Connor Musial is a runner, sure, but that's not all he is. Not by a long shot.
The Avon Lake senior also has a second degree black belt in Taekwondo. And he's an Eagle Scout.
On top of that, he just happens to be a distant relative of Hall of Fame baseball players Stan "The Man" Musial, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1941-63.
But it was martial arts that got his sports career off and running, so to speak. Over the past 10 years, he's competed at seven national tournaments. Though he's stepped away from competing recently, it's definitely given him a solid sports foundation.
"Connor's always consistent, works hard," Avon Lake coach Rob Juergens said. "He doesn't do it with his mouth. He does it with his legs. He's a good student, a good kid."
Musial earned two national gold medals for sparring, along with a couple of silvers and a couple of bronzes. His brother, Cole, a 2009 Avon Lake grad and former runner, earned about the same number of medals.
"Martial arts are great for self-discipline," Musial said. "It's helped me to focus better on my school work."
Musial's postseason run last year was impressive as he improved each step of theway, while dropping nearly 50 seconds in all.
Musial finished 10th in 17:10 at the Southwestern Conference meet, 11th (16:46.54) at the Elyria district and 31st (16:35.13) at the Tiffin regional. He was 66th (16:23.4) at the state meet to help Avon Lake finish 10th in its first state appearance since 1996.
"You have to keep burning all the long miles, but you keep going and eventually you'll make like we did last year," Musial said. "The state meet was an incredible experience. The amount of people there and the amount of hoopla that goes with the sport is just overwhelming. The team went down to watch Matt Link and Jimmy Adams compete in 2009, but being down on the field, there's nothing else like it."
Last year's state meet was a special experience, Musial said, one he and his teammates want to build on.
"The team's attitude is that we have to make something better from this (experience)," Musial said. "We have to do it better. We have to work as a team. We have a big team effort and big team energy going for it."
With five of last year's top eight returning, Avon Lake has high hopes of getting back to state.
"Everybody that went down there to support us is so excited for the season," Musial said. "We're trying to hold our mileage longer this year. Many times the mileage drops once school starts, so we're trying to keep that mileage higher through the season."
While individual goals remain important, the focus is going with the best seven runners on the starting line each week.
"Our coach has a saying: 'The team goggles are off this year. Stop racing against yourself. Run as a team. Work together,'" Musial said.
The Shoremen have been working on team-building. For example, they went to the Camp of Champs at Tiffin University in early August, and camping at Mohican State Park.
"The freshman class that's coming up is really looking good," Musial said. "The other guys that are back from junior varsity are coming together very nicely. The team is looking very good this year."
A member of Boys Scouts Troop 334 for 10 years, Musial designed and coordinated the construction of a half-mile multipurpose trail on the high school grounds this summer for an Eagle Scout project.
"I've been wanting to build a trail through the woods on the grounds of school property," Juergens said. "I kind of turned it over to him and he made it his Eagle Scout project. It took about 240 man hours to build. It's 6-foot wide, mostly made out of wood-chip mulch, but also crushed limestone in some areas."
"Coach Juergens had the idea for the trail for a number of years," Musial said. "We had spent numerous hours discussing the layout and the other ramifications that would have to go in to making it possible. There's been countless hours spent working on this project. We had a lot of help."
Musial's work ethic hasn't gone unnoticed.
"He's very confident in himself," Juergens said. "It's a quiet confidence, but he works hard and is not afraid to tell people what to do. He brings back some experience. He's a hard worker. He's not afraid to work hard. Those are the kids you want because it sets the tone. It helps the younger kids to figure out what's going on and what direction the program's going."
Musial is a team captain along with seniors Francesco Maiorca and Trevor Norris.
"You have to have kids like in the program in order to keep it successful on year-to-year basis," Juergens said. "I wish I had more of them. Otherwise, you're going to rebuild every two or three years - completely rebuild. You're going to fall off the face one year and start over, unfortunately. We've had two or three good years in a row. This should be another one and should have more after this."
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or email@example.com.