Boys Cross Country: Shepard’s Josh Maier makes progression to standout runner
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media October 27, 2013 6:12PM
Josh Maier, of Shepard | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 1, 2013 6:48AM
Josh Maier was learning about living organisms at Shepard High School when a totally different subject came up.
“Freshman year I wasn’t even thinking about joining cross country until my coach came up to me in biology class,’’ Maier said. “He told me to come out and I thought, ‘Why not?’ ’’
Four years later, Maier is the two-time South Suburban Red champion and the leader of the Shepard squad that won the 2013 conference title.
Not bad for someone who didn’t even run cross country before high school.
“I liked it and I kept training, got better sophomore year,’’ Maier said. “I love the sport now. After the first year, I knew it was for me.
“I think cross country works harder than any other sport. I just love it. You face yourself mentally, and everyone else.’’
Longtime Shepard coach Troy Walker remembers the progression Maier made from his first season.
“Freshman year he was a solid runner, but really wasn’t very fast,’’ Walker said. “He improved gradually, quite a bit the last couple of years. He grew a little bit and turned into a real strong runner.’’
The best example of that came Sept. 21 in the field of 500-plus runners at the Peoria Notre Dame Invitational, where Maier finished 42nd in a personal best of 15 minutes, 22 seconds.
Maier described the surroundings of running at Detweiller Park, site of the state meet, as “an amazing atmosphere,’’ one he hopes to experience in the state final.
“Definitely, that definitely crossed my mind,’’ he said. “That’s a big motivation, making it to state.’’
Walker called Maier the “second-fastest” runner he has coached in his 17 years at Shepard, but it won’t be easy making it to the state meet.
The Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional will include several top teams and individuals. Lyons, Hinsdale Central, Neuqua Valley, Sandburg, Downers Grove North and Oswego East are expected to contend for team qualifying spots.
Plainfield South, Oswego, Plainfield East, Lockport, Downers Grove South, Brother Rice and Oak Lawn all have runners capable of qualifying as individuals.
With only seven qualifying spots available to runners not on qualifying teams, getting to the state race will require an elite effort.
“We’re in a tough sectional,’’ Walker said. “The goal is to get him to state, but it’s going to be tight.’’
Maier said his goal is to get under 15 minutes, although 10 to 15 seconds slower likely would earn him a spot at the state meet from the talent-heavy sectional.
Regardless of that outcome, Maier has made the best of his four years at Shepard.
“I just kept working hard and working hard,’’ he said, “and it got me here.’’