For three years, Peoria resident Will Firth got by on just raw talent. He tantalized his coaches and teammates with his natural running ability, only to fall short in the biggest meets of the year because of injuries, illness and the fact that raw talent could only take the Brophy Prep senior so far.
“In my early years, I didn’t put in any effort,” Firth said. “I didn’t try really hard and for me it was OK because I was still a decent runner.
“I was tired of letting my team down and when I finally decided I wanted to be really good, I learned that it takes a lot and I can do it, but I had to put the work in.”
Firth did put in the work, using the disappointment he felt as a junior as motivation for his final prep cross country season. The result was a stellar senior season that earned Firth the Tribune’s Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year award. The Tribune is the sister newspaper to Glendale/Peoria Today.
“It felt awesome to do well all season long,” Firth said. “Every year I had something wrong with me towards the end. And this year, even though I didn’t win the title, just to be able to finish well, that was as good as getting the title.”
Firth ran to a second-place finish in the Division I state championship race, behind Yuma Cibola’s Bernie Montoya. Firth did win invitational titles at the Doug Conley Invite, the George Young Elite Cross Country Invitational, the Sole Sports Running Zone XC Festival and the Ray Wherley Invitational.
Firth’s performance this year made up for a disheartening junior season in which he finished 44th at the state cross country meet and then struggled at the state track meet later in the year.
“My friend (teammate Tommy Williams) won the 1,600 (in track) and I had been beating him all year,” Firth said. “It could have been mine. I was very distraught after that.
“I guess it translated into motivation for the next year. That’s really what made me work so hard this cross country season.”
Firth worked out twice a day, running hard through June and July to get ready for this season. The preparation translated into being in better shape and that helped Firth avoid the late season injuries and illnesses that had been so troublesome in the past.
“I know that I did everything I could,” Firth said. “I know what I have to do now, and what it takes to be one of the best.”