Team success built on culture of hard work
Matthew Smith | Staff Writer
Domination. There’s nothing left to say.
The Mason boys cross country team won their fourth straight GMC championship and their eighth in the last nine years.
After edging out St. Xavier to capture a regional title, Mason qualified for their twelfth consecutive appearance at the state meet, where they raced to a top three finish.
The team is lead by head coach Tom Rapp, who said his program’s success has been attributed to developing a culture.
“It all starts with culture,” Rapp said. “We develop a culture of hardwork and being team oriented. That has just continued to be passed down from team to team and lead to winning.”
Year after year, Rapp has continued to build on his success. His coaching has helped his team regularly be among the best in the state.
Junior runner Johan Meyer said his continued success has everyone fully committed to his coaching style.
“Coach Rapp has had a lot of experience; he’s been doing this a long time,” Meyer said. “He has seen a lot of talent, and has really good methods for training. Everyone just trusts his system.”
With Coach Rapp’s methods, he expects to continue his success. Senior runner Isaiah Kelly said even though there is pressure running for a dominate program such as Mason, it’s something that no team member worries about.
“Sometimes I do think there is some pressure,” Kelly said. “But we take pride in our success, and we go out and run the best we can by working really hard in practice. We have the expectations to do well, but we leave it all on the course.”
The Cross Country team placed third in the state.
Pictured left to right, back row: Coach Tim Pitcher, Coach Lucas Sagraves, Braedon Killion, Aiden Amshoff, Micah Champagne, Jagger Vetter, Coach Tom Rapp.
Front row: Johan Meyer, Austin Cooper, Brogan Doran, Isaiah Kelly, Alex DeRoussel, Coach Steve Prescott
Coming off a GMC championship and state appearance in 2017, Coach Rapp felt he had produced another successful season.
As he looked towards this 2018 season, however, Rapp said he felt like it could be a very special season for the team.
“I knew coming into this season we had a very special team,” Rapp said. “We just had to keep these guys healthy, focused, and always working hard. If we did that, we could have a great season.”
Although the team felt they had the talent to be great this season, they knew that talent alone wouldn’t define their season.
Isaiah Kelly said leadership was a key part of the success Mason experienced this season.
“Leadership is huge,” Kelly said. “The seniors play a huge role in the team’s leadership. The younger guys look to us to be successful, but also to take on that leadership one day as well. We really try to set a positive culture.”
Junior cross country runner Johan Meyer competes in the frigid temperatures at the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Cross Country Championship on Saturday, November 10 in Hebron, Ohio. The Comets finished third in the meet, Meyer finished 33rd with a time of 16:47.
The older runners on the team have become accustomed to the pressure they experience, but it’s all new for the younger team members.
Kelly said he and the other seniors try to make sure the underclassmen are never overwhelmed.
“It can be intimidating to be a young runner for a prestigious program like Mason,” Kelly said. “We try to take those younger guys under our wing and make sure they feel comfortable.”
Setting up the young runners to have success was something the team felt was vital to getting to this point in the season.
Meyer said he knew the underclassmen were a big part of the team’s success.
“We’ve had many freshman and sophomores really step up this year,” Meyer said. “That’s really helped because we have even more depth now than we’ve had before.”
Amassing several championships and a top three finish at state, the runners feel they have accomplished everything they sought after for this season. Meyer said next season, while it will be tough to repeat the same success, it will still be possible.
“It’s definitely going to be hard to replace those seniors next year,” Meyer said. “But we have young guys returning and eighth graders coming in that will really step it up.”
In order to repeat their success, the returning runners know leadership will be an important aspect for the team again next year.
Coach Rapp said developing leadership skills for the future is something that the athletes are working on now.
“We talk about leadership development,” Rapp said. “It’s always important for the future for our young guys to watch how the seniors lead and carry themselves.”
Photos by Nathalie Schickendantz.