One shoe off, one shoe on …


Heys overcame footwear folly to earn All-OAC honor, berth in national race

By Mark Huber - mhuber@wnewsj.com



Simon Heys, middle, trains this week in preparation for Saturday’s NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship race in Louisville, Ky. In the photo, Heys trains with teammates George Rickett, left, and Noah Tobin, right.

Simon Heys, middle, trains this week in preparation for Saturday’s NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship race in Louisville, Ky. In the photo, Heys trains with teammates George Rickett, left, and Noah Tobin, right.


Simon Heys


Simon Heys, middle, with his father Brad, left, and WC cross country head coach Ron Combs, right.


WILMINGTON — Personal goal dashed, Simon Heys had every right to be unhappy with the Ohio Athletic Conference Cross Country Championship race two weeks on the Wilmington College course.

But the 2019 graduate of Wilmington High School was pleased to learn his Wilmington College men’s team finished fourth in the conference meet, the best placement in school history.

Heys’ sullen mindset turned to joy.

“I was disappointed but when we found out the team tied our best finish at the OAC meet in school history, I quickly shifted my focus,” he said.

Such is Heys demeanor as a team-first runner.

“We want to be the team in a few years that wins an OAC title and makes it to nationals,” said Heys, who will be running Saturday in the national meet as an individual. “We’re also doing it with the majority of our team never even making the state cross country meet in high school which will make it even sweeter if we make it (to nationals as a team). That is the main goal I came here (for).”

Heys will run in the NCAA Div. III Cross Country Championship race 11 a.m. Saturday at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville.

This will be the second time as a WC student-athlete Heys has qualified for a national competition. He placed 13th in the 10,000-meter run in the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championship meet this past spring.

“Coming out of high school I mostly had a (Division I) or bust mentality but luckily had a lot of people talk to me and change my mind about it,” said Heys. “I never came into college with the intent to win a national title. It was mostly because Ron (Combs, WC head coach) had gained my trust and I knew by coming to Wilmington College I would receive the best chance to improve as a runner.”

Heys said Combs’ knack for taking high school runners and greatly improving their times in college made the allure of WC too much to pass on.

“Ron showed me time and time again he could take 18:00 high school runners and get them to run sub 16:00 in just a few years,” Heys said. “I wanted to take the chance and see what he could do with a guy who had already run sub 16:00.”

Heys ran 24:40 and finished second in last week’s Great Lakes Region Cross Country Championship last weekend in Shelbyville, Ind.

The week before, on his home course at WC, Heys finished seventh in the OAC championship.

While seventh wasn’t his goal, Heys had in mind finishing second in the league with two shoes, so seventh with one shoe over the majority of the course isn’t too bad.

“I lost my shoe in the mud about 400 meters into the race,” said Heys. “I then ran 2.5 miles without it and had to put it back on just before three miles. I would’ve ran the whole way without it, however some coaches and my father were telling me to put it back on before the woods because we didn’t want any injuries to come up before some important meets in the future (GLR and nationals). Ultimately I stopped to put on my shoe to be smart and when I started back up again I was around 23rd. I really wanted the best shot to make my first ever first team all-conference award so I didn’t panic and just went to work. I knew the course better than anyone so I just moved up through the woods and pastures enough to earn a top 10 finish (first team) at the end.”

Simon Heys, middle, trains this week in preparation for Saturday’s NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship race in Louisville, Ky. In the photo, Heys trains with teammates George Rickett, left, and Noah Tobin, right.
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/11/web1_CC_heys2.jpgSimon Heys, middle, trains this week in preparation for Saturday’s NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship race in Louisville, Ky. In the photo, Heys trains with teammates George Rickett, left, and Noah Tobin, right.

Simon Heys
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/11/web1_CC_heys3.jpgSimon Heys

Simon Heys, middle, with his father Brad, left, and WC cross country head coach Ron Combs, right.
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/11/web1_CC_heys6.jpgSimon Heys, middle, with his father Brad, left, and WC cross country head coach Ron Combs, right.
Heys overcame footwear folly to earn All-OAC honor, berth in national race

By Mark Huber

mhuber@wnewsj.com

Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email mhuber@wnewsj.com or on Twitter @wnjsports

Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email mhuber@wnewsj.com or on Twitter @wnjsports