Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year: Saxon 'exactly what we needed him to be' for state champ Lions
By Jeff Seidel
For the Carroll County Times|
Nov 25, 2018 | 7:00 PM
Daniel Saxon had some dreams of glory and fun in high school sports as a freshman at Liberty three years ago.
The problem was his size. He kind of didn’t have enough of it to be a gridiron force.
In fact, today, Saxon is 6 feet tall and weighs just 135 pounds. That’s why he turned to running. The move turned out to be a good one for both Saxon and Liberty, and paid off in a big way.
Saxon turned out to be a key part of the cross country machine that coaches Dan Jones and Pete Lester put together at Liberty. The senior led the way this season as the Lions won a fourth consecutive Class 2A state title, and he came away with a second straight Times Runner of the Year award.
After winning state crown No. 3 last year, Saxon said there was no doubt what the Lions wanted this fall. They discussed it from day one. They wanted that “four-peat.”
“We were talking about it [early],” he said. “It was definitely one of the goals as the season progressed. We knew we had a shot at it, but we had to work for it.”
Saxon easily won the Carroll County meet race, pacing the Lions to a 21-point team victory over South Carroll. However, the next race jolted Liberty a bit.
That was the 2A West Region meet, where Oakdale and the Lions finished in a tie for first place, but the Bears won by the tiebreaker.
Saxon finished fourth in that race, and he said the team’s not winning after having such a successful season really gave Liberty some extra motivation heading into the state championship meet at the always difficult Hereford High School course.
The Lions came through at the state meet. On a very cold and blustery day, Nov. 10 at Hereford, Saxon led the way as the Lions took care of business.
First, they won that fourth consecutive state championship, although Liberty (110) needed to beat out River Hill (117) and Calvert (122) as Oakdale slid to fourth place (131). Saxon again finished fourth. He paced the pack of Lions who ended up 1 minute, 16.12 seconds apart — good enough for the title.
“He became a mentor for a lot of the younger runners,” Jones said. “He talked to them about strategy in races, what to do in practices. “He was exactly what we needed him to be [this year].”
Jones said Saxon already had plenty of talent when he showed up as a freshman, despite being new to the sport. The results showed that as Saxon went on to take third in the state as a freshman, then fifth the next year followed by a pair of fourth-place finishes his last two years as Liberty won the title every time.
Jones was impressed with the way Saxon grew in so many ways.
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“As good as he was as a freshman — and he was very good — he had a lot to learn,” Jones said. “But he would run the race we needed him to run so the team could do better. That’s really the greatest compliment I could pay him.”
Saxon said he is hoping to run in college and exploring his options there. He also participates in track and field for Liberty, and wants to do the same at the next level while starting toward his goal of becoming a veterinarian.
There is no question about one thing when Saxon looks back upon his cross country career at Liberty — he doesn’t regret choosing that sport over football.