The Cowanesque Valley Indians boys cross country team boasted a top-to-bottom consistency that no other area team matched in the 2020 season, and were led by senior Seth Neal who finished off his career with his best season yet.
“I felt like I did the best I have ever done in cross country ever,” Neal said. “I focused a lot this last summer on my second mile, but overall I ran really well. Being third in the league is the highest place I have ever gotten.”
Neal broke school records, captured a handful of first place finishes and ended his season in the top three for overall times in all of the Northern Tier League.
“It feels really good to be recognized,” Neal said. “I didn’t ever expect to be so proficient in the sport, but it really did define my highschool career.
Neal was a huge part of the Indians finishing in second place in the NTL Large School Division with an overall record of 6-4. His performance in his senior year is why he is the Gazette’s Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
From his first home meet of the season, the drive and determination could be seen in the eyes of Neal.
“Physically he is built like a runner and trains in the off-season,” Cowanesque Valley Cross Country Head Coach Aaron Wooster said. “We work at setting goals and achieving them. And he is also an experienced racer who thinks through a race, knows the competition, and makes a plan to win.”
He stared intently at the path ahead of him and subsequently dominated his first race of the year taking home a first place finish that would set the tone for the 2020 season.
“Seth is self-motivated and does have a strong work-ethic,” Wooster said. “He is also a competitor; he likes to win and so he races hard.”
His strong work ethic and drive catapulted his efforts in 2020 and after finishing with the 12th best time in the NTL in 2019 with a time of 17:23, he continuously improved finishing with a best time of 17:16 and honed in on his consistency in his senior year.
“Focus and consistency has helped. Being able to run his best races week after week has done a lot to build his successful season,” Wooster said. “There are a lot of things that cause young athletes to achieve less than they are capable of and Seth didn’t let any of them affect him on race day.”
A focused runner and a fierce competitor helped him to his fantastic senior season, but an overlooked component of what made Neal such a staple for the Indians cross country team was his leadership.
On a roster with only two seniors, Neal was looked to as a role model and leader for the younger runners, and set the example for them on how to compete at a high level and also how to conduct yourself on a team.
“This year Seth ran fast enough to break the CV 5k school record. And then he set it again running even faster,” Wooster said. “My favorite memory was when one of our freshman runners had a tough loss at the very end of a race. Seth made a point to speak with him and to help him put the loss into perspective.”
During his career, Neal had many memorable moments, but for him his chance to compete against some of the best runners in not only the area, but all of District 4 was one he will never forget.
“My favorite race this season was by far the NTL’s,” Neal said. “Just because I was racing in two great competitors in Justin and Zion from Wyalusing.”
Looking forward, Neal will be continuing his running career in a familiar destination.
He will be signing on to compete at Mansfield University on their cross country team and the track and field team next year after graduation.
He is expected to make his final announcement on his college destination on Feb. 1.