EDMOND — Jack Vincent felt like he was in no man’s land.
He was competing in a 5K race with 111 other runners, yet the Claremore senior found himself alone on the course.
Vincent ran alongside Guthrie’s Trevor Sallee and Mount St. Mary’s Jackson Salsman throughout the early part of the race, but the former eventually pulled ahead while the latter fell behind, leaving him to occupy a sizable gap between third and fifth place.
With no one within his immediate vicinity, Vincent eased into a maintainable pace and admittedly became too relaxed in the moment.
Regardless, he still managed to earn a fourth-place finish at the Class 5A cross-country state meet at Edmond Santa Fe on Saturday afternoon, finishing in 16 minutes, 30 seconds.
Vincent placed fourth in last year’s race as well with a time of 16:44.
“I didn’t push it enough in the middle of the race,” Vincent said. “I switched my mindset the day before the race and went with the strategy of not exactly taking it easy the first 2 miles but trying to stay within a reasonable distance of the leaders and push the last mile.”
The leaders were Christian Arenivar of Santa Fe South and Guymon’s Dereje Himbago, both of whom claimed state titles the last two years.
Arenivar won his second-straight individual title in 15:45, but Guymon, led by a seemingly injured Himbago (16:09), claimed the team championship with 61 points.
Claremore finished ninth of 14 teams with 224 points.
Although Arenivar and Himbago were out of reach, Vincent nearly caught Sallee in the final few meters to steal third, but the Bluejay managed to hold him off by less than eight hundredths of a second.
“If I would’ve had 20 more meters, I would’ve had him,” Vincent said. “I can be disappointed, but I did the best I could at the end of the day.”
He has nothing to be disheartened about, though.
For many runners, it might take all four years of their high school careers to reach the level Vincent did in only two years.
Vincent played football his freshman and sophomore years, but he decided to focus solely on running after garnering much success in distance races during track season.
He planned to use cross-country as a preseason to track but quickly realized how much more the sport has to offer to runners like himself.
“It’s definitely more fun and enjoyable than I thought,” Vincent said of his time running cross-country. “I wasn’t going into it super serious or anything; I just wanted to get a base for track. As I started racing more, I discovered it’s different than track, but in a way that it can still be enjoyable.
“I honestly like it just as much as track, if not more.”
Boyd, McMorris notch PR’s
Big or small, every runner has a prerace ritual.
Aiden Boyd calls his the “Bennett Wisdom”.
The sophomore talks to assistant coach Lance Bennett before every race for advice and a little motivation, and Saturday’s state meet was no different.
This time, though, Bennett might’ve added a touch of magic to his words.
Boyd shaved 17 seconds off his personal best, clocking in at 18:22 to place 78th overall and 66th among eligible point scorers.
“While I was running, I was just like, ‘Well, I’m going to pass you, then I’m going to pass you, then I’m going to pass you,’” Boyd said. ‘“I’m going to beat you, and I’m going to beat you.’ (Bennett) told me, ‘At the end when you pass the soccer field and the tennis courts, pick it up. Then at the 150 or 200-meter mark, just go for it and sprint.’ I remember passing a lot of people, and I had a lot of people come watch me today, so that was awesome motivation.
“That ‘Bennett Wisdom’ always helps out.”
Of course, Boyd didn’t acquire his competitive nature from Bennett’s genie-like wisdom.
That aggressively ambitious attitude stems from his time in the wrestling room.
Boyd is a serious competitor regardless of the sport, but wrestling is his true love.
Although Boyd, who plans to wrestle in the 120-pound weight class this winter, sees the irony in a wrestler delving into the cross-country realm, he said he believes the sports complement each other.
“It’s kind of a weird thing; it’s really unusual,” Boyd said of his commitment to both sports. “I think wrestling really helps on the cross-country field because I’m really competitive, but I’ve never seen a cross-country guy with cauliflower ear. Even though I love wrestling, I always feel like you should mix it up and not stay in the wrestling room all year.
“Just like when I say in cross-country, ‘I’m going to beat you, I’m going to beat you’, it’s the same thing in a wrestling bracket—‘I’m going to beat you, I’m going to beat you.’
“That transfers over to running.”
Michael McMorris had a decision to make.
Fresh off top-10 finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter races at the track state meet in May, the soon-to-be senior was determined to enter the ranks of Class 5A’s elite runners.
However, sacrifices had to be made to do that.
McMorris, who also goes by “Pickle”, was reluctant to give up his football and wrestling careers, both of which spanned longer than a decade, so he sought out some “Bennett Wisdom” of his own.
“I knew I wanted to run in college, and the best opportunity that I could present to myself was running year-round,” McMorris said. “I remember asking coach Bennett what I needed to do to be one of the elite runners like Jack. He said, ‘You need to build a foundation (through cross-country).’”
With that, his mind was made up. He was going to be a full-time runner.
The decision is already bearing fruit.
In his first season running cross-country, McMorris broke 18 minutes in the 5K and improved even further at the state meet on Saturday, finishing with a personal-best time of 17:55 to place 53rd overall and 46th among eligible scorers despite dealing with a sinus infection.
His best time coming into the race was 17:56, which he ran at the Walnut Park meet in Claremore on Oct. 3.
“I’ve been sick for the past three weeks, so I’m not really myself,” McMorris said. “But I tried to do the best I could for my boys.”
McMorris, who has offers from Rogers State University, Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., and Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, is now eager to hit the oval and log more personal bests in track.
“I’m going to enjoy my two weeks off and then start training for track,” McMorris said.
Claremore finishes: 4. Jack Vincent, 16:30; 27/26. Tyler Douthitt, 17:21; 53/46. Michael McMorris, 17:55; 78/66. Aiden Boyd, 18:22; 96/82. Blake Phillippi, 18:48; 101/87. Talon Woody, 19:09; 109/95. Blaine Phillippi, 19:54.