By PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
Qualifying for the state final has been a season-long goal for David Modert.
A week ago the Rams cross country runner achieved the feat after a 10th-place finish at the Decatur sectional. This week he’s trying to prepare for the Saturday event like it’s just another race.
“Guys from all over the state with high expectations and they try to go up there and do a little something different,” Mt. Vernon coach Clint Turner said. “They kind of run out of their shell, and it’s a recipe for failure.”
So the same pre-race routine will stay this week down to the most minute detail of going to bed at the same time each night.
“Preparing for this meet, I guess, shouldn’t be any different than I have been (preparing) all along,” Modert said. “I’ve been in this sort of situation before. Pressure affects me a little, but it’s not going to play too big of a role.”
Turner said the training Modert’s done throughout the season has been with the idea that the state finals were a possibility. Turner added waiting is one of the most difficult aspects of the week before Saturday’s race.
“You want to get at it,” Turner said. “You want to go get it done and get into the trip up and just go run the race.”
The sport of cross country creates a huge mental challenge in addition to the physical toll of running 3.1 miles at a quick pace. For Modert, he tries to block out the influence other runners might have on his style.
“You have to already have a plan of what you’re doing,” Modert said. “If you wait to the race day, it’s probably already too late.”
The runner and coach won’t have much of a problem formulating a plan for Peoria’s course at Detweiller Park. Modert has experience running the course, and Turner has taken runners north to the state final in the past. Detweiller Park’s course is in the shape of a square and includes a gradual downward slope at the start.
“It’s a very simple course that can be pretty complicated, if you let it,” Turner said. “It’s just something that you have to spend some time in your head and figure out where you want to run quick tempo and where you just want to maintain and be solid.”
Modert placed fourth overall at the regional before his 10th-place finish at sectional. His success hasn’t come without some sacrifices here and there. Any small physical injury to a runner can have a large impact on their finishing time. So runners must take extra precautions to safeguard themselves from something as simple as seasonal cold. Turner refers to Modert as a professional in his approach and preparation.
“They’re not making money, but they’re approaching it just like a pro would,” Turner said. “The good ones do that. Their life’s centered around it. Everything they do.”
Part of that professional approach includes not spending a Halloween evening gobbling down handfuls of candy and staying up late.
“You can tell he’s dedicated to the sport,” Turner said. “This isn’t a sport to where you can not be dedicated if you want to be successful. He does all the right things, takes care of himself.”
Modert’s season started with a goal of making the state finals. With that achieved he has a final goal of making all-state status, which would to a top 25 placing in the 2A race. Saturday’s boys race starts at about noon.