Every cross-country runner wants to do what Justin Skinkis did last year.
Skinkis ran his best when it counted the most to win the Bay Conference title and place 26th at the WIAA Division 2 state meet.
The Seymour senior said he thinks his training will allow him to peak at the right time again this season.
“I hope it will,” Skinkis said. “The workouts this summer went really well. I was putting on 50 to 60 miles every week. I took 26th last year, so I’m hoping to improve upon that.”
After posting the best finish a Seymour boys runner has had since Tyler Sigl medaled with a fifth-place finish in 2003, Skinkis is aiming for a top-10 finish on Nov. 2 at the state meet in Wisconsin Rapids.
“Toward the end of the season, it’s rolling the dice and making sure you’re doing the right workout that’s going to get them to perform on the right day,” Seymour coach Scott Michalski said.
“That’s the unique thing I always tell my kids. It takes one day at one meet, but you just have to be in the right mindset and physically in the right spot to be there when it counts. He’s done it before, and I guess time will tell.”
If his time at last Thursday’s Mishicot Invite is any indication, Skinkis seems to be on pace to accomplish his postseason goal. He finished in 16 minutes, 18 seconds to win individually at the 25-team meet.
While a win at a large meet like that can serve as a big confidence boost, Skinkis isn’t reading too much into it.
Despite being a defending conference champion, Skinkis said he doesn’t feel there is a target on his back heading into the Bay meet Oct. 17 at Shawano.
Although he won last year’s meet by 39 seconds, Skinkis’ victory was one of the few occasions when he was able to top Oconto Falls’ Mike Friedman.
Skinkis said it helps to have someone like Friedman, a junior, to push himself against in addition to having the experience of running at state last year.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” Skinkis said. “The last mile was really tough. It’s all up and down hills, so I definitely learned from that, and we’re doing more hill workouts this year.”
Skinkis already has had a successful year. He helped the Seymour boys track and field team win a share of its first conference championship since 1985 by winning individual titles in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
The Thunder followed that up with a fourth-place finish in D2 at the state meet, in which Skinkis finished seventh in the 800.
“It was bittersweet because I PR’d by 2 seconds, but I missed the podium by one spot,” Skinkis said. “That was tough.”
With a contingent of deep boys cross-country teams in the Bay, it will be equally tough for Seymour to win its first conference title as a team.
But Skinkis said he feels it’s possible if everyone runs their best race of the season.
Meanwhile, Skinkis is not only going after a second consecutive individual title, he also is trying to make it three straight years a Seymour runner has won conference — Sean Wagner won the meet as a senior in 2011.
“Everything has just been a notch above where it has been the previous year, which allows Justin to be where he’s at earlier so he can build on that,” said Michalski, who has never had a repeat conference champion in his 11 years as Seymour’s coach.
“All of the volume has just been upped big time. The volume has been more, and it’s been sooner than it’s ever been, and he’s responded to it. So, I think it will all come down to how he feels on that day.”