Westbay hit stride at right time
by Staff Writer
Michael Westbay did his best running at the end of the high school cross country season.
Peaking, as runners call it.
Westbay, a Lake Norman Charter senior, finished sixth among 127 runners at the Class 1A state meet, covering the 5,000 meters in 16 minutes, 47 seconds. It was two seconds off his season’s best, but the competition was the toughest Westbay had faced.
His strong finish sparked the Knights to a second-place team finish and helped Westbay become The Herald Weekly’s Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
“I trained more over the summer and practiced harder during the season,” Westbay said. “And last year I got injured pretty badly, and this year I didn’t have an injury.”
As a junior, Westbay battled an inflamed iliotibial band, which is thick tissue on the outside of the thigh running from the hip to the knee. It’s a common injury for runners. Unfortunately for Westbay, the cure was to not run.
“I took a long time off,” he said.
Westbay said the key to his comeback was his training last summer, and running in 90-plus degrees is rarely fun or easy.
“It was hard to do because you’re also doing it by yourself,” Westbay said. “But it made a big difference. It helped me because I realized what I could do as an individual and how I could help the team.”
Westbay didn’t roar into the season. He finished 86th at the Providence Cross Country Invitational in the first meet. But his times got better. When the season hit the high points, Westbay was ready.
He finished second at the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A conference meet. Then, he was third at the 1A Western Regional meet, which Lake Norman Charter won convincingly. Five Knights finished among the top 17.
At the state meet, Lake Norman Charter changed its strategy from the previous year.
“Last year, we started really slow and were at the back of the pack,” Westbay said. “This year, we took off faster and we were able to get more up front. We didn’t have to make moves to get by; there was a lot more open space.”
In addition to Westbay’s sixth-place performance, his teammates all finished among the top 25 – Chris Hack (17:01), Matt Panza (17:30), Bryant Hooker (17:34) and Sean Kenney (17:41).
Westbay said he was only slightly concerned with re-injuring himself.
“There were times when I was exhausted when I thought I might get injured,” he said. “But fortunately I didn’t.”
There was little rest for Westbay after the cross country season.
“I took a week off,” he said, “then began training for track season.”