Insider: Pioneer’s Foster breaks down his path to state champion

 

Nick Foster said that he was feeling “great” the day after. In fact, he was feeling pretty good the “day before” on Saturday when he crossed the finish line first in the MHSAA Division 1 cross country state finals at Michigan International Speedway.

While some runners are beaten down, even to the state of collapsing just a few steps after the finish line (watch the video of the D-1 finish on WeLoveAnnArbor), Foster looked in pretty good shape considering he just ran the rainy and muddy MIS course in 15 minutes, 16.1 seconds.

“I think winning made all the pain go away,” said the junior runner from Pioneer who not only took first but also led his team to a first-place finish in the team standings.

Foster ended up beating out rival Cole Johnson of Rockford (second in 15:18.2) and Harrison Grzymkowski of Lakeland (third, 15:18.4) in a very close three-way finish.

But before we talk about the finish, let’s rewind back to the start.

“It was an exciting week leading up to Saturday, in fact it was hard to concentrate in class,” Foster said. “The whole varsity was in the same car on the drive down there and every once in a while we would turn around and look at each other and just smile. We were so fired up and ready to go. It was pure excitement.”

Foster said when they pulled into the parking lot at MIS and climbed out of the car they were not only ready to roll but confident they could accomplish their goal.

“We knew Plymouth was a really strong team and that we would have to work really hard to win,” he said. “We were excited and ready to give it our all.”

Unfortunately, mother nature was not ready to roll.

“We kept an open mind about the weather and we knew it wasn’t going to be the best,” he said. “When it started raining we got even more excited. We tried to use it to our advantage or at least not let it bother us. I perform better in cooler weather.”

The Pioneers headed to the starting line not once but twice. The first time they were all lined up and ready to go when a bolt of lightening sent all the teams back to their tents for a 30-minute delay.

“All of the anticipation was building up and we were ready to go and then we are told it’s getting delayed and we had to put our sweats back on,” Foster said. “That was tough because we were pumped up to get it going. We talked about not letting it get us down and went back to the tent and went through our pre-race routine. We treated it like nothing happened.”

Once the race did start, Foster said things started out well and he ended up right where he wanted to be as the runners headed out on the course.

“I felt good,” he said. “We got to the first mile in about 5 flat and it felt quicker than that and I was comfortable and relaxed and in a good position. I was at the front and there were about 10 guys of us at the front for about the first two miles. I didn’t notice the pack thinning out until about the two-mile mark.”

And that’s when Johnson took off on his own – just like he did in the race at Portage earlier in the season when he beat Foster to the finish line. This time, Johnson left even earlier.

“We took that left turn at two miles and he was gone,” Foster said.

Was Foster worried about it at that point?

“I actually was,” he said. “It was at the 2½ mile marker when he took off at Portage and I couldn’t make it up. Here he left earlier and I thought ‘oh, no’ and I did my best to keep up with him but he was moving. I couldn’t keep up but figured the race still had a long way to go and he might slow down at some point. I just wanted to keep myself somewhat close.”

Foster also had Grzymkowski to deal with. The Lakeland runner wasn’t going away anytime soon.

“Yeah, we were neck and neck for second for most of the race,” he said. “I was just racing (Grzymkowski) and trying to do the best I could. Once we got closer to around 200 meters left I noticed Cole start falling back a little and knew then that I might have a shot to catch him. I just went for it.”

And he finally did pass him with about 20 meters left in the race. Just in time to finish first in the state.

The “big three” did get a chance to talk for a few minutes afterwards.

“There was good sportsmanship from everyone and it was a fun race,” he said. “Winning it still really hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t think I stopped smiling for like 40 minutes after. I had so much energy and adrenaline.”

But at the same time there was apprehension because the Pioneers were waiting to hear the final team results. They didn’t know where they had finished.

“Our goal was to win as a team and it wouldn’t have meant as much if we didn’t win as a team,” he said. “When we heard we had finished first it was pretty special. We had a pretty good celebration.”

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