Shadyside’s Stewart earns all-Ohio in CC
HEBRON — Chase Stewart is a motivated runner.
Whether it was a summer run through Shadyside, a speed workout, a league meet or Saturday’s OHSAA State Cross Country Championship, the Tigers’ senior standout continually reverted back to the number ’84.’
It was that number, his place in last year’s state meet, that fueled Stewart all season and especially during the final 1,600 meters of his final prep race at cold, windy and muddy National Trail Raceway.
The motivation paid dividends, too. Stewart crossed the finish line in seventh place, becoming an all-Ohioan for the first time and best finisher in Shadyside’s illustrious cross country history at the state meet.
“I didn’t make it here as a freshman or sophomore and then to finish where I did last year and now be seventh, it’s a great feeling,” Stewart said. “That 84th place motivated me so much and to be able to come back and place seventh just means the world to me.”
Stewart, who had a large fan club in attendance to support him, said openly leading up to the meet that he was coming to National Trail in search of gold.
Though he didn’t achieve that, he had no level of disappointment whatsoever.
“Coming in the goal was to win the state, but I still had a great day,” Stewart said.
Head coach Joel Joseph, who wrapped up his first season of his second tenure, wasn’t a bit surprised with how Stewart ran and reached down to find an extra gear in the latter portion of the race to pull out his finish.
“Though the 25th position (at the two-mile mark) was better obviously than he was last year, it wasn’t what he wanted, so for him to be able to move up and finish top 10 in the state meet and say he’s the highest placer in school history is just a testament to him,” Joseph said. “The miles he’s put in and workouts he’s given me all year, you always know there’s a good chance he will run well. And he did.”
Stewart admitted that the weather “played a huge part” in the race. And that encompassed all of the weather, which caused the course to be significantly revised after last weekend’s postponement.
Couple the already soggy and muddy course with temperatures in the low 30s and a biting wind, Mother Nature significantly affected times.
“It was absolutely freezing (on the course),” Stewart said. “I wasn’t able to really start to feel loose until about a mile into the race. After that, I just tried to keep rolling.”
Throughout the season, Stewart’s motivation wasn’t the only thing that didn’t change. His approach never waivered either. Each time out, Stewart simply wanted to run his race.
“Everyone went out so hard,” Stewart said. “I tried to follow that plan as much as possible, but I know I could have done better if I had gotten out better (in the opening mile).”
Stewart crossed the line in 16:50.4, but it was the place that mattered. His place was fueled by a late surge in the third mile, which saw him move up 17 spots.
“A lot of it was mental strength at that point because I was seeing guys that I had beaten before and I told myself that I could move up,” Stewart recalled. “That’s one of the biggest differences for me from last year because, honestly, I wasn’t able to handle that part of it.”
The mental toughness actually came to light last weekend, too. The OHSAA opted to push the meet back a week because of the course conditions, leaving runners with additional time to prepare, but a lot of training schedules were thrown off in the process.
“The weirdest part was a weekend without a race because I think I had raced five consecutive Saturdays leading up to that,” Stewart said. “I actually feel like it helped me a little bit.”
Stewart, who is still undecided about his collegiate future, will now take this accomplishment with him to track in the spring. He qualified to the state meet in the 1600 meter run, but didn’t perform anywhere near what he thought he was capable of.
“Counting indoor track, there are still two more chances to win a state title,” Stewart said. “That’s still the goal.”