Copley senior Nick Pupino will definitely be busy this weekend.
Pupino will don his high school track and field uniform one final time Saturday at the Division I state meet in Columbus, and then will wear a cap and gown for a graduation ceremony at Copley High School on Sunday.
The frenzied weekend has Pupino excited about the present — competing for a 3,200-meter state title — and the future — competing for Ohio State University next season.
“It is definitely something that has crossed my mind the last couple of races,” Pupino said. “It is bittersweet. I am looking forward to competing in college, but I am having so much fun competing in high school. I am getting some of the nerves, but it is exciting.”
Pupino enters this week as Copley’s career record holder in the 1,600 meters (4:14.26) and 3,200 meters (9:12.25). He also has the third-best cross country (5,000 meters) time in school history at 15:27.65.
“I think this was set in place two years ago,” Copley distance coach Matt Young said. “Back in the fall of his junior season his coaches, Jim Chaney and I, sat down and mapped out how the ideal progression for him would take two years and how it would culminate at the end of his senior season.”
Pupino, 18, hopes it culminates with a state title on the track at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium that he will call home in college.
“The venue is incredible and the crowd is intense,” Pupino said. “The atmosphere alone will let you run a good time if you let it. I think it is an awesome place and an amazing experience to run on that track. It is something that you will remember for the rest of your life.”
Pupino, 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds, placed third in the Division I state meet last year in the 3,200 in a time of 9:24.72. His 9:12.25 is the fourth-best 3,200 time in the state according to oh.milesplit.com, behind Reynoldsburg senior Tsehaye Hiluf (9:00.20), Cincinnati Anderson senior Nick Vogele (9:01.88) and Tipp City Tippecanoe junior Sam Wharton (9:10.83).
“I would definitely say that I am not the favorite,” Pupino said. “I know those three guys are going to be up there. There is a little bit less pressure, but I know people will be looking to see what I can do. I am confident I can compete with them and run well.
“It is going to be interesting. If I have a great race and everything goes right I think I can definitely run sub 9.10 and PR. Whether or not I can go 9-flat or sub 9, I don’t know. I am looking forward to running a great race. I think the competition will push me.”
Pupino, who has a 3.7 cumulative grade-point average, ran 9:12:25 at Woodridge on May 5. The past three Saturdays, he won 3,200 titles at the Suburban League meet at Green (9:41.87), the Nordonia district meet (9:22.39) and the Austintown Fitch regional meet (9:17.92).
“Nick is absolutely a solid student and a great asset to have around on the team,” Copley coach Johnnie Legrair said. “Everyone enjoys being around him. He comes out to work. He is focused and dedicated to come out and get the job down.”
Pupino said he has been running competitively since seventh grade and also has three state cross country appearances, including placing fourth as a senior.
While training in the offseason, he generally runs on average 50-55 miles per week, with a maximum of 65 miles.
Pupino won district titles in the 1,600 and 3,200, but elected to focus on the 3,200 at the regional meet. Pupino’s 1,600 time is the eighth best in the state according to oh.milesplit.com.
Young said Pupino has been fortunate to have no serious injuries and praises him for the sacrifices he has made.
“Nick is definitely prepared for this weekend and he is ready to run the best race of his career,” Young said. “He is a very humble kid. He gives a lot of credit to other people and he is very respectful of his competitors.”
Regardless of his finish Saturday, Pupino knows he will have the support of his parents, Holly and Sam, and his older sisters, Nicole (20) and Alyssa (22) in Columbus.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.