Thanks to a lot of hard work and some good advice from his dad, Michael Couture will be running in Saturday’s Division III state cross country meet.
The Open Door sophomore clocked 17:41.7 at the Boardman regional last Saturday to finish 11th out of 16 individual qualifiers.
Making state is always a thrill, but after the season Couture suffered through as a freshman, it was extra special.
An injury to his left upper hamstring and hip coming off the starting line at the Tiffin Carnival, only his second race, hampered him all last season. Not only did he miss two weeks of training and three meets due to the injury, he never got back into the shape he needed to be in the rest of the season.
He finished 47th out of 97 runners at the Medina Division III district meet in a time of 19:27.49, far from the result he had hoped for.
“I definitely was in worse shape when I came back from my injury and was not 100 percent,” Couture said. “I couldn’t really stride out like I wanted to.”
Couture didn’t let last season carry over to this fall.
“I’m very happy with how this season has gone,” he said. “It (qualifying for state) was definitely a goal this year. My coach (Denver Daniel) and I talked last year about how sophomore, junior and senior year that the goal was state. I really wanted to make that happen.”
Couture not only qualified for state but eclipsed his dad’s personal best time with a time 16:47 in a tri-meet at Columbia. A 1993 Open Door graduate and a regional qualifier for the Patriots, David Couture, Michael’s dad, had a career-best time of 17:05.
“My dad has had a huge impact on my running career,” Michael said. “He was the person that started me running. He gives me tons of advice about running and things to work on and little tips for running a race. Before the regionals race this past weekend he told me to stay focused the entire time and not let my mind wander. When he ran his regional race he allowed his mind to wander and that’s what kept him from going to state. He’s always helping me set goals and helped me stay motivated to keep training over the summer and continued to remind me that hard work pays off.”
Michael started running cross country as a sixth-grader with a time of 13:26. By the end of the season he had improved to 12:09. He had a season-best time of 11:50 as a seventh-grader and his best time as an eighth-grader was 12 minutes flat.
“We’re very excited for him,” David Couture said. “What makes us extra proud is he’s put a lot of extra work in this year. I told him at one point I might be faster than you right now but soon you’re going to blow right by me, and he did. He’s not done yet. It’s great to see him reap rewards from all that work. He started gaining confidence throughout this season and his coach has done a tremendous job of getting him focused on the fact that he belongs in that group (of top-level runners). To see him develop has been exciting as a parent.”
“Michael’s a coach’s dream for the lack of a better way of saying it,” Daniel said. “He’s a young man that puts in all the necessary offseason work. He really follows the program to the ‘T’ and he’s a great teammate as well. He’s quite the competitor and pretty fierce in that regard. He’s still learning a little about how to focus all the way through, but for a sophomore he’s doing great.”
Michael advanced to the Boardman regional by taking fourth out of 16 qualifiers at the Elyria district with a time of 17:55.8.
“Ever since he was a little kid and even prior to sixth grade we would talk about running,” David said. “We’ve been running together even since that time. We’re both pretty competitive so he set his mind when he was in sixth grade that by the time he was a sophomore he would have beaten my records, which he did. We’ve always kind of enjoyed that little rivalry. He took to running on his own and really started progressing at a younger age. It’s fun being a part of that growing into the sport.”
For the second time in 10 years the state championship meet has a new home, Fortress Obetz, which is located on the southeast side of Columbus. It replaces National Trail Raceway in Hebron as the state site.
“I want to be around the time range of 16:35 at state and to finish in the top 50,” Michael said. “I’m grateful to be where I’m at. I was worried that the season wasn’t even going to happen because of COVID-19. It was a relief when it did happen. I’ve tried to take advantage of every race that we hit.”
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.