SPRING VALLEY — Wes Schmidt had to put his mind over matter before he could put one foot in front of the other.
Schmidt learned how to control things he could control and not worry about things he couldn’t. Once he did that, he turned in a solid senior season for the Hall harriers.
The redhead put the Red into the Devils, leading Hall in most meets from the beginning of the season to the end. He placed seventh at the Seneca Regional to lead the Red Devils to a team berth at sectionals.
For all of his accomplishments this year, Schmidt is the 2017 BCR Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. He is the third Hall boy to earn that honor, following the footsteps of Al Baldonado (2013, 2014) and Scott Janusick (2008-10).
Schmidt, who has been Hall’s No. 1 runner since his sophomore season, had a rough off season getting over IB band syndrome he sustained in track last spring. It’s a painful ailment to the ligament running from your hip to your knee, and he spent a lot of time on a foam roller to help with the rehab. He also dealt with chin splints on the same leg.
He became very frustrated when he wasn’t up to speed.
“I wasn’t doing too well, and it was kind of getting to me that I’ve got to step up and be a captain. I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to push through these workouts better than everyone else does,” he said. “I had to prepare myself at a pace I could stay at and still be a role model to everyone else on the team.”
He didn’t always carry good thoughts over to the season and had bad days dealing with rolled ankles and other ailments.
“It gets to your mind when you’re not doing the best at meets and stuff,” he said. “You got to think more of the end result than what’s was happening at the moment, and I was having a lot of problems considering my injury from the past track season.”
That’s when veteran Hall coach Tom Keegan stepped in to help Schmidt work his way through mind over matter.
“I think that as the season went on, he came to realize that sometimes you can’t control where you finish in the standings. There are too many variables,” Keegan said. “The only controllables are your mindset and effort. I think he came to grips with that as the season progressed, and that will serve him well once track starts up. If you can win the battle of those two things, then call it good and move on.”
Schmidt credits Keegan for getting him “through the hard times and injuries and bad mental stuff and everything.”
Keegan said no one worked harder at his trade than Schmidt.
“He worked his tail off. Wes showed a passion for the sport,” Keegan said. “Each day he was our hardest-working kid in practice and also really seemed to just enjoy the process of getting better.”
Schmidt said his personal highlight came at Princeton’s Gary Invitational in early September when he ran with Thomas Stamberger of Amboy and Spencer Mauch of Newman and “we just figured out who had it the most” at the end.
Schmidt garnered First Team All-Conference honors by placing ninth in the Three Rivers Meet at St. Bede.
The Red Devils set their sights on qualifying for sectionals leading up to the regional meet at Seneca. They plotted out a course to get them there, advancing as a team with a third-place finish with 79 points to come in nicely behind IVC (55) and Seneca (68). Schmidt finished seventh with a time of 17:45.
“We all wanted to place under a minute between the first five. We did exactly what we wanted to, got the top four within 20 seconds of each other,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt had a tough go going into the sectional at Oregon, spraining his ankle the day before and rolling it again during warm-ups. He pushed through and still led the Red Devils, finishing 36th with even a faster time (17:36) than regional.
“I wasn’t expecting to run, but miracles happen,” he said.
A miler and two miler in track, Schmidt said he likes cross country the most.
“It’s a different environment every race,” he said. “You’re not doing the same thing, same turn, same everything every time. And the training is completely different. I really like the longer aspect of it.”
Schmidt credits Baldonado, the former Red Devil standout now running for North Central College, the No. 1 ranked Div. III program in the country, for pushing him toward cross country.
“He helped me figure out running was the thing I needed in my life and not football,” he said.
For now, Schmidt rolls with the Hall bowling team, carrying around a 180 average. Running will never be far from his thoughts, and he’s learned to keep them all positive, as he looks forward to his senior season of track.
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