Northview senior James Grounds has been on a mission this season and it all began on June 26.
Grounds decided that he was going to bear down and devote himself to running and set his sights on making his first trip to the state finals.
As a freshman came in on the heels of Northview's run to the state finals as a team the year before where they finished 12th overall.
In his first couple of years, Grounds didn't score many points for the team that had established leaders. But as a junior, he began to blossom as a runner and according to head coach Jeff Gambill, he made quite a leap from his freshman year to where he is now as a senior.
"I've been coaching for about 18 years and I've never seen anyone improve as much as James has since his first year. He's been the one that has done that. He deserves all the credit."
The credit goes to Grounds for an extraordinary amount of work he put in beginning June 26.
Since that date, Grounds figures that he's put in around 1,000 miles including an incredible amount of work over the summer that has helped him go from a 27th place finish in the sectional last year to a sectional champion this year.
"I put in a lot of miles over the summer," said Grounds with a smile as he remembered the work put in. "I ran about everyday, sometimes twice a day. The past few years I wasn't running everyday. But I really started working at it. I've seen that it pays off."
And its paid off handsomely as Grounds advanced to the Brown County Regional where he and the Knights competed. Grounds ran to a 12th place finish that was good enough to qualify for the Bedford North Lawrence Semistate despite what Grounds feels was not his best race.
"I was happy to get out," noted Grounds. "I didn't have that great of a race, my calves were tightening up. I was disappointed that the team didn't make it out."
Gambill believes that Grounds has improved as a runner but has also grown in other areas over the course of his Northview career. "I think James, as a person, has grown as well. He's friendly and outgoing. He comes across as shy when you first meet him, but once he gets to know you he opens up and you'll find he's anything but shy. I think he wants to run at the next level and he has a lot of maturity and room to grow as a runner."
Grounds has grown from a runner, who in his sophomore year, wasn't on the varsity during the postseason, to one that has drawn a lot of attention from pundits who frequent arguably the most thorough website dedicated to Indiana High School Cross Country, www.indianarunner.com.
He's drawn attention from a lot of people who feel that he has the talent to achieve his goal of being one of the top-15 individuals to advance to the state finals from Bedford. Gambill is another person who believes that Grounds can reach the finals. "I think he's gradually getting better and we haven't seen his best race yet."
Only two seniors are on the Northview team this year which has meant that Grounds along with Logan Wegner have helped lead by example a group of talented younger runners on the Knights.
"If the freshmen are discouraged by a finish, they can just look at how much James has improved. He's a great example of what you can achieve with hard work."
The Bedford North Lawrence Semistate will kickoff at 10:30 a.m. with the girls race with the boys race scheduled for 11:10 a.m.