John Mascari is a familiar name around the cross country folks in the fall. Mascari recently announced that his time at Indiana State has come to an end after undergoing surgery that will keep him out for the outdoor season. He wrote in to Citius Mag to share his thoughts on his career as a Sycamore and the next step. He can be reached on Twitter.
Being a student-athlete at Indiana State was a dream come true.
Terre Haute has made be a better person and I don’t think that I would’ve become the distance runner that I am today, if had I not gone to school at ISU. I was able to do a lot of firsts for the program. I was the program’s first Great Lakes regional champion and All-American in cross country. But a big part of my success had to do with the close relationship I had Coach John McNichols on and off the course. Coach McNichols passed away last December from a stroke. What we had was special and we accomplished a lot together. Competing under the late McNichols will always be cherished. McNichols was the kind of guy who demanded hard work but never let his athletes feel like they had to do it alone. He was always prepared to be there. Looking back at what we did makes it difficult to move forward.
What really motivated me was making sure I could do anything and everything to make McNichols and my family proud. My fondest memory at Indiana State was competing at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute. A lot of energy was built up around the community. For those two years competing at Lavern Gibson, Terre Haute put DI cross country on the map. It made me proud to be a part of the experience in my home town. My junior year of cross country was a pleasant season to remember. Qualifying to the championships once again in 2014 and competing in Cross Country Town USA meant the world to me. I will always look back on that day and appreciate it. I finished 8th in the country but above all, I enjoyed the community being there. Terre Haute lifted me up and has done so for many years.
It has been two years since I’ve stepped foot on the track. A lot has happened throughout that time. I dealt with a back issue, a condition known as spondylolisthesis, that held back my training going into my senior year of cross. The injury occurs when one vertebra slides forward over the bone below it and puts pressure on a nerve. Shortly after a miserable cross country season I received surgery to fix the nagging back problem.
I was forced to miss the 2016 track season but applied for a medical redshirt. The NCAA granted me a full indoor and outdoor season this past year. Once getting back to running after the back surgery, I had reoccurring shin problems in my lower left leg and for a while we thought we may have jumped into training too fast. After taken a few months off of running we noticed that the problem would just not go away so another (minor) surgery had to be done. Sadly, I was unable to compete at Indiana State for my final track season.
I’m sure current or former athletes can relate when I say that one of the hardest parts in sports is whether to decide to walk away or to try harder. As of now I’m hopeful about getting back into training.
I lost a brilliant coach and an even greater friend. I know I have so much more to give to the sport of running because of McNichols. I do believe I can become a hungry competitor again. My options to become a professional runner have opened up. My running resume needs bit of a touch up, so getting my name back out there will have to happen. I’m looking forward to the new challenges ahead. I’d like to dedicate the next few years ahead to running and see where I may end up. I will be satisfied knowing I tried rather than wonder what could’ve happened. I’m not giving up yet.