Be Like Mike

Peppy Distances Self?From Field En Route To Boys Track Honor

Maple Grove senior Michael Peppy finished second in the NYSPHSAA Division II 3,200 meters and sixth in the Division II 1,600 meters at Cicero-North Syracuse High School en route to being named this year’s Post-Journal Boys Track Athlete of the Year. P-J file photo

If asked, those who have had the pleasure of getting to know Maple Grove graduate Michael Peppy during his athletic career would probably offer some similar superlatives to describe the young man.

Words like charismatic, talented, affable and earnest come to mind. But when it came time for Peppy to pursue his ultimate goal during this past track and field season — a year-long pursuit of two podium finishes in the two most difficult distance races — Maple Grove coach Bob Goold could only think of one trait to describe his already accomplished senior.

Taking to the stadium at Cicero-North Syracuse High School at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Track & Field Championships, “focus” was the only word that Goold could conjure up to describe Peppy’s demeanor.

“He was very focused,” Goold said. “He enjoyed being there with the other athletes from (Section VI), and you have a great time being there with the other kids and eating with them and staying in the hotel, but he was very focused.”

The determination certainly paid dividends, as Peppy took second in the Division II 3,200 meters on Day 1 of the championships with a school-record time of 9:25.96, besting Corey Wefing’s mark of 9:30 to earn his first trip to the podium.

On Day 2, another podium finish was in order, this time a sixth-place time of 4:28.09 in the 1,600 meters for a two-day distance record that few other accomplished runners can match.

While plenty of runners tend to throw all of their eggs in one basket come state championship time, Peppy’s goal from the beginning of his postseason was to push all the way through in both of his distance events, hoping that a pair of medals would await him at the end of the road.

“Michael is the most driven kid that we have seen in terms of wanting to excel,” Goold said. “He would make everything happen, whatever it was we needed at a meet.”

When looking back on the few athletes in his three-decade-long coaching career who stood alone in terms of their dedication to success, it was fitting that Goold drew comparisons between Wefing and Peppy.

Now three years into an accomplished cross-country career at Edinboro University, Wefing was the only area athlete to come away from the NYSPHSAA Championships with a gold medal in 2014, winning the 800 meters in 1:54.60.

And while the pair are both in elite company in terms of their individual accomplishments, the thing that separates them from the pack, in Goold’s mind, is the dedication to helping the Red Dragons succeed as a team.

While helping Maple Grove win its fifth consecutive Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association title, Peppy not only took home the 1,600 meters in 4:25.54, but also claimed the 800 meters in 2:00.69, just barely edging out Southwestern’s Eddie Scroxton who finished less than a second behind.

The senior added a third title on that weekend, joining teammates Carson Crist, Sam Cummings and Simon Olson in the 1,600-meter relay with a time of 3:34.31, running in the anchor position and topping a talented Frewsburg team that was less than a second behind.

Relays, middle distance, long distance, Peppy was there to help his team win. Now he is The Post-Journal Boys Track Athlete of the Year.

When the Red Dragons likewise claimed their fifth consecutive league title with a 94-37 win over Clymer/Sherman/Panama, the senior deferred his place in the 3,200 meters to teammate and eventual winner Pete Auer. Peppy instead aided both the 1,600 relay team and the 3,200-meter team to wins, joining Frank Colburn, Auer and Riley Auer in the latter.

That was in addition to another championship time in the 1,600 meters with a clocking of 4:43.6.

Peppy’s athletic and academic prowess will now take him to Canisius College, where he will look to continue to follow in the footsteps of Wefing and leave his mark at the collegiate level.

“He was on the podium for both of those events, that’s a pretty big achievement,” Goold said. “We wish him well on his endeavors in the future.”