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Staff photo / John Vargo
Howland’s Lane Goble finished third in the large schools boys race at the Billy Goat Challenge on Saturday.

BAZETTA — Lane Goble spent his freshman and sophomore seasons watching an upperclassman runner dominate the sport of cross country, not only here, but around the state and the Midwest.

Vinny Mauri, a distance legend in the Mahoning Valley and at Howland High School, currently runs at Arizona State University, but socially distanced himself from most runners. It was him against the clock.

Goble learned from the 2019 Division I state champion in the 3,200-meter run. Goble, a Howland senior runner, finished third in Saturday’s Billy Goat Challenge large-schools boys race in a time of 16:30.9, a new personal-best time — breaking his old mark of 16:54.59 set at last year’s Medina Cross Country Festival.

“Being able to work with Vinny and being able to talk to him and see the effort that gets the results out, you get a sense of what it takes to be good just hearing about it,” Goble said. “There’s some things you can’t explain. You have to watch and see it happen.”

Mauri exuded a confidence running. You could see it in his stride, facial expressions and talking to him after races. No signs of fatigue. Goble learned from the best.

“A lot of that is confidence for him,” Goble said. “I think my biggest struggle is mental, staying with it and not dropping out of the race. You have to believe in the training you’ve done. Going into it you don’t put all these miles in to come in third. You go into it to win it and accomplish great things. You’ve put in the work. Now it’s time to perform, which is the hard part.”

Passing down this knowledge is something runners like Mauri, former Youngstown State University runner Ryan Sullivan, and all the way back to former Westminster College runner Aaron Sutton, do for younger runners at Howland. Call it tradition if you will.

During the preseason, when teams couldn’t get together because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Howland boys cross country coach Dan Libert said he sent out workouts for his boys to do. They all followed the instructions and did the work.

“The older kids have done a good job of bringing along the younger ones,” said Libert, whose team took second in the large-school boys race. “I’m going to go out do some extra, come with me. They’ve gotten into the habit where they police themselves a lot. All that time we were off and I wasn’t in contact with them, I sent workouts out. Those guys are doing them all the time — a lot of self motivation.”

Goble is starting to carve his path as one of the Howland standouts.

“He’s been putting in all that time when we’re off,” Libert said. “He’s been running, running, running. It’s now a matter of getting some races under your belt and running times he’s capable of. I think he did an excellent job today. A lot of heart. He’s a hard worker.”

Goble didn’t make it past district last season. Running better this season is the focus.

“I want to make it to state,” he said. “It’s something I absolutely could’ve done last year, but I really didn’t get the race I wanted to at district and it stopped there — the one race that mattered. Going into it, I have a lot more time I want to drop off and win some invites here and there. Be strong and be a name you have to be worried about when you come in.

“I don’t think many people know me now, but hopefully they will soon.”

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