Eric Walz left no stone unturned in his quest to complete a brilliant career as the top all-time male distance runner in Dulaney High history.
His preparation and dedication to the sport were second to none, which is why the North Carolina State University commit was able to achieve his goals — and then some.
After all, the Towson Times Athlete of the Year won both the Elite Division of the Bull Run Invitational and the county cross county crowns last fall for the second time before becoming the only male Lion runner to ever capture a state cross country individual championship — a title that eluded past Dulaney greats such as Brian Russo, Billy Duffy and legendary Olympian Bob Wheeler, all of whom finished second.
Moreover, the victory in that race was a major reason why the Lions were able to unseat four-time defending champion Severna Park to claim the Class 4A state team title and No. 1 ranking in the Baltimore Sun poll.
"Winning the state championship was huge," Walz said. "It was a dream come true for guys who had been grinding it out for four years."
With such a big fall campaign in progress, Walz was on-point early last October in a question-and-answer for the Towson Times when asked about what legacy he hoped to leave at the Timonium school.
"We have a record board and I just want to put my name up there," Walz said. "I want to be a guy people remember, but not just being known as someone who won races. I want to be known as someone who motivated people, who is dedicated and is an all-around good athlete."
In the winter, the 5-foot-10, 135-pound senior kept right on rolling all the way to the 1,600 and 3,200-meters Class 4A state championships. The 3,200 was in 9:37.97, a precursor to snapping Russo's 33-year-old school mark of 9:17.
He accomplished that feat in the early spring outdoors, turning in a sizzling 9:12 in the 2-mile event to shatter the record.
"That's the happiest I've seen Eric, when he broke through," said Dulaney teammate Andrew King, a Lutherville resident and an accomplished runner in his own right who plans to run for Johns Hopkins University in the fall. "It was very impressive to see that he dropped that much time."
Walz said that he was in rare form that day.
"Everything was clicking," he said. "Usually in the 3,200, somewhere in the middle you start to fall off a little. But that day I was zoned in. It's one of the best days I've ever had."
As far as top efforts go, Boyle said that Walz's final lap in the state 1,600 final against Richard Montgomery High's Rohann Asfaw was special.
"Eric was going to try to sit and kick in the mile, but I told him he couldn't do that," Boyle recalled, noting that Asfaw's strong kick made him a feared opponent.
Yet when he needed a strong finish against Asfaw, Walz dug deep to edge the Montgomery County cross country champ by .6 of a second after running the final 400 meters in a sizzling 57 seconds.
"That's what sets Eric apart," Dulaney coach Chad Boyle said. "He takes it to another level when he needs it the most. I have never seen anyone compete like him in my 19 years as head coach."
Walz said he was well prepared for the showdown.
"Coach trained us for those moments," he said. "On that day, I was able to battle through the pain."
In the 3,200, Walz used his smarts as well as his legs to prevail against Asfaw, who would go on to win the 2016 New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York in that event.
"I think at that point Eric had gotten into Rohann's head a little bit," Boyle said. "Rohann tried to out-strategize him, and that was a big mistake. Eric blew him away."
In the spring at the state outdoor championships, Walz finished second in the 3,200 and fell to fifth in the 1,600.
"He's human," Boyle said about the dual defeats to Asfaw.
Walz acknowledged that Asfaw was better that day.
"For some reason, I just didn't have it," he said. "He beat me pretty badly in both races."
Boyle added that, regardless of the time of year, Walz did not need much coaching from a technical standpoint.
"He has a pretty natural efficient style," the coach said. "The only thing was walking the fine line between over-training him or under-training him. He had to learn what his body could handle and what it couldn't. He had to know when to say when, or when to say that he needed more. and Eric was very good at letting us know what he needed."