Prep cross country: Summers shines for Salisbury

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 16, 2009

By Bret Strelow
Salisbury senior Nick Summers could hear some spectators yelling his name. Others were cheering for East Rowan’s Ross Oden.
About 150 meters remained in the Rowan County Meet, the 3.1-mile cross country event held annually at Dan Nicholas Park, when Summers and Oden started sprinting toward the finish line.”It felt like I was in a movie because it was like I was in a zone,” Summers said. “Everybody was screaming my name and his name, so I knew it was a close race.”
Summers edged Oden, the defending champion, by two-tenths of a second and won with an official time of 16:30.2.
Summers again relied on a strong finishing kick to improve his position. That burst of speed is familiar to friends who called him “Reggie Bush” because of the open-field moves he used on defenders during pickup football games at Jersey City Park.
Salisbury graduate Isaiah Goodman, now a Fayetteville State student, played quarterback and always selected Summers with his first pick.
“From the first day me and Nick hung out I noticed a special glow about him,” Goodman said. “Everything he did was as if he was 8 feet tall. In football we compared him to Bush; in basketball he was Jason Terry. He always gave his all at everything he did.
“When he ran it always seemed as if every step he took was his last. He would ‘strike out’ as we would call it. He would run as if it were no tomorrow.”
Summers was a backup cornerback on Salisbury’s junior varsity football team as a freshman. He dabbled in outdoor track as a member of coach Mike Allen’s team during the spring.
Goodman, having observed his friend’s willingness to chase down pass after pass, kidded Summers about going out for cross country as a sophomore.
“He said, ‘You should run cross country because you never stop running,’ ” Summers recalled. “He kind of told me, ‘Well, I bet you won’t ever become a good runner.’ I was like, ‘All right, we’ll see about that.’ ”
Summers participated in both football and cross country as a 10th-grader. He placed 14th in the county meet (19:22), joined teammate Philip Tonseth on the all-conference team and finished 52nd at the 2A Midwest Regional (20:12).
Summers claimed eighth at both the county and regional meets as a junior. He earned the last individual berth into the state meet by running a 17:56 and crossing one spot ahead of Tonseth.
Summers finished 22nd in the 2A race at Tanglewood Park.
“My freshman year, his sophomore year, I was beating him every race,” Tonseth said. “Last year he started to come on a lot more and beat me at regionals. This year, besides the first race, he’s been miles ahead of me.
“If I can keep up with him, I’m happy. It’s insane. He has another gear that no one else has.”
The extra gear helped the Hornets win the 2A state track championship in May. Romar Morris rolled to two sprint titles, and Summers had a pair of top-three showings in distance events. He was fifth with half a lap remaining in the mile and passed three runners in the next 150 meters. Tonseth’s performance in the 3,200 clinched first place for Salisbury.
That team effort was memorable, and Summers ranks last week’s cross country victory as the best individual accomplishment of his prep career.
“Once I crossed, it was a sigh of relief because I was pushing it the whole race and was dead,” Summers said. “I knew I won, but it was close. Too close for comfort.”
Tonseth, who finished third, knew what the result meant to Summers and hugged him after the race.
Summers shared the news with Goodman during a Facebook chat session later that evening.
“Me and him have a real close-knit relationship,” Summers said. “I always think of that, that he’s the main reason I’m the person I am now, because he kind of motivated me to come out and run.”