BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — At the Division II state cross country meet, Maumee junior Eric Board finished in 16:52.5, good enough for 46th place out of 168 runners.
Eric believes he ran a good race on a warm November afternoon at Fortress Obetz, south of Columbus, but he hopes to build on it this spring and next year as a senior.
“My goals going forward are to honestly place and to be All-Ohio for state, and to be All-Ohio for track this year, too, and to make it to the state meet,” Eric said.
Eric said the state cross country course at Fortress Obetz was mostly flat, but there was a hill at the 1-kilometer mark, so the course provided its share of challenges.
For one of the few times this season, he was running with the best from around the state, which often includes physical contact that top runners are not used to, but he kept pace.
“In the earlier meets, I am in the front pack, so it was a little weird being back there at state, but it was good. We were all together,” Eric said.
This year’s state cross country meet was the culmination of a season that saw Eric finish in the top 10 at nine meets this year.
Eric finished as a first-team All-Northern Lakes League selection, was a top qualifier at the district and regional meets and finished in the top third of all runners at the state meet.
“I feel exceptionally good about my season. I came into the season not knowing what is going to come next,” Eric said.
“I ran every meet like it was going to be my last and I’m very happy that I made it throughout the season.”
Eric’s time of 17:45 was good for 10th place at the Norm Bray Invitational, he finished in 16:49 to win the Freedom 5K and was fifth in 17:29 at a tri-meet with Bowling Green and St. John’s.
On September 19, he finished in 16:32, good for 10th at the Dave’s Cross Country Invitational, and his time of 16:32 was good for fourth place at the Liberty Center Extravaganza.
On October 3 at the Huron Cross Country Invitational, his time of 16:56 earned him third place, and at the Northern Lakes League meet on October 17, he finished in his personal record time of 16:23, earning seventh place.
At the district meet, he finished in 16:38, good enough for fifth place, and at the regional meet, his time of 16:45 got him fifth place and the right to advance to state.
Eric was awarded the team’s Most Valuable Runner Award for the third straight season at the team’s awards banquet.
It was the culmination of maintaining a strong work ethic that dates backs months.
Eric said this past summer, he ran a personal record 65 miles in one week but averaged about 50 to 55 miles per week.
Eric added that during the summer, Maumee cross country coach Karen Brebberman encourages her runners to participate in cross training, which includes swimming at Rolf Park.
This year, the Rolf Park pool was not available, so a Gateway Middle School teacher offered her backyard pool, which the Maumee harriers took advantage of.
More Than An Athlete
Brebberman says Eric takes his leadership responsibilities to the rest of the team seriously.
“Since I have coached Eric since the seventh grade, I continue to see fine things that this young man does each year for himself and others,” Brebberman said.
That is the reason Eric was chosen as a team captain for the second straight year – an honor that usually goes to seniors.
“Very few if any sophomores hold an honor such as this, but with Eric’s outstanding leadership skills, he has never disappointed me as far as holding the position as captain,” said Brebberman.
“It is something I put a lot of consideration into when choosing team captains. He helps all team members, leads meet warm-ups and makes sure his teammates are prepared for each meet,” Brebberman continued.
“He leads by example every day at practice by working hard, never giving up and proving that hard work pays off.
“Eric also led some summer practices when I was not in attendance. Again, Eric has many leadership skills that make him an outstanding teammate,” added the Maumee coach.
How good of a teammate is Eric? At the Springfield Invitational, he finished in 20:30, well off his usual pace, but that was because he was sacrificing his own time by pacing his teammates.
“At the Springfield night run, I chose to have Eric pace a few teammates to help with preparing for the NLL meet,” Brebberman said.
“Eric paced three runners achieving their lifetime best times at the meet. For the last mile, he ran side by side with teammate Dru Albright. At this meet, Dru cut his PR drastically and he learned about competing at a whole new level.
“Although Dru should get a lot of credit for his performance, Eric encouraged him to work hard until the finish. Dru’s parents saw this, and I also received an e-mail from Dru’s mom stating what a fine teammate Eric is,” Brebberman continued.
“It was one of my favorite e-mails I received as a coach. Seeing others witness kind acts by teammates, that I see daily, is encouraging as a coach.”
Family Support, Too
In addition, there is the support the team receives from Eric’s father, Rev. Dr. J. Paul Board of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Maumee, and his mother, Lori.
Eric says his father shows up at every meet with his camera, but Brebberman says Rev. Board stepped up to the plate even more.
“His parents (provide) outstanding support and their generosity and encouragement to both teams,” Brebberman said.
“I coach the girls team as well and we consider both teams as one. Which again, Eric is instrumental in helping keep both groups as one.
“Each year, it is a tradition that every Thursday before a meet, the team has team dinners in the homes of runners. This is for team bonding and ensuring runners get the proper diet prior to Saturday meets.
“With COVID-19, this tradition had to be canceled. However, the Boards opened their church each Thursday to provide a safe, social distancing meal for our runners,” Brebberman continued.
“With the help of all our parents, food was provided and served to the runners each week. The Boards have always shown exceptional support to not only their son, but also the entire team.”
Eric has also been rewarded off the cross country course, too. At the state meet, he received an academic all-state award for qualifying to the state meet and having a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
Eric was also nominated by Brebberman and other teachers for Maumee High School’s Student of the Month this school year.
“Many were nominated,” said Brebberman, “(but) two won the honor,” as Eric shared the award with an MHS senior.
Eric says he appreciates all the support Brebberman has provided on and off the course.
“She’s amazing…she’s really stepped up and been the best coach she could be,” Eric said.