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Vazquez made up ground in state trip

Mark Hazelwood • Nov 5, 2018 at 9:48 PM

NORWALK — Two weeks ago, not even Robert Vazquez was sure how realistic it was.

The Norwalk senior runner entered the Division I regional meet at Hedges-Boyer Park in Tiffin on Oct. 26 with the 14th best time.

Needing to finish in the top 12 to advance to the state cross country championships, Vazquez had some work to do.

And he did just that. Vazquez finished in 16:32.94, which placed him 11th at the regional race to qualify for the state race in Div. I. He was a comfortable four seconds ahead of missing the cut.

“I can honestly say I didn’t see myself going at that point,” Vazquez said. “So really, I’m just blessed to have another race, especially being able to end my senior season at state.

“My biggest goal for the season was to make it to state and get top 25 for All-Ohio, or get the school record,” he added.

There will be more work to do for Vazquez if he is to reach All-Ohio honors. His regional time among the 185 runners scheduled to compete this weekend is 64th — though he was within three other runners in a half-second span from the 16:32.94 time.

But just being in the big-school Div. I race with runners from the likes of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo is an accomplishment in itself.

“It means a lot to me because I proved to myself that I was capable of competing against better runners,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez helped lead Norwalk to the SBC Lake Division championship on Oct. 13. The Truckers also won the Vermilion Invitational on Sept. 29 and their host invite on Sept. 22.

“This has been four years in the making for him,” Norwalk coach Drew Karnehm said of Vazquez. “We are extremely excited for his chance to run at state. He’s been working hard all season and it’s paying off for him. There is no better way to end his career than a trip to Hebron.”

But the fact that Vazquez will run on Saturday is an issue in itself. The Ohio High School Athletic Association took some heat last week when it postponed the championships by one week because of heavy rainfall at the National Trail Raceway course.

After heavy rains, the finish line was completely under water at one point on Nov. 2, the day before the races were originally scheduled.

“I’m not very happy about it because all the training leads up to the state meet,” Vazquez said. “And having it pushed back really messes up the training and the mindsets of all the runners that will be down there.”

Vazquez is scheduled to run at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Because of the schedule change, Vazquez will compete at the state meet on Saturday — then head to Terre Haute, Ind. for the Nike Cross Regionals Midwest meet at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“I was planning on running in Indiana, and I still will,” Vazquez said. “After the race at state, myself and (Norwalk teammate) Mitchell Sommers will still be competing in that race.

“I’m fine with it at this point, as long as they don’t reschedule it again,” he added.

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