FREDERICKTOWN — Since he burst onto the high school scene a year ago as a freshman, Fredericktown’s Isaac Potes has been making a name for himself. In cross country, he is a two-time state qualifier, finishing fifth this year in Division III. On the track, however, he will be making his first appearance at the Division III State Championships at Jesse Owens Stadium on Saturday in Columbus.
Potes, who made it to the Division III regional meet as a freshman, improved dramatically this season. After not placing in the top four in the 1,600-meter run last season, Potes reversed his fortunes in fine fashion in the 3,200-meter run, blowing away the field. He not only advanced, but won the regional with a time of 9:46.92.
“I’m happy to be running for another week and racing again,” said Potes. “It is really that simple.”
“He went out a little quicker at the regional than we had planned,” said Fredericktown distance coach Bob Geiger, who also coaches Potes in cross country. “He got a little excited; he is very competitive. He likes to lead, but at the state meet, suddenly everybody is at his level, so how smart he races is going to be very important. He’s raced these guys before. The state champion in cross country is in this race, and so are several other guys he has competed against. Now, he is going to have to think and run, where before he could just run. I think he’s ready to do it.”
For Potes, track is a necessity more than a desire. He works throughout the year to stay in running shape and cut his times.
“I like running cross country a lot more; it is more enjoyable,” said Potes. “I like running distances and not running in circles. I think that’s the biggest difference for me. It was harder for me to get to state in track because I have more endurance than speed, which I why I don’t do as well in track as others do.”
While Potes may not feel he is as good as the next guy, he is proving otherwise. His improvement this season can be directly tied to his age.
“Track is usually the domain of the older guy,” said Geiger. “Maturity in track makes all the difference. In cross country, with his ability and hard work, he can float through the three miles, but in track, you’ve got to shift gears. What he’s done this year is matured so much in his ability to read the race. That’s what he has done different.
“It has made him a better runner. Before, he was just running and following the leader. Now, he can take the lead and set the pace.”
“Throughout the entire year, Isaac has shown great improvement, mentally and physically,” said Fredericktown boys coach Will Hartley. “He has taken big steps in his development from his freshman year to his sophomore year. He had all the tools there, but now he understands how good he can be. He is doing the right things as far as training and listening to his coaches.”
The toughest adjustment for Potesfrom cross country to track has been in his mind.
“I don’t know why, but track is a little tougher [mentally],” said Potes. “Maybe it is because you know how much you have to go in laps, instead of just ‘Hey, a tree.’ In track, I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to get ready for this turn up here.’ In cross country, you are thinking about the course and not how much farther you have to go. That really helps. At [track] regionals, it was nice because there was a clock and I could see my time so I didn’t have to think about the laps.”
As a freshman, Potes learned a lot about running. The competitiveness of Division III taught him many things, including how to be the best he can be.
“The competition has helped,” said Potes. “You tend to do better if you have somebody right beside you, pushing you. It makes you work. Sometimes if I am running out alone, I feel like I’m running too fast. I hate that feeling. But if someone it running beside me, I feel like, ‘OK, let’s go. Let’s do this.’
“I really go on autopilot; my legs know what to do.”
Preparing for the state meet, Potes has his goals set high, and they include being among the top eight in the state.
“I’m just showing up and running,” said Potes. “I expect a lot of competition; I’m expecting a couple of people out in front. I think I’ll be in the middle of the pack myself.”
“I think running at the state meet is a great atmosphere,” Hartley said. “When you are doing it for the first time it can be a little overwhelming, but mentally, Isaac has a toughness. He is able to focus on the task at hand, which will only help him in the two-mile.”
After improving on his district time by nearly 34 seconds, one might think that Potes has capped out this season. He thinks otherwise.
“I really don’t think [I’ve peaked]; I think I can do better,” Potes said. “At state, my goal is to get to 9:40 or better. I think that should get me on the podium, which is also my goal.”
His coaches believe he has what it takes to be among the state’s elite.
“The top eight make the podium, and that’s what we’ve been talking about — making the podium,” Geiger said. “The pack at the state meet is going to run pretty fast. Running a 9:40 would be legitimate, but if it is a hot day and he runs a 9:50 and makes the podium, we would be happy with that. Being All-Ohio is definitely his goal.
“We’ve done some things differently this year. His maturity and his ability to handle mileage has increased tremendously from last year. Last year, by the time we got to regionals, he was pretty tired. Now, he is just coming into his own. We were able to peak him for the state meet. We’re aiming to put it all together there. We’ve been gearing him all year to run at the state meet — the way we ran our races in April and May have prepared him for this.”