A brief scare behind him, Amherst senior Josh Hill is breathing much easier now as the high school cross country season gets underway.
An MRI on Aug. 9 revealed that Hill was suffering from patellar tendinitis and not a stress fracture of the right tibia that was previously thought. So now the 2017 Division I All-Ohio runner can be totally focused on the task at hand.
“I was very relieved to know I didn’t have a stress fracture,” Hill said. “I stopped running on it as soon as it hurt. I originally thought it was shin splints. I didn’t think I had (a stress fracture) but it was important to make sure. I’ve been in the pool swimming about an hour a day so I’m not losing any fitness.”
The two-time Lorain County Division I Runner of the Year first started noticing the symptoms July 31.
“I’m excited to get back in shape and start competing again so I can reach my goal of being a state champion,” Hill said. “The injury just had to do with me building up my mileage too fast and training on uneven surfaces. I will be doing physical therapy to strengthen my ankles.”
Hill is a two-time state qualifier. He finished seventh at the 2017 Division I boys state race at National Trail Raceway in Hebron with a school-record time of 15:34.7 to earn All-Ohio honors (top 25). It is believed to be the second-fastest 5K cross country time for a Lorain County high school boy.
“Josh has an incredible sense of pace,” Amherst fifth-year boys coach Rob Glatz said. “He is the most tenacious runner I’ve ever coached. He has steadily progressed not only through each season but throughout his career. I know he is poised for an incredibly successful season this year.”
Hill barely missed All-Ohio at state as a sophomore as he was in 26th in 15:50.7, missing all-state by only half a second.
“I’m very excited (about the season). I was probably too excited (with summer training) and started off too fast (50 miles a week),” Hill said. “That’s probably what led to my injury. I’ll recover and get back at it.”
Hill was the 2017 Southwestern Conference champ in 16:24.2, second at the 2017 Elyria district in 16:01.39 and second at the 2017 Boardman regional in 15:49.49.
“My big goal is to win a state championship for cross country,” Hill said. “I would like to break 15 minutes flat and to help my team to win the SWC meet.”
Lorain County hasn’t had a boys cross country state champ since the 1970s when Amherst’s Glen Wilburn (1971) and Peter Kummant (1973, ’74) won titles.
“It’s just been amazing to be part of the Amherst program,” Hill said. “I’ve been working four years for this. It’s all coming down to senior year. It’s a year I’ve been waiting for for a long time.”
The Amherst boys should have a good team as the Comets return their top seven from a year ago. An early season injury last year to No. 2 runner Devin Baumgartner hurt Amherst’s chances of earning a regional ticket, but this year Baumgartner is healthy.
“We’ve set pretty high goals this season,” Hill said. “Everyone’s been going to practice every day over the summer and working hard. Everyone wants to win the SWC meet. That’s the big goal this year. We also want to compete at regionals.”
Glatz is also optimistic.
“Obviously I’m excited for the prospect of Josh coming back for his senior year,” Glatz said. “Not only that but behind him are seven guys who have committed to a very strong summer of training. The improvement they have made in the past year is astounding. We have our top seven back and a total of 10 new athletes to the team including sophomore transfer student Isaac Davis (from St. Clairsville).”
Last year, the Amherst boys finished just two points behind second-place Avon (76-78) at the SWC meet and placed one spot from qualifying to regionals with a fifth-place finish at the 2017 Elyria district at LCCC.
A Division I college prospect, Hill plans to run cross country and track at college. Right now, he’s still in the selection process.
“I would like to make my college decision at the end of cross country season, no later than before indoor track,” Hill said. “I’m looking for a good program and a good team. I’m definitely running Division I.”
“We communicate very well together,” Glatz said. “We know each other well now that he is a senior. One of my goals as a coach is by the time a kid is a senior in our program they’re potentially able to coach themselves. He’s really developed his speed as a senior. He always has had great endurance. His speed is faster and better than it ever has been.”
Case in point, last spring Hill became the first high school boy in the history of the SWC track meet —dating back to 1936 — to win all four races of the distance quad, including the 1,600 (4:29.52), 800 (1:57.33), 3,200 (9:47.77) and as a member of the 4x800 (8:07.03).
A two-time outdoor track state qualifier, Hill went on to place sixth for the 3,200 at the 2017 state meet in a personal record time of 9:14.35. He placed 11th of 31 for the 5,000 at the New Balance Indoor Track Nationals in March with a time of 15:13.72.
“Josh is just an all-around incredible runner,” Glatz said. “It’s also kind of neat to see him step into a leadership role. Last week we were in the weight room and he was helping some freshmen quite a bit with their technique. I’ve had him in class as well and he’s a great student.”
Hill is the Comets boys’ first All-Ohio runner since Zak Wilburn finished 15th in 2004 and is the first Lorain County Division I boy to win back-to-back MVP awards since Avon Lake’s Jimmy Adams repeated in 2008-09. Overall, Hill is the fourth Amherst boy to receive the top county honor since the award first began in 2000.