It’s been quite a journey but Luke See and coach Ryan Ladd of Vermilion figured out how to turn on the jets at just the right time.
The sophomore overcame significant odds to earn a berth at Saturday’s Division II cross country state meet with a qualifying performance Oct. 27 at the Tiffin regional. He was ninth out of 12 individual state qualifiers at Hedges Boyer Park with a time of 16:35.98 — a personal-record time by 31 seconds.
To have to wait one more week to race the state meet at National Trail Raceway is no real issue for See. The state meet was postponed Nov. 3 to this Saturday due to heavy rains last week in Licking County. The course’s finish line was underwater.
“I’m anxious and ready to run, but it’s not really a big deal,” See said. “I was ready to run Saturday, but this gives me a few extra days to get ready.”
See qualified to state from Tiffin after finishing only 12th of 20 qualifiers Oct. 20 at the Galion district in a time of 17:06.2. And two weeks before regionals, at the Sandusky Bay Conference meet, few would have even guessed See would make it to state as he had a very off day.
“I felt very refreshed. I wasn’t tired at all,” he said. “I do both soccer and cross country and usually I’m dead. I also lift weights and play lacrosse.
“It was emotional and took a while to sink in. My coach and I did a little chant afterwards, saying ‘payday on three’ since I’ve been working in the summer and running my hardest. Payday on three just means we’re ready to get paid for all the hard work we’ve done.”
See’s previous best time prior to districts was 17:17 at the Open Door Invitational earlier in the season.
“Right after the race, he hugged me,” See said of Ladd. “It looked like he was tearing up a bit. That just made me happy.”
It’s not hard to do the math. Not only did See have to defeat all the other top runners from the Findlay Owens Community College and Ottawa Park districts at the Tiffin regional, he had to finish no worse than how he placed at the Galion district to advance to state.
“Personally, I knew Luke was on the outside looking in,” Ladd said. “Instead of talking about how fast we needed to run, we talked about comparing ourselves to kids from our district. We wanted to beat kids from our district that had beaten us the week before.
“We made sure when we got to the starting area he knew what color of jerseys he was looking for and what starting boxes they were in. He came in with the right mindset. He ran a perfect race. He put himself in position right away. He’s gotten strong all year long where he’s held those positions. He puts himself into positions at races to be successful right away.”
See’s primary focus at Tiffin was on Perkins seniors Parker Brown Shelby and Sam Swanger. Both defeated See at districts, finishing 10th (16:51.0) and 11th (17:02.0), respectively.
“I felt that if he could get those two runners at the regional meet he would be setting himself up for some success,” Ladd said. “He absolutely bought into that right away.
“When Luke got to the mile mark he was right there where he needed to be. I told him I would be there and point out where they were in relation to him. He reacted very strong and with authority right away.”
Two weeks earlier at the Sandusky Bay Conference meet on Oct. 13 at the same Tiffin venue, See put himself in position at the mile mark but then things didn’t go well the last 2 miles. He ended only 16th of 90 in 18:13.27.
“But he continuously has gotten stronger all season long with his strength training and core work,” Ladd said. “That’s what has helped us continue to get better and better, and to be able to hold those positions a little longer.”
A junior varsity and varsity swing player for Vermilion High soccer, See had no soccer games last week with the regular season over entering the cross country regional meet.
“My coach had us do long runs (double digits) in the summer. That really helped me,” See said. “Overall, the workouts we did were very hard, but helped to improve my times.”
See is the Vermilion boys’ first state qualifier since Nate Rodriguez in 2008. He has been a cross country runner for Vermilion since the start of his freshman year.
Luke See’s brother, Justin, a 2017 Vermilion graduate, had a major influence in Luke’s decision to give cross country a shot coming over from soccer.
“He was a varsity wrestler who first ran cross country for Vermilion his senior year,” Luke said. “He encouraged it, so I did.”
Even with a fast rise the last two weeks, See still believes he can reach back and perform at a high level on the season’s biggest stage.
“I want to be in the top 40 or 50 runners,” he said. “I really want to go out and compete and have some fun and give it my all.”