Mattawan's Thomas Meeker seeks right mix to meet all-state goal
Provided by Kalamazoo Gazette
MATTAWAN — Thomas Meeker will make his fourth trip to the MHSAA cross country state finals on Saturday.
If the Mattawan senior wants to complete his career with the one milestone missing from his resume — being named all-state — he knows he will have to use his experience to run his best race.
“It can be pretty intimidating seeing that line of top runners,” he said. “I hope to be more comfortable in the race in the sense that I know not to go out blazing fast.”
Meeker’s best finish at the finals was 56th to cap his sophomore season, when Mattawan competed in Division 2.
While he wants to stick to his game plan and not let other runners influence how he runs his race, he also knows that he can’t afford a bad start that would make moving up in the field during the race more difficult.
“You can find yourself buried in the pack if you start out too slow,” he said.
Meeker won the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference championship and the Division 1 regional title at Portage West Middle School with a 16:25.
The accomplishment that makes him most proud is breaking the 16 minute mark — he ran a personal record 15:50 at this year’s Cougar/Falcon/Eagle Cross Country Invitational and finished second.
Meeker also won the Paw Paw and Otsego invitationals this season.
An injury derailed Meeker’s junior track season, and left him feeling like a season had been wasted. He was determined to make sure his final cross country season wouldn’t leave him feeling the same way.
“That really fueled a lot of motivation to make up for lost time,” he said. “I felt I was more focused coming into this year.”
Mattawan coach Scott Banghart said Meeker’s work ethic over the summer has helped him stay healthy throughout the long and grueling season.
“All those miles he ran over the summer are like money in the bank,” Banghart said. “He’s been making withdrawals during the season, so it was important to have a good base to work from and keep him from breaking down.”
Whatever happens on Saturday, Banghart knows Meeker will put forth his maximum effort, just as he has done the past four years.
“I always know that he’s going to give me whatever he has on that day,” Banghart said. “There’s never a doubt with his effort, with his commitment to the program.
“I’m lucky as a coach to be able to have a kid like that to coach. I can’t say enough good things about him. He deserves this for all the hard work he’s put in.”
AREA QUALIFIERS FOR BOY CROSS COUNTRY STATE FINALS
MATTAWAN: Thomas Meeker (Sr.), Aaron Bell (Sr.) and Benny Richardson (So.)
PORTAGE NORTHERN: Alec Sullivan (Jr.)
GULL LAKE: Sam Butler (So.), Dallas Chase (Sr.), Sam Sly (Jr.), Tanner Hostetler (Sr.) and Nate Busby (Sr.)
VICKSBURG: Joey Fici (Jr.), Danny Hughes (Sr.), Hayden Waterhouse (So.), Daniel Newhouse (Jr.) and Andrew Gardner (Sr.)
OTSEGO: Tyler Starr (So.) and Bryan Harvey (Sr.)
SOUTH HAVEN: Evan Hendrix (Jr.) and Ian Everitt (So.)
SCHOOLCRAFT: Zach Wehner (So.), Derek Malakowski (So.), Neal Malakowski (So.), Andre Newsted (Sr.) and Brandon Vukelich (Sr.)
BLOOMINGDALE: Brian Larabel (Sr.)
DELTON-KELLOGG: Ryan Watson (Sr.) and Austin Ketola (Sr.)
HARTFORD: Jon Phillips (Sr.)
CONSTANTINE: Dave Jones (So.)
HACKETT CATHOLIC CENTRAL: Michael Myers (Jr.), Connor Bresnahan (Jr.), Austin Elluru (Sr.), Michael Elluru (So.) and Jonah Mathieu (Sr.)
MENDON: Zach Hufstedler (Jr.), Hogan Jaskolski (Sr.), Mike Campbell (So.), Christian Russell (Sr.) and Alex Poff (So.)
KALAMAZOO CHRISTIAN: Doug Hollett (Fr.)
GOBLES: Chase Gardiner (So.) and Andrew Grossman (Jr.)
LAWTON: Tony Pineada (Jr.)
COLON: Brandon Poortenga (Sr.)