A week later than originally scheduled, the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I boys cross country championship race is here.
And Wilmington High School senior Simon Heys is ready.
“It’s kinda funny,” Heys said earlier in the week as he trained for the race. “I talked with my dad (Brad) and he said he feels like it (the delay) benefits us a lot. I worked all week in the coffee shop (Kava Haus) with him and I mentally feel much more prepared this week. It’s exciting.”
The Div. I championship race is set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
Heys admits he’s not the favorite, though isn’t conceding victory to anyone. Conant Smith of Middletown and Vincent Mauri of Howland are top runners. Smith was runnerup last year while Mauri was 18th.
But several others are returning high placers. Adam Buecler of Hudson was 11th in 2017 and teammate Evan Manley was 16th. Jacob Harris of Whitmer was 15th.
Heys was 134th in the 2017 championship race but feels he can contend this season. He won’t alter his race strategy, though.
“I want to run my own race,” he said. “I tend to go out hard anway. If I go the first mile in the top 10, 4:50ish … at that point I’m going to push the second mile. If I’m near the top at the second mile, then the third mile it’s an all out race.”
Though he may seem like a natural runner, Heys was more interested in football in junior high than running.
“He (Hays’ father Brad) was coaching when I was in third grade,” Heys said. “I’d go to all the meets, all the practices. I liked being his side kick. I’d play football in my backyard by myself. In the eighth grade I wanted to play football.
“I wanted to do what I wanted to do and not what my dad wanted me to do. He talked me out of it (football).”
And the rest is history.
“Running grew on me,” said Heys, who holds the WHS boys record of 15:38.3 which he established this year at the Centerville Saturday Night Lights IX race.
Heys said he plans to major in sports management in college but wants to run with a good program, not somewhere he can automatically be the top runner.
“I’m a team player, so no matter where I go, I want a chance to get a team championship,” he said. “By the time I’m a junior and senior, I want to compete for a league title.”
For now, though, a state championship race is his focus.
“We think we could place all the way up to third,” Heys said. “Top 20 is the goal but there’s no reason why third place is out of the question.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email email@example.com or on Twitter @wnjsports