After winning Hoosier Hills Conference and Brown County Sectional cross-country titles last season, Paul Bean was poised to qualify for the state finals for the first time.
But at the Brown County Semistate, Bean had his worst race of the season. He finished 34th in 16 minutes, 45.5 seconds, which was 53 seconds slower than the career-best 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) time he ran on the same course in the sectional two weeks earlier.
“The couple of nights before, I had not been feeling great due to a few reasons — sleep and schoolwork going on — and just didn’t feel right the day of, so it led to a bad race,” said Bean, now a senior at Columbus East.
While Bean is eager for another chance to qualify for state, he isn’t agonizing over last year’s semistate. He has put that race in the rearview mirror.
“You can’t really dwell on past races,” Bean said. “You have to look forward to the next one and forget about the bad race.”
Bean hasn’t had many bad races since he entered high school. He’s been the Olympians’ No. 1 runner in almost every meet since his freshman year.
He enters this season not only as the top runner on his team, but in the entire area.
“He’s put the miles in,” East coach Ryan Burke said. “I’m excited to see what kind of times he’s going to be putting up as we get into the season.”
One of the times Bean is shooting for is 15:30.2. That’s the school record owned by Doug Warren, who is now an assistant coach for the Olympians.
Entering his senior year, Bean is ranked in the top five in the semistate.
“I have pretty high goals this year,” Bean said. “I’m expecting myself to get (to state). I know it won’t be easy. Obviously, I have to do the work, but that’s the goal I’ve had since freshman year.”
Despite his success in cross-country and track at East, Bean is not looking to continue his running career at the next level. Of course, if he has another strong season and picks up some scholarship offers, that could change.
Bean said he ran about 40 miles a week over the summer and plans to increase that number to about 70 per week as the season progresses.
“I think we had a pretty good summer as a team, especially the week of camp,” Bean said. “We all got together and had some good miles. I think we’ll be pretty solid.”
Last year, the Olympians finished sixth as a team in the Brown County Regional, two points behind Jennings County for the fifth and final semistate qualifying spot. With six of its top seven runners back, East hopes to at least make it to semistate this fall, if not the state finals.
Either way, Bean will be in solid position to qualify as an individual.
“I definitely think that’s a realistic goal,” Burke said. “I would be surprised if he doesn’t make it to state this year. The amount of work he puts in is very impressive, and I think it’s all going to pay off for him at the end of this year.”
Name: Paul Bean
School: Columbus East
Sports: Cross-country, track
Career highlights: Won Hoosier Hills Conference and Brown County Sectional individual titles last season; personal best is 15 minutes, 58 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles)