By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Edgewood’s Chris Lemay is quiet and unassuming. By no means is he an expert at cross country. However, that fact is sometimes lost upon those who see the way he competes.
“I think one of the things that sometimes gets forgotten is that he’s just a sophomore,” Edgewood coach Steve Hill. He’s still learning how to be a runner.”
The reason that fact is overlooked is that Lemay, the son of Lynne and Jim Villella, will be running at the Division II Ohio State Cross Country Championships at National Trail Raceway in Hebron today at 11:45 a.m.
“We definitely want to go down and just have a good experience,” Hill said. “We want this to be something he can build off of. The expectations aren’t great on him down there. We want him, depending on the course, to go for a time, not a place, and just see how it plays out.”
Lemay has had a few good examples lighting the way as he’s made his run to the state meet.
“I think he’s definitely had a lot of good people following him and building him into this position,” Hill said. “It started last year in track with Philip Scheanon and continued this year with Derryn Tomsic. He’s been able to follow them and learn the system. Now it’s his moment to step out of the shadows and do it himself.
“He’s in a good place now because of the experienced people he had helping him along the way.”
“Phil taught me how to push the pace and Derryn taught me how to kick (at the end),” Lemay said. “They taught me to just go all the way until it’s over.”
The state meet will be the springboard to Lemay turning the tables and taking over that leadership role.
“Sometime down the road, he will be the guy to continue the program,” Hill said. “He will lead the younger people. He’s already doing that. There are four younger guys going down (to Hebron) to watch. They’re already hungry for next year. They want to be down there running with him.”
And that’s exactly how the Edgewood program has worked for years. Lemay is the latest in a long line of runners to step from the shadows only to cast one of his own on the younger runners.
“The program is only as good as the kids in it,” Hill said. “We’ve been lucky enough to have great kids come through who are unselfish. They help the other runners get better and continue the program.”
Along those lines, the example set by Warriors who have long since graduated will help Lemay today.
“It’s not pressure for these guys (to run at the state meet),” Hill said. “As a coach, (the history of the program) is something you use to maybe help take some of that pressure off. Because it’s happened before, you go the other way (from letting them feel the pressure) and try to make it seem as if this is just what Edgewood runners do.
“You just go do it. This is the place you’re supposed to be, just go do it.”
In those terms, all Lemay has to do is trust his ability and training and just run his race.
“For Chris, the year’s been about just believing,” Hill said. “That’s been the big motto. We’ve emphasized that over and over again throughout the year.”
Lemay has slowly started to gain that belief.
“It came in later on,” Lemay said. “It wasn’t there in the beginning. I’d say it probably started right after the district meet.”
Lemay’s spirits have been slightly affected by the storm surrounding the Edgewood football team’s odyssey into, out of and back into the state playoffs.
“We learned (about the original court ruling knocking the team out of the playoffs) after school,” Hill said. “He was supposed to be recognized at the bonfire (canceled because of the ruling), but I don’t think he was too excited about (being singled out in front of a crowd).
“(Athletic administrator) Steve (Kray) and I went over to his house (Thursday) and presented him with a jacket he was supposed to get at the bonfire. (The Lemays) really appreciated that. It meant a lot to them. He’s just going about his business. A lot of that stuff will all be going on after we leave (Friday morning).”
Once in the spotlight, Lemay will be looking to set a personal best in his race.
“I haven’t run in the 16s yet, but I want to,” Lemay said.
“A (PR) is the No.-1 goal,” Hill said. “He ran 17:04 at district and 17:16 last week. The ultimate goal is to get down under 17. Where that takes him, we’ll see. If he finishes in the top half, it will be a successful race.”
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