One is just wrapping up his cross country career, while the other still has two years left to leave his mark. Southmont sophomore Mason Cass and North Montgomery senior Elijah McCartney have pushed each other to be better. With both of their successes this past season, a little friendly rivalry has developed between the county runners.
“We started to get to know one another last year during the track season and became pretty close,” McCartney said of Cass. “Heading into this cross country season I knew that he was somebody that I could have fun with running at meets.”
The friendship between the two brought out the best during meets as well. Cass was took home the county title while McCartney finished just behind him. At the conference meet the two were separated by just five seconds as Cass edged out McCartney for second place.
“They’re all great people and great sportsmen,” Cass said of competing against McCartney and the Chargers. “Eli and I have gotten close and developed a fun little rivalry as friends.”
As they share success during meets, the duo can share another honor as Cass and McCartney are the 2021 Journal Review Boys Cross Country Co-Runners of the Year.
Southmont coach Shelley Allen has seen the two compete against one another all season and knows they’ve both been good for each other on and off the course.
“They both get along very well with one another and encourage each other,” Allen said. “It’s really great to see runners from other schools do that.”
McCartney capped off his cross country career by advancing to the semi-state round for the second time. Cass came up just short at the regional by finishing as the 11th individual (top 10 advance) on a non-advancing team.
“Eli’s success this season was a culmination of years of hard work,” North Montgomery coach Cassi Hicks said. “He has a passion for running and you can see that. He has aspirations to run at the next level so this season wasn’t the peak yet, he will continue to get better.”
For Cass, the success he’s had in his first two years has come from how determined he is to be the best at what he does.
“Winning county was my main goal this year,” he said. “After coming in second a year ago, I knew that I could win it. I think that I need to be the best at what I do. I want my name to be remembered when I’m done and that’s why I have the drive to be the best that I can be.”
Allen has seen first hand how competitive Cass is and the drive and motor that he possesses.
“He thrives on competition and loves to run down other runners,” she said. “He is the kind of kid that sets goals for himself and will stop at nothing to accomplish them.”
As a senior, leadership is something that was asked of McCartney. Not only did he lead with his running skills, but he set the example for the younger runners on the team and showed them how to be successful.
“He led in almost every way a leader can lead,” Hicks said. “He led by example, by putting in the work and doing the small things in his routine that a top runner should do. All of the things that runner wants to be, Eli is that.”
Like Cass, McCartney knows that as the top runner for the Chargers and one of the top runners in the area and he’ll be the one everyone strives to beat. That top-dog mindset is something that he’s trying to instill in the younger members on the team.
“I think it’s kind of fun to be the one everyone is chasing,” he said. “I used to be in that position when I was younger. Having younger guys this season it was nice to be able to teach them the things they need to be successful. I think they have a lot of potential and when they do well at meets I can tell that’s from pushing themselves at practice.”
Cass while he was able to win the county meet and accomplish one of his goals, still has bigger things he wants to accomplish such as a berth at the state finals.
“I was able to meet two of my goals which were win county and run under a 17,” he said. “Knowing I was just one place away from semi-state, I’ll definitely use that as motivation for next season because I believe that I can make the state meet.”
McCartney isn’t content on stopping in high school with his running career. He’s currently looking at options to run in college because running just isn’t something he’s doing for fun, it’s become a lifestyle.
“I started to notice that I could get somewhere past high school with running,” McCartney said. “I hit milestones that I didn’t think I’d be able to reach, and from that point it gave me the motivation to pursue this further.”
McCartney and Cass will have one last go around together in the spring for the track and field season. Their friendly rivalry is sure to continue there and the races like during the cross country season, should be expected to be close and entertaining.
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