 runner but nearly had enough depth to win team honors.
In a meet scored by adding the cumulative times of each school’s top five runners, STM was 24 seconds behind the Cornjerkers.
Brown was just as satisfied by the team showing as her own effort.
“I didn’t think we’d have a lot of runners this year, but we have a great bunch of freshmen,” she said.
Behm enthusiastically embraces the role of coach as motivator.
“Getting them to believe can be a four-year cycle, trying to train people to where they’re at an elite level,” Behm said. “The biggest thing is rest. They say a day of recovery for every mile they race.”
With the Twin City meet on Tuesday, the Sabers’ top four boys were withheld as was another of the team’s top six. They are battling health issues, and Behm said, “We want them to get over it so they can turn around and race hard,” Behm said. “I told them to stay home in bed.”
A former runner at Georgetown, Behm understands the psychological ploys needed.
“It’s such a mental game to push yourself and be able to run in pain,” he said.
“Once you break through that threshold, it’s very rewarding to push kids to do the best they can.”
Davis never gave up on himself, despite the daunting late-race task he faced.
“I thought it was impossible, but I was going to give it a try anyway,” he said. “I try to sprint at the end, no matter how much I have left. This course, I think, is the hardest in the state, and I wanted to put it all on the line today.”
Davis’ third-mile split (5:19) was faster than his opening mile (5:20).
The Sabers had no individuals among the top 20 in the boys’ meet.
PBL teammates Grant Iverson and Josh Brocato were third and fourth, respectively, leading Kasten’s Panthers to team honors by a 39-second margin over Heyworth. A third PBL runner (ninth-place Corbin Riecks) had a top-10 finish.
They were followed by Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman teammates Wyatt Avenatti and Colton Wyatt, in fifth and sixth, respectively.