Drake Hayes and Eli Widmer’s trek to the top of the cross country pyramid began much sooner than their senior seasons.
After turning in a pair of modest freshman campaigns, the Crawfordsville duo both realized it was time to get serious about the sport.
“I came to the realization after my cross country season freshman year,” Hayes said. “That year I wasn’t really eating as much as I should have. I was really sleep deprived, and I kind of realized that I needed to take care of my body to perform well.”
Widmer played basketball his freshman year, and as track and field season approached, quickly realized he must train year-round to have success as a runner.
“After freshman year, I went into track season after basketball and I was like ‘oh no,’ I was so far behind and could definitely tell,” he said. “It’s a sport you can’t take time off.”
As sophomores, Hayes and Widmer helped lead the Athenians to their first sectional title in school history. And the rest is history.
The unique leadership qualities by both was noticed by Crawfordsville coach Megan Craig as they began to build a powerhouse boys’ program.
“Eli and Drake could not be more different,” Craig said. “The commonality that they have is they are exceptionally hard working individuals. They don’t take short cuts, they don’t miss workouts and they push their teammates to do the same. Drake is more eloquent with his word choices as were Eli is a straight shooter, they balanced each other and created a team of very determined boys.”
As seniors, Hayes and Widmer helped the Athenians to a perfect score at the Montgomery County meet, and back to the IHSAA Regional with a fourth-place finish at a tough Brownsburg Sectional. Those awards and accolades have earned Hayes and Widmer the 2019 Journal Review Boys’ Cross Country Co-Runner of the Year.
For Hayes, his senior season was about earning redemption. During his junior season, he missed qualifying for the semi-state by a single place.
“That motivation really drove me to push myself,” he said. “After last year’s cross country season ended, and throughout the winter, track season, and the summer. Pushing myself having that goal in mind.”
It paid off.
Hayes placed 22nd at the regional in a time of 16:37 to advance to the semi-state as an individual.
Craig says Hayes separated himself from the competition this fall, unlike past seasons.
“Drake went into the season with more confidence this year,” she said. “In years past, Drake ran in the pack that his times were comparable to. He never broke away, even when I know he was capable. This year he didn’t run with this same mentality. He chased the leaders and left everything on the course meet after meet.”
For Widmer, his senior season was all about being a leader, and keeping the success going at Crawfordsville.
“Eli did an excellent job this year stepping up and showing the younger athletes that although XC depends on your individual performance, we are out there as a team above all else,” Craig said. “When you have pack running, who wins the races may be important to some teams, not this one.”
Widmer knew consistent training would be what it would take to excel, and he did his best to instill that into the rest of the team.
“Being consistent with training, and showing up everyday, and trusting each other,” he said. “I feel like we accomplished something, and feel like we left a mark.”
After four successful years, Hayes and Widmer didn’t just leave a mark — they left a legacy for future Athenian runners to follow and strive for.
2019 Journal Review Boys Cross Country All-Area Team
Devin Burris — Crawfordsville
Drake Hayes — Crawfordsville
Hunter Hutchison — Crawfordsville
Eli Widmer — Crawfordsville
Carson Pietrzak – Fountain Central
Elijah McCartney — North Montgomery
Aaron Evans — Southmont