Cross Country obtains perfection, sweeps GMC Championship

Sean Speidel | The Chronicle

(from left to right) Braeden Fedders, Isaac Schacleiter, Brady Messer, Alex DeRoussel, Aiden Amshoff, Keith Neuburger, and Jerry Xu celebrate a sweep and their GMC title

Achieving perfection is not a simple feat.

On October 16, 2021, the Mason boys cross country team made history. The first five runners to cross the finish line in the Greater Miami Championship (GMC) were Comets. This gave Mason the first-ever perfect score in the GMC championship.

Cross country meets are scored by assigning points to the first five finishers of each school, and the team with the lowest total score wins. The runners’ individual scores coordinate with their finishing placement. For example, first place would earn their team one point and second place would earn their team two points. When one school has the top five finishers, they earn a perfect score of 15 points.  

In preparation for the GMC championship, the Mason boys did not run the weekend prior. This allowed the team to be well-rested and ready to compete. Head coach Tom Rapp said that the runners resembled “salivating dogs” because the boys were eager to run and were “starving for competition.”

As the varsity team of three seniors, three juniors, and one sophomore approached the race, their strategy was to run as a pack. Senior Aiden Amshoff started off pacing Mason’s top five runners at 4:50 for the first mile. With one kilometer left, the first four Mason runners had expanded their lead and were set to finish first through fourth, but Senior Alex DeRoussel had been passed by three opposing runners and dropped to eighth place. 

It was crucial for DeRoussel to make a comeback in order to secure Mason’s perfect score. With only 500 meters left in the race, DeRoussel had one more runner to pass in order to ensure that the Comets would earn a perfect score. DeRoussel said that he had to push himself to his limit and pass the last opposing runner to secure a sweep. 

“Coach Rapp was standing there when the Lakota West guy was the last guy I had to pass,” DeRoussel said. “[He] said ‘that’s the sweep, and remember what they did to us last year.’”

Rapp was referring to the 2020 GMC championship in which Mason lost to Lakota West, the eventual 2020 state champion. The tough blow to the Comets in 2020 served as motivation to the team in the 2021 GMC Championship.

With extra encouragement from Rapp, DeRoussel passed the final runner on the straightaway and crossed the finish line in fifth place, securing the first perfect score in GMC championship history. DeRoussel said that he was glad that he was able to contribute to making history as well as supporting the team with his performance. 

“It just felt good that even though I wasn’t having my best day I could come through, and the team got the sweep,” DeRoussel said. 

The team trains hard, running up to 65 miles a week; however, junior runner Isaac Schachleiter said that the training is only one part of the story. The cross country team’s camaraderie gives them an extra edge.

“Coming into the year, we worked on building from the bottom up and really building a love for each other and the sport of running,” Schachleiter said. “A willingness to fight for your teammates goes a lot farther than fighting for yourself.”

The boy’s cross country team has a special bond with one another. They have adopted the principle to run for the team and not just to set personal records. Junior Keith Neuburger said that he uses the strong team dynamic as motivation to finish strong while racing.

“I just think about my teammates and how they’re all depending on me,” Neuburger said. “I use that to find extra strength and push to the finish line.”

The unprecedented perfect score at the GMC championship reflects the team’s chemistry as they have proven to work well together beyond the GMC championship. The Mason boy’s cross country team went on to win the Ohio state title on November 6, 2021. 

Rapp said that the relationships the boys have formed with each other have boosted their performance to a new level, allowing them to compete not just as individuals, but as a team.

They wouldn’t be as good as they are if they didn’t have each other,” Rapp said. “They just play off of each other really well. You have to feel a little magic sometimes, and that there’s something special about your team if you’re going to be really, really good.”

Photo contributed by Tom Rapp

Graphic by Alison Droege