Derek Amicon made big strides with the Grandview Heights boys cross country team last fall, winning the Division III state championship at National Trail Raceway.
The progression was supposed to continue in his junior track and field season, but that was dashed when the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of spring sports.
The Bobcats were returning all of their top scorers from last spring and had expectations of contending for the MSL-Ohio Division championship as well as Division III district and regional titles.
Amicon now is looking toward repeating his individual state cross country title in the fall and having the opportunity to prove himself in track next spring .
"We had high hopes as a team, and I was excited to see how much I had improved," Amicon said. "I went from 22nd to first (in the state cross country meet) from my sophomore to my junior year. I was hoping to be able to do something similar during track."
As a sophomore, Amicon was 22nd (17 minutes, 4.8 seconds) at state in cross country.
Then last fall, he captured the state title in 15:42.5 after winning the regional meet in 15:50.2 a week earlier at Pickerington North and setting the program record of 15:36.6 two weeks prior in the district meet at Hilliard Darby.
In track last spring, Amicon finished fifth at state in the 1,600 meters (4:25.18). He also ran the anchor leg on the fifth-place 1,600 relay (program-record 3:25.75), following Chris Miller, Luke Lachey and Jack Kessler, all of whom are seniors this year.
Amicon also finished fourth in the 3,200 (9:48.76) at regional to secure the final state berth, but he opted to focus on the 1,600 at state.
"I didn't run the (3,200) at state last year, and I was hoping to put in a good time this year," he said. "The mental side (of racing) is important on the shorter events (as opposed to cross country courses). I'm able to push myself until it's over."
Track coach Brian Schoch said Amicon's mental approach sets him apart.
"Derek has gotten a lot faster, especially in terms of straight foot speed," Schoch said. "He also has a mental approach that helps him because he's strategic, but he doesn't overthink things. He can just go out and race, or he can go out with a specific method to the way he wants to race.
"He's definitely physically gifted and can do things that a lot of runners can't do. He can leap, and we even tried him as a high-jumper as a freshman. He's bouncy, and he gets high in the air. He's a great overall athlete with foot speed and he has the lungs to do just about whatever he wants."
Amicon has the philosophy of staying with the front pack in cross country instead of running them down, and he wanted to try that in track.
"A lot of kids have that theory, but they don't have the lung work and the legs to be able to accomplish that," Schoch said. "Derek is unique. He has significant bounce and overall speed and great lung capacity."
Amicon said the cancellation of the spring season has taught him to appreciate every aspect of training, competing in meets and being with his teammates.
"I guess I kind of learned to put everything into it every single meet because you never know when it's going to end," he said. "Also, you never know what can be taken away from you.
"This was going to be a good season for us. We're a small school and the stars have to align just right in order to have a really good team. This was one of those times, but I think we can be good next year as well."