State, National Honors Plants Runner in Canfield History

CANFIELD, Ohio – Les Plant realized his son’s potential years ago while watching him run a half-mile around Canfield’s village Green during a children’s race that was part of Fourth of July festivities.

Nick Plant, who was 10 years old at the time, stayed ahead of the pack to win the event.

Les was also a runner, and recalls competing in cross country and track and field while a teenager in Formby, England, where he grew up.

Years later, he sees his son, Nick, succeeding at Canfield High School – more than he did at his age. Nick, who stands 5 feet 11 inches, is a rising senior at Canfield High School and gained state and national recognition in the 800-meter run.

Plant won the July 2 Brooks PR Invitational event with a time of 1:49.39 to rank second in the nation, according to Athletic.net. He holds a golden track shoe he was awarded for the accomplishment, besting seven other competitors.

On June 5 at Hilliard Darby High School near Columbus, Plant ran in the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Division I state meet 800 final with 17 other runners. His 1:49.79 time won that race and earned him a gold medal.

His drive to win never wanes. Nick would have been disappointed with anything less than a state title and a top-three finish at Brooks PR, his father says.

“He just wants to do well,” Les says. “Very rarely do we have to pressure him to do his own work or pressure him to go out for a run. It’s his intrinsic drive.”

The Plants vacationed at the Outer Banks in North Carolina a week before Brooks PR. Les says Nick is frustrated when he misses his training. Battling 30-mile-per-hour winds at the Outer Banks made things tough, but helped Nick prepare for the illustrious national race.

“It’s nice to see his hard work was rewarded with the results that he got,” Les says.

Nick is Canfield’s first state track and field champion since Dustin Brode won back-to-back state shot put titles in 2009-10.

Plant is the school’s only Division I state champion in a track and field running event, but Jason Wertz won a Division II state championship in the 1,600 in 1992 for Canfield and Jason Frazier captured gold in the Division II 800 in 1994.

“It’s amazing to see what I’ve accomplished in the past year,” Plant says.

His track and field season began Dec. 11 at the SPIRE multi-sport facility in Geneva, running a 2:00.02 to beat out 12 other competitors.

It wasn’t until the Division I Austintown District meet on May 21 that he grasped his potential, clocking a 1:52.40. Plant snapped the regional and Austintown Fitch Stadium record a week later at 1:50.59 in a constant rain.

“That race was a lot of fun,” he says. “I enjoy bad weather and when it’s raining. It cools you off quicker.”

Running 45 to 50 miles a week during the summer, he trains on a nearby bicycle trail or in Mill Creek Park. The upcoming fall cross country season will mean running 3.1 miles over varying terrain. He has a way to endure those longer competitions.

Plant could hide airpods under his long hair hanging over his ears, but says live music distracts him. Instead, he says, music emanates from his memory, and he chooses a different song for each run, like Spotify from his brain.

“I just sing some songs in my head, just try to get through it,” Plant says. “Just think about the finish line until I do.”

Moving ahead to the 2022 track and field season, he’ll fend off challengers in pursuit of another 800 state championship like Brode did almost a decade earlier in the shot put. Brode not only won another gold medal, but established a state record in the Division I shot put that still stands today.

“The bull’s-eye is there,” says Canfield track and field coach Nick Wagner of Plant. “Everyone knows they want to come out and go beat him. That’s good because hopefully people run faster times to push him a little more.”

According to the USA Track and Field website, an 800 runner has to log 1:46.25 or faster to be in the Olympic trials. Plant could run in the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials to qualify for the Paris Games.

“That’s a huge possibility,” Wagner says. “Some of the colleges I speak with, they talk about what he’s going to do after college. They say he could go pro. They are talking about it.”

Plenty of colleges have spoken with Plant, but he hasn’t had any offers. He’s looking for a program and coaching that can further his track and field career.

“I’m excited to see how I can grow as a runner,” he says. “That is one for the bucket list.”

Before settling on a college, Les says Nick wants to research the plethora of academic and athletic programs.

“It depends if he maintains his drive to improve,” Les says. “It depends on the coaches. Right now, he is a very competitive, national, high school, 800-meter runner.

“When he goes to college, he’s going to realize he’s far from being at the top of the food chain. Hopefully he’ll continue to develop as some of the college athletes do. It remains to be seen.”

Meanwhile, Wagner says he’s seen a wave of social media response from the community, alumni and others.

Jason Mitchell, a Canfield alumnus, lives in Seattle and had a rooting interest in the Brooks PR race since he, like Plant, ran the 800 for the Cardinals. Mitchell, who attended the national event in early July, was the school’s record holder in the event in the late 1980s and early 90s before Wertz snapped his mark in 1992. Plant now holds that distinction.

“The amount of support for this program and for this school has been unbelievable,” Wagner says.

Mike Pavlansky admits his track and field knowledge is limited, but his interest piqued recently.

The Canfield High School head football coach and his wife were at a restaurant in the Outer Banks in North Carolina watching the Brooks PR on a phone through an internet feed, something he told Plant after a chance encounter on the school’s high school track.

“A lot of people in the restaurant wondered what the commotion was about,” Pavlansky tells Plant.

For Les, the Brooks PR race in Seattle was more about the journey than the competition. Due to work conflicts, Nick had to make the cross country journey alone.

“One of the more gratifying things was he actually made it to Seattle and got back all by himself,” he says.

Pictured: Canfield High School rising senior Nick Plant won state and national races in the 800-meter dash the last two months and is ranked second in the nation among other high school runners.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.