BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Eric Board did not come all this way just to finish second.
The work, the miles, the dedication and sacrifices. The last six years of training and preparing for just this moment.
No, Board wasn’t about to settle for second place at the OHSAA Division II regional cross country meet last weekend.
So with a few hundred meters left in last Saturday’s race in Tiffin and Board running step-for-step with Bryan’s Joshuah Taylor, the Maumee senior found something deep inside and pulled ahead for the win.
Board, who in previous weeks had won the Northern Lakes League and district titles, clipped Taylor by 1.2 seconds, finishing in 16:16.5 and winning the regional title.
“I had to pull deep. I really wanted it,” Board said. “I just told myself that I could do it and that’s what happened. I had a clear mind and I was ready.”
Maumee coach Karen Brebberman had watched Board and Taylor battle it out, with Taylor taking a narrow lead. She watched as they made the turn for home and Taylor still held a short lead. She knew there was no way Board wasn’t going to win.
“When they were close and Eric was slightly behind, I had every confidence in the world in Eric,” Brebberman said. “I knew he was going to get (first). That’s what we talked about. I wasn’t even thinking he’d get second.”
For Brebberman, Board’s win was the result of six years of lessons learned and maturity gained.
“It’s his determination, his confidence, I could probably give you 10 amazing adjectives for that kid,” she said. “He wanted it and I don’t think he was going to settle for anything other than that.
“His experiences in six years of running … has got him where he is. He knows what he needs to do. His focus and determination got him to here.”
While Board moves on to next weekend’s state meet in Columbus, his senior teammate Nick Johnstone capped off his Panthers career by running in the regional meet. Johnstone finished in 20:11.
Brebberman said John-stone didn’t train much during the week ahead of regional, trying to nurse a twisted ankle back to health. While Johnstone was disappointed in his finish, she said he had nothing to hang his head about.
“He didn’t train much this week because I just wanted to get him to that point,” Brebberman said. “He ran with determination.”
Board will be making his second straight appearance in the state meet. He goes off at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday at The Fortress in Obetz, just southeast of Columbus.
Brebberman and Board will keep his week as it always has been, with training and focus, although she said they will taper his distance and speed work.
“I’m going to have to cut out all the distractions and just focus on this race, the only thing that matters,” Board said. “The rest of the season, first place today, doesn’t matter at the start line next Saturday. As soon as that gun goes off, it’s everybody for themselves.”
While it is true, no one will care next week what Board has done in the previous three weeks, those experiences do mean something for Board and his confidence.
“I can use it just for my mental aspect, saying, ‘I belong here, I know what to do,’” Board said. “The confidence, it will be there.”