Times Sports Editor
Success in the sport of running isn't something that is achieved lightly. While casual fans will see the postseason success that Wabash Valley runners have had this year, what they probably haven't seen is the long miles and nearly constant work that has gone on to achieve the accomplishments.
Northview's Conor Strain is a prime example of what is possible when a runner dedicates himself to the sport.
The junior is set to run in the IHSAA State Finals on Saturday afternoon at the LaVern Gibson Complex following the 10:30 a.m. girls' race.
The path to the finals has been long and arduous for all the runners that have made it this far. Early mornings, mileage in sizzling heat during the summer or steady rains in chilly fall training sessions have forged Strain into a talented runner. His coach, Chad Smith, has been there for much of the work and knows what it takes to reach this level of competition. Smith reached the state finals himself during his high school career at Sullivan, finishing 33rd. That experience has enabled him to prepare Strain for Saturday's event.
"I think the best thing I can teach him about the state meet is that it goes so quickly and not get out over your head at the start," said Smith. "He needs to stay relaxed and enjoy the experience."
Smith was also quick to mention how much he has enjoyed the experience of working with the Knights, and in particular, Strain.
"Conor has been a joy to coach over the past two years," said Smith. "It has been especially fun to watch him improve over the past two years. He has taken the sport very seriously and has spent countless hours preparing for this year's cross country season."
The extensive training that Strain has done continued after a sophomore track season that saw him reach the regional in the 3,200 where he placed ninth. During the summer he qualified to run the 3,000 meters at the 2008 USA Track and Field Region 7 Junior Olympic Championships
That all led to a 2008 cross country season that saw him set a Northview Course Record and claim a conference championship and eventually place 14th in the Brown County Semistate.
Saturday he'll have the opportunity to add another accolade for 2008.
After a long season, Smith has lowered the rigors of daily practice to allow Strain to run his best in the meet.
"We have tried to keep this week very low mileage but still try to keep up our intensity," said Smith. "We cut this week's speed workout to only one. At this point in the season you are just trying to stay sharp and hopefully it will pay off on Saturday for him."
Smith has also prepared a race strategy for the meet, which should be run under sunny, cool conditions.
"Since the weather forecast looks to be perfect, my hope for (Connor) is that he sets a new PR in the 5K and finish somewhere between 16:10-16:20 and finish in the top 30," said Smith. "Normally during the state tournament you don't worry about time, you worry about being in the top-15. Since the state meet is the final stop in the state tournament you worry about time.
"For the state meet, he needs to get out with runners that will push him to a new PR," Smith continued. "There are particular runners that will go out very fast because they are trying to win the meet and Conor needs to relax and not be tempted to go out to fast with the front runners."