Follow The Republic:
Going into this cross-country season, Columbus North returned four boys runners who could compete with any other top four in the state.
In cross-country, however, the top five score, and the Bull Dogs were looking for a fifth man to emerge from a pack and give them a solid top five.
Enter Michael Keller.
The senior, who ran only one varsity race in his first three years at North, has burst onto the scene as one of the team’s scorers. He was the third-ranked Bull Dogs’ No. 4 man in his first two meets and No. 5 in Saturday’s Martinsville Classic.
“Michael was kind of hidden last year,” veteran coach Rick Weinheimer said. “He didn’t make the varsity, but as the season went on, he got better and better. We’ve kind of seen him coming. I just don’t know that other people have.”
One of the reasons may be that Keller was injured during track season. After running 70 miles a week last winter, he developed a stress fracture in his right femur and when he recovered, cut his mileage back to 50 a week with a pool workout on Fridays.
“At the start of summer, I started getting a lot better and I trained hard and I kept on doing the same things I’ve been doing, but this year, it seemed to click for me,” Keller said.
Keller ran 16 minutes, 42 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) in his lone varsity race last season at the Flashrock Invitational in Carmel. He ran what was then a personal-best 16:29 at Foot Locker Midwest Cross Country Championships in November in Kenosha, Wis.
After running 17:04 in a season-opening dual meet with Martinsville at Ceraland, Keller’s times have been progressively better. He ran 16:33 at the Franklin Invitational, then ran a personal-best 16:14.19 to finish 14th overall Saturday at Martinsville.
Keller’s goal is 15:40.
“There’s definitely room for improvement, but I’m proud of where I am right now,” Keller said. “It feels good to finally give back to my team.”
That team has lost only once this season — by two points to No. 2 Brebeuf Jesuit in the Franklin Invitational.
Keller is somewhat new to running. He didn’t run cross-country in middle school and was still learning the sport as a freshman at North.
Weinheimer said Keller is a great example of the way North’s training program often kicks in after two years of being real serious about running.
“He was a rookie when he started, so it took him a while to kind of get used to that, but over the last two years, he’s been very dedicated in all the offseasons, and I think he shows a big benefit from all that,” Weinheimer said.
The big change for Keller is his adjustment to running in varsity races instead of JV events.
“It’s a new experience,” Keller said. “I’m definitely not used to how aggressive they go out.”
If Keller and the Bull Dogs’ top four — seniors Kaden Eaton and Andy Carr and juniors Seth Williams and Chase Ballard — continue to progress, North could challenge top-ranked Carmel and Brebeuf for a fourth state title in the past five years and a sixth overall.
“I think any time you have what I call a special season, you have to have at least one senior who has what I call a ‘senior season,’ where they outdo what they’ve ever done before because it’s the end of their time capsule, and they’re really motivated and working hard,” Weinheimer said. “I certainly think (Keller is) a candidate. In November, I have a feeling we’re going to be saying ‘What a great senior season.’”
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
Note: All comments left on our sites are first reviewed by an automated comment moderation system. Your comment may take up to 5 minutes to appear. If for any reason your comment can not be approved you will receive an email from this system with a detailed explanation.
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.