By at least one measure, Adam Wise is the best Lancaster boys cross country runner in more than 30 years.
At the state meet earlier this month Wise, a junior, ran the 5K race in 15:52, finishing 25th in Division I and earning the final All-Ohio honor. It was the first time a Gales' male cross country runner received the distinction since 1990. Wise is the Eagle-Gazette's 2012 boys cross country Runner of the Year.
After dealing with multiple injuries during his first two years, this was the first time Wise ran at the state level. Simply being there made the season a success, he said.
"I've been aiming for (state) the last couple of years so I'm glad it finally happened," he said. "It was kind of surreal because that's been the goal for so long, but it was definitely major feeling of accomplishment to finally get there."
Wise did more than just get there -- the junior equaled his personal best at National Trail Raceway. He ran 15:52 twice this season, matching his best time from his sophomore year. Although he did not improve on his best time, he did improve on his 2011 by an average of nearly 32 seconds this year at the same meets he ran at as a sophomore, coach Jeff Koksal said.
Because of his past injuries, which included a stress fracture his freshman season and a calf injury his sophomore year, Koksal eased the coachable Wise into workouts this season, preparing him to peak at the right time, the coach said.
"He's just as strong as I've ever seen a guy," Koksal said. "He likes to make sure that he is setting a good example in our workouts and he is. A lot of guys want to do what they know they need to do but can't deliver it. Adam is a smart kid and he knows what he needs to do but he also has the ability to deliver."
Koksal said the fact Wise's time didn't drop from his second to third year in the program was more of an anomaly than anything else.
With a year of eligibility left, Wise has a year to drop that time and he said he expects to do that in a return to state -- this time taking his fellow Gales with him.
"I would like to get our school record, 15:20, and I'm aiming for No. 1 in the state next year to end my high school career on top," Wise said. "I'm looking forward to going there as a team."
Koksal said both those goals are feasible, although the faster times he runs, the harder it gets to knock seconds off of them. Eleven runners who outpaced Wise at the state meet will return for 2013. To make sure he has a chance to defeat them next time around, Wise plans to continue the training that got him to state this season.
"He's a pretty driven guy and he is willing to do his offseason work," Koksal said. "I wouldn't be surprised at all if he is running for a championship next year."
Regardless of how Wise runs next year, he already has cemented himself in the Lancaster record books, and not just within the past 30 years, Koksal said.
"Right now, he's already the best cross country guy we've had."