BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Through last Saturday, Eric Board could not have written a better ending to his senior cross country season at Maumee with individual wins in the Northern Lakes League, district and regional meets.
So when Board took a turn into the final part of the OHSAA Division II state meet, which ended inside a football stadium at The Fortress in Obetz, he wasn’t about to let anything unravel the perfect bow on his season.
The top 20 finishers in the race make the All-Ohio team and finish on the podium, and Board entered the stadium in 20th place.
Letting someone catch him in the final 80 meters wasn’t going to happen, so Board found the last bit of strength and gave it one final kick, passing up a runner at the line to finish 19th in 16 minutes, 14.5 seconds.
“The stadium just erupts when all the leaders come in,” Board said. “I start my kick because I do not want anyone to pass me from behind, so I booked it.
“When I crossed the line, it took everything I had. I knew that was my last high school cross country race. And I mean, yes, I would like to finish better, but I really don’t have any regrets about how I raced. I gave everything I had.”
Board went out strong and found himself among the lead pack after the first mile. At about two miles, Board said he was struggling and beginning to wonder whether he went out too fast at the start.
A hill greets the runners with about 600 meters left in the race and at that point, someone told Board he was in 20th. He said that’s when he began picking up his pace.
“I picked it up and that’s kind of where I started my kick,” Board said. “I mean, I was dying. I had spit and snot flying all over the place. I didn’t care. I just wanted to finish.”
This was Board’s second straight state appearance after finishing 46th in 16:25.5 as a junior. The experience from last year and a preview run on Friday gave Board invaluable experience in Saturday’s race.
He knew the importance of getting out hot since the course narrows down after a few hundred meters. He knew where to kick and where the uphill challenges would be.
In previous weeks, Maumee coach Karen Brebberman said last year was about getting Board experience at state and this year was about competing.
“I think that (experience) is huge,” Board said. “That was a huge experience last year to be there and really take it all in, so when I came this year, I knew what I was doing. I knew where those spots on the course were so I would be prepared.
“Whenever you run a course twice, it’s always going to be faster because you know what you’re doing.”
It was a picture-perfect ending to one of the best cross country careers in Maumee history. It all started as a freshman, when Board had some success and realized competing at cross country was what he wanted to do.
“After that season and that year, I really just put all my effort toward running,” he said. “I trained really hard. I focused on running and my dedication was on another level. This is what I wanted to accomplish.”
Board still has a track season to go as a Maumee student-athlete, but he’s also thinking about what’s next. He has a list of colleges narrowed down to a top four and plans to make his decision in the next few weeks.