A sheet with the results from last year's state finals is pinned to a board in Alec Kostelnik's room, situated amidst medals, certificates, ribbons and race bibs.
The piece of paper is the first thing the Morgan Township senior sees each morning when he rolls out of bed, most likely to put in a few miles.
"Every time I run, it's definitely in the back of my head," Kostelnik said. "Last year, after the state meet, I looked at the results and saw all the seniors. I was a little surprised. It definitely gave me a lot of motivation."
Kostelnik finished 10th in Terre Haute. Seven of the runners ahead of him were seniors. Troy Reeder of Hamilton Southeastern (third) and Valparaiso's Ari Coulopoulos (ninth) were the only other underclassmen in the top 10. Kostelnik knows he's got a chance to do something special, and he's not about to waste it.
"I want to leave knowing I gave it everything I had, no regrets, no what if I ran more miles or worked harder for that race," Kostelnik said. "I'm running more miles, doing harder workouts, icing and stretching, making sure I'm taking care of myself. "
In peak weeks, Kostelnik logs 80 miles. He's doing extensive core work. He even tried yoga, though that didn't fly.
"I hated it," he said.
For Morgan coach Mike Grennes, it's not about rankings or projections. It's about a runner giving himself every opportunity to succeed. The results then take care of themselves.
"Alec's the whole package," he said. "Make no mistake. He's a hard worker. He's a talented kid who's just taken his running to a whole different level. His knowledge is what's impressive to me. He understands what he needs to do to get better. He put in a very good summer and if he continues to progress, it should a very interesting postseason."
Better yet, Kostelnik's journey isn't going to be a solo trip. With the addition of standout freshman Ben Savage, he now has a training partner. While Savage gives Kostelnik some company, he benefits from Kostelnik's tutelage.
"It's a lot better than last year," Kostelnik said. "Ben's with me pretty much every run. He's definitely got talent and he's got guts. The tough runs, he's stuck with me the whole time. We'll be roasted at the end."
The rest of the roster has also stepped up its game, giving Morgan a legitimate shot to make it to semistate.
"All seven have been running all summer. In the past, it was Alec by himself," Grennes said. "The whole team concept is better."
Along the way, Kostelnik hopes to lead Morgan to its first Porter County Conference meet title.
"That would be pretty exciting," he said. "We've got a good group of guys. I'm pretty confident we can make it to semistate, maybe even crack the top 10. Last year, I ran most of the postseason by myself. It'll be different. I won't have to get ready for races by myself. I'll have a group around me and we'll all be getting mentally prepared."
Like last season, Kostelnik will run selected races in order to keep him sharp for the tournament series. Morgan has also added the State Preview meet to get an in-season run on the finals course.
"A lot of meets, where there's less competition, I can just use them as a tempo workout," Kostelnik said. "If I really need to, I can pull a (late) sprint out of my back pocket. Usually, I like to slowly increase my pace from the mile out. Guys start falling off and I just eventually crank it out."
For now, Grennes knows it's a long couple months between mid-August and show time.
"Alec understands the big picture. He knows it's not how well he does now," he said. "It's all about running strong at the right time."