By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON —
David Modert's start at the state final cross country race will be critical.
Modert's starting position at Saturday's 2A boys competition is on the extreme left side of the lineup. Dozens and dozens of other runners will be strung out to his right.
“The entire rest of the field will be coming in from my right, making a left turn,” Modert said. “I can't wait to make a move.”
The start is important because the competitors run down a gradual hill before encountering a quick turn to the left. Modert said the start is important because he doesn't want to fall behind and get pinned around the tight turn. The severe change of direction causes such a backup that runners slow to a near walk around the corner, according to coach Clint Turner.
“It's going to be a challenge for him just to keep an eye on what's going on to his right and being smart there,” Turner said. “If you get around that curve in good position I think it's going to be a good day.”
If Modert falls behind at the turn the race isn't over, but Turner said he will have to try to race his way back into the lead pack.
Modert is prepared for the challenge awaiting him at Peoria's Detweiller Park. It's a course he's raced several times during his running career, including a 34th place finish last year at the state final.
“It's a pretty fast course,” Modert said. “The first mile I expect that I need to be about 4:50 to even be in the race, to even be a contender, and it will be a fast race. It always is. I need to work on surging on the downhills and maintaining my speed going on the uphills.”
Each year the Rams make a midseason trip to Peoria for a regular season meet. Turner said the meet is on the Rams schedule for a simple reason – to get his runners experience on the state course.
“It's not a course you can just jump on,” Turner said. “The simplicity of the course when you look at it it doesn't really look intimidating. There is no outstanding feature to it other than it goes downhill.
“But your fitness level has got to be where you can race fast.”
The top 25 finishers receive all-state recognition. It's an honor Modert is aiming for.
“He's going to need his best effort,” Turner said. “We're talking about running that race through his mind right now, and I think the key to his race is the first 600 meters and getting out.”
The competition will be the final race in Modert's high school career.
“I really want to make the most it,” Modert said. “I want to go out feeling that I did the best that I could do and prove to myself that I can be an all-stater.”
Saturday's race starts at noon.