HEBRON — It wasn’t quite the race it could have been for Wilmington High School senior Simon Heys.
It was better.
With the thought he could finish as high as third if everything went his way, Heys was 20th Saturday in the Division I boys race at the OHSAA Cross Country Championships at National Trail Raceway. His time was 16:31.7.
“This is better than I imagined,” Heys said on a cold, windy day in Licking County, east of Columbus. “It doesn’t matter whether I got third or 20th … it’s pretty dang cool.”
Heys stood on the podium following the race with a medal around his neck and earned All-Ohio honors. Heys’ finish is believed to be the best for a Clinton County runner at the state meet since Clinton-Massie’s David Richardson ran 16:40 and finished 17th in the 1989 Div. III championship race.
The OHSAA postponed the six championship races a week because the National Trail Raceway course was underwater on Nov. 3.
The course on Saturday was far from perfect. Meet officials had to put straw down in numerous places to help soak up standing water.
“It was very muddy; it was actually a lot worse than I expected,” Heys said. “Almost every single step I was running through was in straight mud.
“But I like the cold. I’ve been saying all year I race the best when I run in the cold. Everything was warm but my hands. Those never seem to warm up like I want them to.”
Heys ran just over 5:00 for the first mile Saturday and, in his words, was “right where I wanted to be.”
Because of the condition of the course, runners had to pick their spots to speed up or slow down.
“Around the straw, it’s actually one of the worst parts of the course,” he said of an area runners had to cover twice during the 5,000-kilometer race. “My whole foot was drenched in mud. I just kind of took that area slow. I made sure I stay on my feet. I didn’t worry about catching any guys.
After traversing the muddy mound covered in straw, though, Heys made his move.
“Lucas Houk from Wayne … we made our move together and caught as many guys as we could through miles two and three,” Heys said. “Once we got to the dry spot, I really took charge.”
As it turned out, Heys passed no fewer than 15 runners to put himself in position to earn All-Ohio honors with a top 20 finish. Down the final straightaway, Heys gave it everything he had left.
“I didn’t really know until about 500 (meters) to go whether I was in 20th or 21st (place),” he said. “I was just afraid the last 500 meters some guy was going to pass me with the kick they had.”