Shortly after crossing the finish line in the 3,000-meter run, Eric Rupe laid on the Watson and Tressel Training Site track, finally able to catch his breathe.
He even took a cup of water and splashed it on his face, all in one motion. Rupe competed in two other events during the Horizon League Championships, including the one-mile run an hour and a half prior.
The pain never felt better.
“That one hurt a little more than what I would have liked it to, but it was worth it,” Rupe said. “I was hurting at the end for sure. For distance runners, running one event is hard enough, running two is crazy and running three is almost unheard of. In that last 100 [meters], I was blacking out. It hurt, but it feels good now.”
Rupe won the 3,000-meter run with a time of 8:32.49. He also won the 5,000-meter run on Saturday, making him the third male athlete to win both events at the same conference meet in 33 years. He took some hardware home as well with the Individual Scoring Award.
Even with Rupe’s accomplishments, the Youngstown State University men’s track and field team fell short to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Panthers won the title with 158 points while YSU scored 143.
“On paper, we were 30 down going into this meet,” coach Brian Gorby said. “With two events go, we were up 15-20 points. It was pretty much bittersweet. This is the closest we’ve ever been. Next year is going to be our year.”
The biggest factor was Marcellus Embry in the 200-meter dash. He did not finish the race while four Panthers placed. The Penguins were leading overall at this point.
“He pulled his hamstring on the curve,” Gorby said. “Instead of us getting 10 [points] and them getting maybe four, they pretty much got 10, and we got nothing. It was a 15-point swing.
“It was just a pulled hamstring. Otherwise, we’d be sitting talking about a championship right now. That’s nothing against Marcellus. It is what it is. It’s not just that situation. We’ve got to be better everywhere else.”
Saturday and Sunday marked the Penguins’ second runner-up finish this season. They also placed second at the cross-country championships. Overall, YSU out-performed itself.
Bobby Grace played a significant role. He won the shot put, throwing 19.13 meters and breaking the conference record of 17.62 meters set in 2012. Grace also won Athlete of the Year and Most Outstanding Performer.
“That’s what I was projected to do, so it feels good to do that,” Grace said. “Getting the record was just icing on the cake. It was a good building meet for Nationals in a couple of weeks.”
The third Penguin to win an award was William Royal as Field Freshman of the Year. He won the long jump on Saturday and finished fourth in the triple jump with a leap of 13.92 meters, marking his farthest jump of the year by .20 meters.
“You’d really like to take the opportunity when it’s given to you,” Rupe said. “I felt like we had an opportunity today and let it slip away a little bit, but you never know what’s going to happen outdoor.”
The Penguins have two months to prepare for the season’s last Horizon League Championships, which will occur from May 2-4.
“The thing is that the girls, going in, were the favorite by a ton,” Rupe said. “For us, we had to scratch and claw the entire way. Sometimes, when you’re in that underdog role, if you could come out on top, it would feel unbelievable because we came in second in cross-country and second today [Sunday].
“It’s coming for sure. We just have to be patient. When it does come, it’s going to feel really good.”