Running Through Pain: Guthrie overcomes calf injury, earns Republic Boys Cross-Country Runner of Year

Clayton Guthrie was headed for a possible top-10 state finish before a calf injury dealt him a setback.

After running one of the state’s best times in the regular-season finale and then winning the Brown County Sectional, the Columbus North senior began experiencing pain in his calf. He sat out the regional before coming back to finish fourth in the semistate.

“Right before sectional, I just felt sore,” Guthrie said. “Then after I ran the sectional race, I kind of realized, ‘It hurts a little bit more than I’d like it to,’ and that was when I was taking my IU visit. When I was up there and walking around, it just didn’t sit right with me, so we decided to sit me for regional. We didn’t need to risk anything. Then, after semistate is when it really started.”

Guthrie ran through pain in the state meet to finish 24th and earn All-State honors. His time of 15 minutes, 55.2 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) was a little slower than the 15:04.5 he ran in the Nike Valley Twilight regular-season finale on the same LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, but was faster than the 16:24.4 he ran there in last year’s state meet.

“I knew that I could be a lot better that I had been my junior year, but I never thought that I would be one of the top five that they’re talking about right before the state meet,” said Guthrie, this year’s The Republic Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. “It was really cool at Twilight to finally drop a time that was like, ‘Whoa, he’s legit. He’s a contender.’ It was something I knew I could do. It just maybe happened a little earlier than I expected and in a better way than I expected.”

After running mostly junior varsity as a freshman and sophomore, Guthrie had been the Bull Dogs’ No. 3 runner most of his junior year, when he finished 35th at state.

“I think I had a good junior year, but I think I definitely had a lot of room to improve, and I kind of recognized that after the season ended,” Guthrie said. “I knew that college would kind of depend on how my senior year went because I didn’t drop too many crazy, impressive times my junior year. So I think during the offseason, it was just a lot of mileage and a lot of hard workouts that really propelled me in the direction that I wanted to be. I think the majority of success I had was due to my summer training and the intensity of it.”

“He went from kind of a mid-pack runner last year to a guy that would lead races and win races,” North coach Andy Keffaber added. “You could see in his whole approach, when he started races, he was going to go out to win. It’s more of an attitude that ‘I’m going to go do everything I can to win,’ and when you do that, you don’t necessarily worry about times as much. You just worry about racing, pushing yourself.”

Guthrie credited much of his success to learning from last year’s state champion Reese Kilbarger-Stumpff, who now is running at Colorado, and Matt Newell, who now is running at Navy.

“The class right above me with Reese and Matt had always kind of been my motivation when I was on the team with them, just kind of seeing how they do things,” Guthrie said. “They’re serious when they need to be serious, but they know how to have fun, but at the same time, they don’t take shortcuts when they’re training. They get up, and they do the things they need to do, and that makes them really good runners. I think I learned a majority of the stuff I know today from them, just by following them and looking at how they do things. I couldn’t have asked for a better class right above me to guide me, and I think that’s what really helped me and Mateo (Mendez) and Will (Russell) and all the seniors kind of lead the team this year.”

Guthrie’s 15:04 at the Twilight meet puts him No. 3 on North’s all-time list behind former state champions Christian Wagner and Kilbarger-Stumpff.

“He’s really in good company,” Keffaber said. “His breakthrough at Nike Twilight, running a 15:04, was great.”

The week of the state meet, Guthrie committed to continue his running career at Indiana University. He joins a heralded recruiting class that includes in-state runners Nate Killeen from North Central, Braden Hinkle from Franklin Central and twins Aaron and Aidan Lord from New Albany.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Guthrie said. “Right after state, after the awards, I talked to all the IU commits that were there because we have a lot of really good Indiana talent coming in. It was just cool to see all the guys talking about how good we were going to be next year. I’m really excited to start training with them because I can tell they’re as motiviated as I am.”

Once he returns from the calf injury, Guthrie will begin training for track season. He was part of last year’s state champion 4×800-meter relay team and was in position to earn a call-back to state in the 1,600 before runners from a weather-delayed Lafayette Jeff Regional passed him two days later.

“We really started seeing the breakthroughs in track last spring when he got down to a 4:20 mile,” Keffaber said. “You always knew he had the talent, and he always had the work ethic and then he started to see himself in a little bit different light and that transferred over into what he was able to do this fall.”

“I really wanted to make it to state, because I think if I would have been around all those good runners, it would have taken me to get an even faster time,” Guthrie added. “It was really upsetting to see that regional come out with all those really good times, but I think it motivated me to have the best cross-country season I could because I realized it was my last one, and I think that’s what’s exactly what’s going to happen with track. It’s my senior year, and I don’t have anything to lose, so I want to do my best.”

The Republic All-Area Boys Cross-Country team:

Clayton Guthrie, Columbus North: The senior won the sectional and finished fourth in the semistate and 24th at state.

Will Russell, Columbus North: The senior finished second in the sectional, won the regional and finished third in the semistate and 58th at state.

Mateo Mendez, Columbus North: The senior finished third in the sectional, fourth in the regional, ninth in the semistate and 20th at state.

Neal White, Columbus North: The sophomore finished fifth in the sectional, sixth in the regional, 17th in the semistate and 53rd at state.

Adler Larson, Columbus North: The senior finished 10th in the sectional, ninth in the regional, 33rd in the semistate and 78th at state.

Draven Martinez, Columbus North: The sophomore finished eighth in the sectional and regional, 30th in the semistate and 100th at state.

Kellen Hottell, Columbus North: The senior finished ninth in the sectional, 11th in the regional, 39th in the semistate and 120th at state,

Sam Hobbeheydar, Columbus North: The senior finished 10th in the regional.

Chase Austin, Brown County: The senior finished sixth in the sectional, fifth in the regional, 10th in the semistate and 40th at state.

Honorable mention

Brown County: Kai Koester, Rafe Silbaugh, Case Smith, Cord Smith, Charlie Webb. Columbus East: Jackson Brookes, Cayden Lynott, Derek Patchett, Jacob Peeples. Hauser: Collin Buck, Nolan Dailey, Ledger Gelfius, Colin Kistler. Jennings County: Dawson Leak, Noah McFall, Eli Wahlman, Zachary Wahlman, Kraedyn Young.