• Dr. Herpy

Kenston runner is the Baum at state

Justin BaumCOLUMBUS – Justin Baum’s inaugural jaunt through and around Scioto Downs proved to be quite memorable.

Baum, a Kenston sophomore, debuted at the state cross country meet magnificently, finishing sixth in the Division II boys race. BAUM, who clocked a sparkling time of 15:58, turned in the top showing by an area individual as five others earned All-Ohio honors.

“‘You just couldn’t have run any better,” Frank Gibas, Kenston’s boys coach, told Baum, a few minutes after the Bombers’ distance maestro applied the finishing touches to his masterpiece.

Indeed, it was the perfect race at the perfect time. Baum broke the 16-minute barrier for the first time this season, meeting a goal he set prior to running, and easily belied his ninth-place regional finish. Still, Baum couldn’t resist the obvious.

“I could have won,” Baum joshingly retorted to Gibas, then soon added, “Next year.”

“Yeah, next year. Something to look forward to,” Gibas replied.

Providing he continues to develop his talents and maintains a dedicated work ethic, Baum can expect many more races like the one he pieced together yesterday. He might even savor the sweetness of victory.

Baum and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary sophomore Matt Buzek (fourth, 15:52) were the only non-seniors among the top 14. Baum, Buzek and three juniors (occupying spots 15, 16 and 17 in the final order) were the only non-seniors among the top 24.

The showing had both Baum and Gibas flashing mile-long grins that could persist for days, even weeks. Gibas politely and graciously declined to comment, explaining the moment belonged to Baum.

Baum conceded that he didn’t expect to finish as high as he did. But after running the first 2 miles of the 3. 1 -mile course near or with the leaders, Baum made his move.

“I saw I was in the top 10 for most of the race,” Baum said, so I just kicked it in.”

Baum and Gibas agreed the key was Baum’s handling of the blind loops, which are the portions of he course outside Scioto Downs. Competitors can wilt outside the view of an electric crowd that inspires them.

“The crowd even helped me more, which I was surprised at,” Baum said.

After missing out on a state berth by two spots last year, the only previously accumulated experience Baum could fall back on was what he gathered at the state track and field meet in June. Baum qualified in the 1,600 meters and learned how to tame his jitters.

“I was nervous this morning,” Baum said. “But once the meet started and I was on the line, I wasn’t really (nervous) there.”

Baum was one of three area runners to secure first-team All-Ohio honors, which are accorded to the top 12 finishers in each of the six races. Gilmour senior Cyril Pinchak was seventh in the Division III boys race (16:15) and Perry freshman Andrea Fickenschei was ninth in the Division II girls race (19:07).

University senior Jonathon Baker, Chagrin Falls junior Christine Collins and Gilmour senior Andrea Pinchak bagged second team All-Ohio accolades. Baker was 13th in the Division II boys race (16:14), Collins 14th in the Division II girls race (19:14) and Pinchak – Cyril’s twin sister 17th in Division III (19:41).

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