Matt Bromley was determined to stick to his plan.
Sheridan’s junior runner wasn’t going to back down from the competition at Saturday’s Division II state cross country meet. With the sixth-best regional time among the qualifiers, he thought he had no reason to do otherwise.
It proved to be a wise choice.
Bromley raced to a personal-best 15:50 — two seconds off Bart Smith’s school record — to finish third at National Trail Raceway. It was the highest finish of any cross country runner in Sheridan history.
Morgan’s James Sheets set a personal record with a 16:28 en route to finishing 30th.
Bromley started strong and maintained second place until Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Mike Iacofano passed him in the second mile, but Bromley stayed near the lead until the stretch run. Iacofano sprinted to a 15:32 to win the race, with Defiance’s Abel Flores coming in second at 15:47 and Bromley close behind.
Bromley, who earned All-Ohio honors, set his personal record by 22 seconds.
“It feels great,” Bromley said. “I got out with the lead pack and just tried to hang around and make my move at the end, and hopefully give myself a chance to win. I felt like like I did that. .”
Bromley also was the top finishing underclassman and the only one in the top 10. The expectations no doubt will be higher for his senior season, but he’s welcoming the target on his back.
“I think I can still go 20 or 30 seconds faster,” he said. “I just have to up my mileage and do more speed work. Obviously I want to set the school record and get on top of the podium.”
Sheridan coach J.D. Walters said Bromley’s strong finish was key. He has spent much of the season working to improve his speed.
“I was beyond impressed,” Walters said. “I was very pleased with how he ran. I thought he did everything he had to do to give himself a chance with a mile to go.”
Walters said Bromley only is going to improve with experience.
“He has to continue to work on finishing out races,” Walters said. “But I know he’ll work really hard to get better.”
Sheets said he had the best race of his career.
“It was fast,” Sheets said. “There was a lot of good competition. It was a little sloppy out there in spots, but basically the conditions were pretty good.”
Sheets has his sights set on track, where he will be among the top runners in the Muskingum Valley League.
“It’s time to move on and get ready,” Sheets said. “I’m ready to make it back to Jesse Owens (Memorial Stadium).”
Sheridan coach Smith didn’t hide his disappointment after his team’s underwhelming finish last week at the Pickerington regional, calling his team fortunate to advance to state after narrowly sliding by with a fourth-place finish.
Given new life, the Generals made the most of their opportunity.
Led by senior Andrea Mick, Sheridan had five runners set personal records en route to an eighth-place finish in the Division II state meet. Also, West Muskingum’s Lauren Paul and John Glenn’s Rheanna Wilson both earned top 25 finishes to earn All-Ohio honors.
Paul, who was 22nd in 19:07, earned All-Ohio for a third time in cross country — the first female athlete at West M to earn such status. Wilson, like Paul a junior, was one spot behind in 23rd in 19:08.
“We were pretty calm today,” said Mick, who finished 36th in 19:28. “At the regional, everyone was really nervous and I think that affected how we ran. Today we were able to relax and just go out and run our race.”
Heather Findlay broke 20 minutes for the first time with a 19:54 that was good for 64th overall. Teammate Jessi Habegger also broke 20 minutes for the first time at 19:56 and was 67th.
“Heather Findlay ran 21:50 on this course the first time this year in the preseason race,” Smith said. “That was a two-minute PR today. With five of our seven girls setting PRs, and being in the top 10 overall, obviously you can’t be displeased.”
Findlay said her team wasn’t afraid of the challenge.
“The way our team is, if you tell us we can’t do something, we have to do everything we can to prove them wrong,” Findlay said.
Paul has a chance to join rare company with another top 25 finish as a senior. She can be All-Ohio in two sports twice with another strong track season.
“I thought I could run better, but I’m happy to be All-Ohio again,” Paul said. “I knew it wasn’t my best race, but I can’t complain.”
Tornadoes coach Renee Ware said Paul has higher goals.
“You know she’s going to push herself,” Ware said. “She’s already thinking about next year. She’s already focused on what she is going to do in the offseason to get better.”
Wilson set her personal record and posted a stark improvement over her 2011 state finish. She said the nerves she battled in 2011 weren’t as challenging this time.
“I was still really nervous, but once that gun goes off you just forget about all of that and it just becomes a race,” Wilson said.
“I definitely wanted to get All-Ohio and get my PR. Sub-19:10 is what I was aiming for.”