The finish line is just the start

Michael+Crook+%28right%29+runs+alongside+a+teammate+in+a+meet+against+Perry+Meridian+on+Aug.15.+

Madelyn Knight

Michael Crook (right) runs alongside a teammate in a meet against Perry Meridian on Aug.15.

Logan Zrebiec , Reporter

As a high school athlete, kids want to have the chance to compete at the highest level. It’s the highest level of competition in high school sports; where the best teams battle. For the SHS boys cross country team, no individual runner has qualified to compete in state in the past four years, but that all changed this year.

Senior Michael Crook was the only boys runner from SHS to compete in the state championship race on Oct. 28. He finished  25th out of 208 with a time of 16:01.5, making his pace (the time it took for him to run one mile) to be 5:10.

“(The state championship) was definitely a very intense race,” Crook said. “The energy itself was electric…there were just so many good competitors around to where it just got you in that mindset of, ‘I finally made it.’”

Crook’s journey to competing in the state finals began the moment that he picked up the sport in sixth grade, but really started to take off in the past two years.

Herman Bueno, who coaches boys cross country at both SHS and SMS has been able to witness Crook’s improvements over the past seven years and says that Crook has “improved with leaps and bounds over the past two years.”

According to Bueno, Crook started placing first in many events in track during the spring of last school year. This winning mentality carried over into this year’s cross country season as Crook placed first every race he ran except for conference, semi-state and state.

Bueno also said that Crook is held to higher standards in practice. He said that Crook would do the same workouts as the rest of the team, he was just expected to do them faster. This helped push Crook, bettering his overall times in meets. In fact, over the course of his high school career, Crook’s personal record has dropped almost two minutes, going from 17:32 his freshman year to 15:40.5. Crook also went from holding the 29th fastest time in the Shelbyville league (cross country’s form of sectionals) to holding the fastest time, according to Athletic.net. Crook credits his parents, who both ran cross country at the University of Indianapolis, for getting him into cross country as well as his natural body.

“I’ve always had the runner-form, just a tall, skinny dude,” Crook said. “I decided to just give (running) a try, and I ended up being really good at it.”

Now, cross country is paying off for him. Crook has attracted attention from multiple Division-one colleges like the University of Southern Indiana, Butler University, the University of Evansville and Purdue University Northwest.

According to Bueno, Crook needs to run on Sunday’s because Bueno believes that 20 out of the 25 runners in front of Crook run seven days a week. Bueno also believes Crook has what it takes to take his talent and succeed at the collegiate level due to his ability to push through discomfort.

“He can put up with more discomfort than most kids,” Bueno said. “For some reason he can shut off that part of his brain that hurts.”

College runners have to run double the distance they do in high school. A runner usually runs 3.1 miles per meet in high school while college runners run around 6.2 miles per meet. To prepare for the changes, Crook plans on training over the summer by challenging himself to constantly run more and more miles until he gets comfortable and satisfied with the time and amount of miles he will have to run in the years to come.