Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WASHINGTON — It takes a certain amount of dedication to compete in sports. Take the amount of dedication a special athlete applies to a sport and turn the dial up to 10. There is your successful competitor in cross-country.
Washington runners Lance Sobaski and Micah Rees have had success as they prepare to run Friday in the Class 3A state cross-country meet in Fort Dodge at the Lakeside Municipal Golf Course at Kennedy Park.
It will be the third sojourn for Sobaski, who is a senior and the first for sophomore Rees. Washington last had multiple runners at state when it qualified as a team in 1998. Sobaski’s familiarity with the course gives him an edge he intends to use, planning to move on competitors in certain sections of the course.
Washington coach Stefanie Haworth, who experienced state twice when she was a Demon runner, has simulated parts of the course in practice.
“We made our own finish straightaway where they round a green and a tee box and have 150 meters to go,” Haworth said. “(Washington track coach Steve) Roth always sits right there so I told them to visualize Roth sitting right there. It’s time to push it through.”
It is a race against time. There is no bench, no substitutions, and no scoreboard, but the clock is running. As is the athlete, often against more than other runners or the course or a pre-stated goal.
“It’s a hard sport,” Sobaski said. “You have to be willing to put everything in to it.”
Having the support of family, teammates, friends and coaches help fuel the dedication needed to excel.
Sobaski left his football positions of quarterback and middle linebacker behind and got into the sport with the urging of former Demon runner Evan Horak.
“I love football, but I found my thing in cross-country,” Sobaski said. “It’s just a blast and a blessing.”
Horak made Sobaski his protege, talking about the sport, coaching him up and enlightened him with “funny conversations. I would not be where I am today without him.”
In a demanding sport, Horak stressed positivity. They don’t have to train, they get to train. Working together to build something special was a Horak message Sobaski has shared with younger Demons.
Rees said Sobaski has been like an older brother to him “in a lot of ways.” Rees saw the Southeast Conference champion in his weaker moments.
“That showed me the work I had to put in if I wanted to be good enough to be up there with him,” Rees said. “He has really pushed me mentally as well as physically. He has given me confidence and that is a huge thing.”
When one is racing with rivals, it can amp the competitive fires. When one is racing teammates, it can feed the fire. A healthy competition within a team often has more effect than competition in meets.
Teammates Drew Horak and Elijah Morris are finished with their season yet still coming to practice with Rees and Sobaski. Rees did that for Sobaski last year.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that Rees is running at state this year.
If the challenge of a practice can burn brighter than the challenge of a meet, the end result can be a shooting star.