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Brody Rupe carves his own path at state

Chris Rupe has made so many speeches the week of the state cross country meet, invigorating his teenage distance runners to stretch their talents to heights they never would imagine.

McDonald High School’s boys cross country is synonymous with Division III state excellence, winning five in that classification, along with two more in Class A in the early 1980s.

Today, at 9 a.m., at Fortress Obetz, south of Columbus, there’s no grouping of young runners. The Blue Devils do not have a team at this year’s state meet. Only one remains, senior Brody Rupe.

Chris Rupe, the McDonald boys cross country coach, has been alongside assistant coach and boys track and field coach Lou Domitrovich. They’ve embraced runners year after year, seeing them as their own. These McDonald coaches would have it no other way.

Brody, Chris’s son, is the latest of a long list of the Rupe running family to race to the peak of Trumbull County success. The last name resonates throughout the state, dating back to Brody’s uncle, Ted, who led Maplewood to its first title in 1972. Chris, who also ran for Maplewood, kept the Rockets’ success going later that decade. Ted, the former Maplewood boys coach, mentored many runners to state success.

That lineage is behind Brody today. It has been obvious to Chris.

“It’s so enjoyable to have him learn to love competition, learn to love racing,” Chris said. “Obviously he’s got some ability in that direction. He’s really learned to be quite the competitor.”

Brody has the 10th-best time in the state, according to milesplit.com, but he and Chris would rather have his teammates join them this year. McDonald finished fifth in last weekend’s Boardman Regional. The top four teams advanced to state.

“At this part of the season this is something we really love is that team atmosphere, that team aspect of cross country,” Chris said. “This year has been so stinking weird in so many ways.”

That is an understatement.

Socially, everything is distant, so distant. The COVID-19 pandemic masked up everyone with an innate fear of an invisible virus.

Large crowds, cheering at seemingly every turn, school flags waving, teenagers painted, sprinting from spot to spot, encouraging their runners — there was none of that this year. Family-based crowds are sparse, purchasing tickets through online Ohio High School Athletic Association sales.

“I think I can speak for every coach of every sport, every parent of every sport,” Chris Rupe said. “It’s been hard for everybody. One aspect is the closeness of the team and everything that goes with it has been really hard to enjoy this fall. I think I can speak for most everybody by saying we certainly look forward to a time when the team atmosphere can really come back to where it’s always been.”

Today might bring back a sense of normalcy to this odd cross country season filled with staggered races and other idiosyncrasies.

Chris wants his son to feel that normal this morning when he leaves the starting line and races toward his final fall distance run as a high school athlete.

He’ll remind Brody that he’s one of the elite runners in the state, racing to challenge himself on the course. Brody has won many races over the years. Today, he seeks something more.

“A lot of ways for a runner of his level, this is where it’s the most fun,” Chris said.

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