His accomplishment from the day before only started sinking in Sunday when he returned to the York College campus.
Tim Hartung's friends reminded him that just six people in the country are faster than him. Well, in the NCAA Division III cross country ranks, that is. Among 280 runners, Hartung nabbed seventh place Saturday in Indiana with a time of 24 minutes, 43.6 seconds, just 18 seconds behind the first-place finisher.
It marked the highest finish of any runner from the Capital Athletic Conference in the history of the CAC. Hartung also became York's first cross country All-American -- an honor bestowed to the race's top 15 finishers.
"When I first crossed the finish line on Saturday it was pretty shocking," Hartung said Sunday evening. "I was expecting to be fighting for a top-15 spot."
It's also pretty shocking considering where Hartung placed in the race a year ago (50th) and what obstacles he overcame at the start of this season. Obstacles that brought up the possibility of the 6-foot, 1-inch junior sitting out this year.
Stomach bug: The first obstacle came in August, when Hartung and doctors suspected his stomach bug had the symptoms of "runner's colitis." It's a term that Hartung said isn't an actual accepted medical condition. But most runners have heard of it at one point. And it causes cramping and diarrhea.
"I've had an issue with that ever since high school," Hartung said. "It started up after coming back from leukemia."
That's right. Hartung had also battled acute lymphoblast leukemia in high school. He was diagnosed with it his freshman year at Gov. Mifflin High School and he went through intense chemotherapy treatments before coming back to earn all-division honors in cross country his junior and senior years.
The initial tests for colitis, however, didn't sound right when doctors told him he had clogged arteries. Luckily, a second opinion from doctors at Hershey Medical Center came back clear. And the stomach bug subsided. And the discussions between Hartung and Spartans' third-year cross country coach Erick Camodeca of Hartung redshirting were shelved.
Achilles: With the 2012 season slated to start on the first day of September, Hartung's return came at a good time. Unfortunately, his brief hiatus away from cross country while trying to figure out his medical issues may have ended up causing an Achilles injury in his right leg.
"I think it stemmed from me coming back pretty quickly and running hard after having a week-and-a-half off," Hartung said.
That's when Camodeca suggested some cross-training for Hartung. And the pain slowly started going away. Hartung wouldn't miss a race.
Another solid year: After nabbing the program's first CAC title a year ago, the Spartans' men's cross country team followed up by winning the conference crown again this fall. Hartung was named the CAC Men's Cross Country Athlete of the Year. Camodeca took home the conference's Coach of the Year honors for the second straight season. York also nabbed a program-best seventh-place finish at the NCAA D-III Mid-East Regional meet.
Not too shabby for a program that has more than doubled in size since having just seven runners in Camodeca's first year as head coach. Then again, it also helps having an athlete such as Hartung leading the charge.
"We'll just have to keep doing the same stuff that we've been doing because it seems to be working," Hartung said.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.