Heritage senior Evan Chiplock escapes from couch to become contender for Division I title
Provided by Geoff Mott | The Saginaw News
SAGINAW — When Heritage senior cross country runner Evan Chiplock started running competitively, it wasn’t for the medals, state titles or breaking the 16- minute mark.
He ran to lose weight.
A lot of weight.
Chiplock was a 5-foot-4, 160-pound eighth-grade student at White Pine Middle School. His family encouraged him to get off the couch and get involved in a sport. Any sport.
“I was really, really overweight,” Chiplock said. “It was really bad. My dad really pushed me to go out for sports. But I didn’t know where to start.”
Chiplock had friends on the cross country team and thought he’d give it a try.
It was difficult to even finish a mile.
“It was amazing to see a kid who says he was clinically obese at the time come out to run,” said Heritage senior Bobby Leddy. “He finished last in about every race that year. But toward the end of the year, he’d be our fourth- or fifth-best runner. It was just amazing to see (the progression).”
Chiplock, now 5-11 and still 160 pounds, has progressed into one of the top distance runners in the state. After finishing fourth at last year’s Division 1 boys cross country state finals, Chiplock turned around and won the 3,200-meter run at the track state finals last spring.
On Saturday, Chiplock hopes to cap his impressive distance running career with an individual state title at the state meet at Brooklyn’s Michigan International Speedway. Boys and girls in all four divisions will fight for team state titles, and individual all-state status by finishing in the top 30 in the races, which begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Chiplock’s main focus, however, is helping deliver a team state title for the friends who encouraged him when he was a last-place finisher.
“The No. 1 focus is helping this team,” Chiplock said. “Me getting one point isn’t going to win that. The individual title is definitely one of my goals, but it’s for the team.”
Senior runners Tom Acosta, Mitchell Ellsworth, David Jensen, Chiplock and Leddy have been groomed for this state title run since their freshman season in 2008. That season, a senior-laden Hawks team finished second at the state meet. Chiplock was an alternate on the team and Heritage coach Gary Loubert told the team with hard work, the talented freshman group eventually could deliver Heritage the state title.
The Hawks finished sixth at the state meet in 2009 with Chiplock finishing 19th overall. Last season, the Hawks were eighth as a team.
“I’ve got a group of guys where they could go to almost any other team and be the No. 1 runner,” Loubert said. “They are talented and have the work ethic. It’s easy to fixate on that one top runner we have, but we’ve got a great leader in a guy like Jensen. Acosta, Leddy, Ellsworth are all guys who have worked hard. And juniors like Nate Cruz and Brandon Scharich are consistent.
“We’ve got that top guy and a really good pack behind him. That’s what it takes to win a state title.”
Loubert said Chiplock’s climb from middle school to his senior year is inspiring for his team. He’s the consummate teammate. A perfect leader.
“He’s complete,” Loubert said. “He’s a vocal leader and really good and directing people and motivating them.
“He might not feel good, or the homework is piling up, but he just finds a way to get it done. He leads by example.”
Win or lose on Saturday, Chiplock won’t go back to residing on the couch. The following weekend the 17-year-old will be in Kenosha, Wisc., for the Midwest regionals of the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships. Then he has to decide where he’ll run collegiately. He’s narrowed his list to Michigan State, Syracuse and Wisconsin, but is also considering Grand Valley State and Missouri.
The kid who didn’t want to get off the couch now runs 55 miles a week during winter training. He plans to study dietary and nutritional science in college.
“It really helped having guys I knew on the team (in middle school),” Chiplock said. “It’s a weird sport, because it’s an individual sport, but you’re all competing for the team. I remember finishing dead last, and these guys were there to pick me up. Now we’re at our last race and it’s especially important.
“I’m anxious for Saturday.”
2011 CROSS COUNTRY STATE FINALS
Where: Brooklyn’s Michigan International Speedway
When: 10 a.m. - Division 4 girls race; 10:30 a.m. - Division 3 girls; 11 a.m. - Division 4 boys; 11:30 a.m. - Division 3 boys; Noon - Divisions 3 and 4 awards; 1:30 p.m - Division 2 girls; 2 p.m. - Division 1 girls; 2:30 pm. - Division 2 boys; 3 p.m. - Division 1 boys; 3:30 pm. - Divisions 1 and 2 awards.
Tickets: $7 (parking at Gate 11)
Who: While Heritage runner Evan Chiplock and his Hawks teammates are aiming for state titles in Division 1, Breckenridge sophomore Kirsten Olling is looking to repeat as state champion in Division 4. Hemlock and Freeland are sending both of its boys and girls teams to the Division 3 meet, where Frankenmuth senior Eric Edmond hopes to contend for an individual state title.