Groves excels with ‘pure spirit of competition’

Columbian gearing up for another big postseason

Caden Groves was the Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division champion a year ago, so he wanted to repeat.

He did. Last week at Hedges-Boyer Park, the Columbian junior finished in 16:09.23, winning the race by nearly six seconds.

Now, he’s looking for more.

The runner, who was a first-team district runner last year and then advanced to state as a sophomore, keeps raising the bar.

And he keeps succeeding.

“It’s always pushing, working hard,” Groves said. “Work hard at workouts, always keep the mindset of, you always want to get better, you always want to win. You just always have that main goal of winning and keeping that hard focus on.”

When you have a runner like Groves, there’s always something that separates him — literally and figuratively, in this case — from the pack.

TC coach John Kihorany was asked what it is that makes Groves special.

“I think that just… the pure spirit of competition,” Kihorany said. “I think he loves having guys in the race that are better than him. He doesn’t fear getting beat, he’s not afraid to lose. But he does love to compete at the highest level. He’s not a follower, but he loves the competition of knowing that there’s somebody in this race who could really go after it.”

Lately, that person has been Groves.

Two weeks ago, he ran to victory at the Fostoria Invitational in 16:16. That came a week after placing second at the Old Fort Invitational, a meet where the Tornadoes won the team title. On Sept. 14, Groves placed fourth at the Galion Invite, running in 15:56.

The times have been superb. But Kihorany said that Groves has continually upped his game off the course.

“Each year he’s asking for more. ‘What else can I do? Should I do this?’ I’ll tell you what really helped him out this year, is his flexibility,” the coach said. “He’s doing the little things now. He’s not just the athlete who runs, he’s now the runner who does the extra things. He stretches at home on his own. He takes the vitamins. He’s actually taking care of his diet now. And all that comes into being a really good runner. That’s the biggest thing right now, he’s taken the next step.”

Now, the next step will be the Division I district meet at Owens in Findlay Saturday.

Groves has big hopes for that, and beyond.

“Always get to state, definitely the goal, but I’d like to be district, even regional champ,” he said. “Get the podium for state. High goals, always push hard to get it.”

Kihorany has confidence in his runner, but he’s taking it one race at a time.

“My expectations are each week to get better, and survive to the next week, because you don’t want to say that anything is guaranteed,” Kihorany said. “And I’ve been telling him that. You’ve got to go into it, knowing that you have to have a fight.

“His expectation is his expectation. It is not my will for him. Of course, I want him to be as high as he wants to go,” he said. “I’ll help him get there, but as long as he has the expectation first, that’s the big piece. He won the SBC title, he wanted to win again. He doesn’t want to lose. He’s been all district almost every year, he wants to be first-team all district again, which is top seven. If he can go for that district title, hopefully that carries over to the regional meet, and you know, from that point, you want to get to Columbus.”

Groves finished 72nd at state last year.

As for the Tornadoes, they finished second at the SBC Lake meet a week ago. Brian Siesel and Logan Robinson followed Groves with 15th and 16th-place finishes, respectively, while Jacob Marquis, Patrick Marquis and Jacob Weingart finished in the 19-21 spots.

Kihorany said the Tornadoes have improved their pack time this season. Groves, the “low stick” as the coach called him, has helped that.

“I think a lot of the guys behind (Groves), the 2-3-4 guys, they really want to pack up, because they know they have that low stick there,” he said.

Groves said he thinks the Tornadoes have a chance for a big day Saturday.

“For the team, we’re (on) the bubble for districts,” he said. “If we can get to regionals as a team, that would be awesome.”