The stopwatch didn’t show it, but Mike Mion knew Sean Stockmaster was a special runner early on.
“For me it was the second time he ran a race,” the St. Peter’s cross country coach said. “The first time he ran it was a 22 or 21 (minutes) and the next race he dropped a minute and the next race he dropped another minute and he went down into the 18 minutes from there.”
That first race as a freshman wasn’t just the first time he ran cross country; it was the first time Stockmaster competed in athletics.
“It’s pretty crazy. I didn’t do any sports until my freshman year and by the end of the season I was the second best on the team,” he said. “I loved running and loved running longer distances. That got me interested in cross country.”
According to Mion, Stockmaster’s family lives on a big piece of wooded property.
“He used to play games with the neighbors and would run around in the woods,” Mion said.
So Stockmaster is a self-made runner.
“It takes a rare runner to just show up and do what he does,” Mion said.
Over the last couple of seasons, he’s added technique and training to make himself even better.
“As of last season, he showed me he wanted to take it to the next level and wanted more than he was getting at practice,” the coach said. “He has a different workout over the summer from the rest of the team. He’s really worked at it.”
Last fall, he dropped more than 40 seconds off his personal best at the districts, clocking a 17:17 to finish 11th at H.P. Eells Park in Bettsville. He qualified for regionals at Tiffin’s Hedges Boyer Park, where he ran 56th in 17:53.
With those goals in hand, Stockmaster set his sight on breaking 17 minutes as a senior. A bonus would be to better Mion’s best-ever high school time of 16:44 set for Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the regionals at Tiffin in 2003.
“I wasn’t the best, but I was pretty good. I was trying to give him an idea of what it takes to go. He’s been targeting that time for two years,” Mion said.
At the Galion Cross Country Festival in September on the always fast Amanns Reservoir Park course, Stockmaster ran an all-timer. He was fourth in the competitive Division III boys race, turning a 16:40 to set the St. Peter’s school record.
“I was hoping for 16:59 to break into the 17s because I haven’t before,” Stockmaster said. “I just ran it. I wasn’t planning on doing that well. I have my watch, but I can hardly look at it while running.”
It put Stockmaster about where his coach thought he would be this season.
“He was frustrated that he was stuck in the low 17s until he broke through at Galion,” Mion said. “Our expectation for him as a runner was for him to hit the 16s by the middle of the season.”
The effort gives Stockmaster renewed confidence about the postseason. The Division III district meet returns to Galion with qualifiers moving on to the regional at Youngstown Boardman.
“I think it helps him a great deal, knowing he’s made it to regionals (before),” Mion said. “The main goal for him is to know the faster runners out there and that he should be chasing them.”
And like any runner, there’s always another goal.
“If I get to state, it will be mindblowing,” Stockmaster said. “Regionals is where I’m going to peak.”
To do all that, the stopwatch won’t be lying again.