Alex Saletta (alternate), Brady Steiner, Sam Neiger, Grant Hanson, Cayden Dyer, Emmy Sager, AJ Stutz, Colin Beran, Alex Salatin (alternate), and Ryan Chevalier

by David Miller

Loveland, Ohio – It is a contribution of many factors that sends Loveland High School Cross Country runners to compete in the Ohio State Championship finals. The culture of running in Loveland that began decades ago when Loveland became the mecca of road running for enthusiasts from all over the Tri-State when Loveland became the first trailhead of the Little Miami Scenic Trail. Known forever around these parts as the Loveland Bike Trail. It’s in no small part attributable to excellent coaches over the years that are highly respected throughout Ohio. No doubt, parents who are raising these young men and women. No doubt the culture of running that begins in early grades within the school system with their after-school running clubs. No doubt the numerous road races held in Historic Downtown and along the Loveland Bike Trail. It’s the high school and middle school athletic departments teaching those in their care the right attitude and balance between competition and academic studies as well as hiring the right coaches.

Thus, LHS sent off the Men’s team and one Woman runner this morning to compete tomorrow at Fortress Obetz in Obetz, Ohio; to participate in the purest of athletic pursuits of running a 5K the fastest.

No fancy equipment is required. Of course, they will be running in some pretty expensive shoes, but New Balance and Nike aren’t going to determine the outcome tomorrow. It will be thousands of miles of practice that came before. It will be what’s in the runners’ heads tomorrow. It will be what has been in their head for many years; honing their technique, learning what to eat and not to eat, before, after, and in-between. It will be the endless days coping with injuries and resting injured muscles and shins when every constant thought is a painfully, agonizing crave too quickly returning to the pavement to get that next fix of adrenaline and endorphin. It’s the personal self-discipline to balance what the right and left brain are arguing about. It’s a well-developed skill of resolve to know how many or how few miles to put in the days leading to the next starter’s gun.

An hour before heading to the crowded starting line will be years of muscle memory kicking in knowing how much to run for a warm-up.

Round or flat laces and how tight to tie them.

Going to the State Final has been many years of lacing up and heading out the door when your mind plays a tug of war between a daily run or putting it off until tomorrow when you have a running buddy.

Here are photos of the LHS runners who did all that – and more – and photos from their school when they left this morning escorted through town by the Loveland Police Department. They also went by the Loveland Primary and Elementary School campus and were cheered by future Tiger runners.

This won’t be the last race they ever run, as every time they head out the door in the future they will still have an imaginary or real finish line ahead. Most have already developed something they will never get out of their system and will become life-long runners. They will never have to find a court or field, or someone to compete against, no one to throw the ball to… they will always have the road just outside their front door. The suburban street. The friendly community trail. A high school or college track. The inter-city block. The rural road. Just themselves and their shoes.

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