MUNSTER | Aaron Brown's got a good thing going as the Munster boys cross country coach.
He has senior standout and No. 1 runner Tom Bolanowski for automatic points and look who's getting into the act now -- junior Ryan "Critter" Kritzer with the lime green spikes and high socks.
It's his trademark, and he's on a tear lately.
"Honestly, I knew (Kritzer) was chasing Tom Bolanowski but I didn't know he would get to quite this level – and he just keeps getting better each meet," Brown said.
"I probably would've expected times around 16:15 or 20 but he's gone a lot lower than that."
Kritzer's personal best is 15:52 at the Bob Thomas Invitational in Lowell. He recently won the Northwest Crossroads Conference (16:02) and Gavit Sectional (16:12) titles.
"He can hold a higher pace for a long time," Brown said. "He doesn't have a great sprint finish (but) he won the conference meet by running a sustained fast pace for the whole race.
"He's got the ability to put his name on the map next year. Truthfully, it might be already."
Munster missed qualifying for state by one point at the New Prairie Semistate last season and Bolanowski missed by one place. The Mustangs returned five of their top seven individuals and hope to challenge again.
Bolanowski, as any true teammate would do, has been a big brother to Kritzer despite being pushed by the underclassman.
"He's helped me tremendously from my freshman year to now," Kritzer said. "He's coached me on how to run, how to stay up with people. I knew there would be competition between me and him and it's been friendly competition.
"We've never gotten mad over who's No. 1 or who's No. 2. Tommy's a great guy, (very) well-rounded."
Kritzer is known for his sense of humor – 'Critter' comes from people butchering his name – and he gets some laughs at meets when spectators comment on his lime fashion statement.
"I've been wearing them every race. They're comfortable and they stand out," he said of the socks. "I get a bunch of remarks. They think it's funny."
Kritzer is sending a message as well.
"Overall, I don't think Munster has gotten enough recognition, though I'm probably a little biased," he said. "It's a 'statement' saying I'm a Munster runner and I'm up here (in the front) in all these meets.
"We should be getting recognition as a program."
Today's Crown Point Regional and the Oct. 26 New Prairie Semistate will determine how much.