At times during this cross country season, Matt Beliveau felt as though he ran with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
But after winning the Maryland Scholastic Association title on Nov. 3, the Loyola senior felt as though he had conquered the world.
"After I placed 10th in the MSA last year, I became totally focused on winning it," said Beliveau, who covered the 3.1-mile Herring Run course in 17 minutes, 15 seconds.
"I started training for it right after last season was over," said Beliveau, The Baltimore Sun's 1992 All-Baltimore County/City Boys cross country Runner of the Year. "I went to camps and did a lot of road work over the summer. After all the hard work, it was the sweetest victory of my high school career."
Although he ends his prep career at his peak -- with his sights set on attending the Naval Academy, West Point or Georgetown -- Beliveau's season was not without its valleys. There were times when he "was just ready to pack it in and quit."
In late August, he was hit with the news of tendinitis developing in his right hip.
It kept him out of practice for two weeks, until just 10 days before the season-opening Spiked Shoe Invitational, where he placed a disappointing sixth.
Although he stepped up his training, Beliveau's times continually worsened. In the Harford Invitational on Oct. 10, he finished 33rd, a full 61 seconds slower than what he ran the previous season on the Harford Glen course.
"Worrying about the injury, my psyche was completely shattered," said Beliveau, 17, who maintains a 4.0 grade-point average.
But in a dual meet at Gilman 10 days later, Beliveau made a believer of everyone. He beat the Greyhounds' Matt Buck -- the eventual MSA runner-up -- by one second, finishing in 16:52 and breaking the course record.
Two weeks ago, Beliveau's 16:06 was good enough for the title in the Catholic High Schools' state meet at Georgetown Prep.
"That was the second-fastest time on that course this year," said coach Joe Albornoz. "He had some problems early, but he became determined to do better and better each time out."