By Rob Kiser
The turning point in Piqua senior Andy Mayse’s cross country career isn’t hard to pick out.
In fact, four years later he remembers it like yesterday.
Mayse, who as a boy, had run some 5Ks and fun runs, began his cross country career in seventh grade at Piqua.
“I wasn’t that good, but I stuck with it and it worked out,” Mayse said in a huge understatement.
Then came his eighth grade season and a win at the Sidney Invitational.
“I won my first race when I was in eighth grade,” Mayse said. “I remember. It was up at Sidney and it was the first time I ran two miles under 12 minutes. To win a race in track is not that big a deal, because sometimes you only have one other school there. To win a race in cross country, that is a big deal. At that time, I decided I was a cross country runner and would be using track to train for it.”
Mayse has only progressed from there.
After making it to state and finishing on the podium in track last spring, Mayse earned his first berth in the state cross country meet last Saturday, finishing 12th at the regionals in 16:33.
“Now, it is kind of different,” Mayse said about his success in both sports. “Now I train, based on whichever sport I am running.”
In cross country, Mayes has progressed with each season.
“It was my goal (to get to state),” Mayse said. “As a freshman, I knew it was going to be tough. As a sophomore, I got to regionals and saw what I needed to do. As a junior, it was really tough missing out by a few seconds, but somebody has to take those spots.”
Mayse also made a decision early in his high school career where his next step would be. And that will be running for Army at West Point the next four years.
“I kind of settled on West Point when I was a sophomore,” Mayse said. “It is a something where you have to make a decision early. You have to go through one of the congressman, which in my case was Jim Jordan. I recently received an LOA, which means as long as you finish the application process, you will be accepted. It is something I really wanted and am excited about.”
Mayse goal this season was to be running at National Trail Raceway. So, he used the pre-season race there as a chance to get ready for that.
“I ran the course earlier this year,” Mayse said about National Trail Raceway. “I think I ran something like 18 minutes (in August). At that point in the season you are not going to run a great time. At the time, I was basically just running it (to get a feel for it). I like the course. Part of it is on pavement because it is a drag strip, but that is OK. Most of it is on grass.”
When Mayse secured that state berth Saturday, he was the first Piqua runner to do so since Travis Deaton finished 52nd in 1999.
“I heard from a lot of people and had a lot of community support,” Mayse said. “They were excited to see somebody from Piqua at state.”
As Mayse prepares for his final high school race, he has no trouble pinpointing what he enjoys about the sport.
“One of things I enjoy about running is you train and get better,” Mayse said. “And even if you see a teammate you are running with and see them get better, that is something I enjoy. You can train with runners from other schools. There are not so many rivalries in cross country. It is competitive, but not like you hate the other person like in some sports. It is more pushing yourself to get better and I like that.”
And for Mayse, it has never just been about himself. He sees his success as something that can benefit the Piqua program into the future.
“I think Piqua is going to have a really strong program in the future,” Mayse said. “You always have few junior high runners that are training for soccer and things like that. But, our junior high programs are strong and I see us having a really strong cross country program in five years.”
Still, Mayse wants to go out with his best effort Saturday — and he is shooting for the top 50.
“I think Travis (Deaton) finished 52nd at state,” Mayse said. “It would be a surprise if I was in the top 50, because I know I am not ranked that high. At state, every runner there is dedicated. It is not like some meets, where some of the kids are dedicated and others aren’t.
“There is always a different feel at state. It is hard (to run with someone you know) at state. There are only 19 other runners I know and only probably half of them are from the Dayton area.”
A very different feel from when Mayse first started running
“I used to do one mile fun runs,” Mayse said. “In fourth grade, I ran a 5Kfor the first time. I thought I trained hard for it by running four or five miles a week. If I only ran four or five miles a week now, I wouldn’t be very good. There have been a lot of miles since then. Definitely, this makes it all worth it.”
And four years later, he still remembers that first taste of success like it was yesterday.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.