'I always believe that we have a chance': Micah Schuster spells hope for Streetsboro track

Streetsboro's Micah Schuster competes in the boys 400 meters at the Division II district track meet at Lakeview High School on May 20.

It’s an unseasonably warm April day at Veterans Stadium in Aurora and, regardless of what the temperature might indicate, the 2023 track and field season is just beginning.

Young student-athletes are figuring out what they can do. Their older peers are nowhere near the marks and times they will hit in a couple of months.

It’s like Jerry Seinfeld’s opening monologue before the actual show begins.

Wisps of promise on a beautiful spring night.

Then, Streetsboro senior Micah Schuster pops a sub-50 in the 400.

It’s a state-caliber time when Easter chocolates are still available on the discount rack. It's the type of performance that stuns a crowd and leaves a coach shaking his head in joyful disbelief.

In the aftermath, Schuster, typically a student-athlete of few words, admits that this was more than a mere early season invitational to him.

Having battled through injury at the 2022 state meet and worked his way back for many months in between Columbus and Aurora, the Record-Courier Athlete of the Week doesn’t back away from the significance of that night.

“That actually means a whole lot more to me than it would have last year because I had to take 10 months off of pretty much all my sports,” Schuster said that night. “I just started running again at the beginning of track season because of my hip last year. So it means a lot to me to know that I'm pretty much full-go and getting back to where I was.”

That’s the thing about Schuster.

His easy smile and equally easy strides mask a deep competitive fire.

“A lot of times when we don't have to win something and we just have to get a spot or we're just qualifying, sometimes he doesn't know how to do that,” Rockets coach Robb Kidd said. “He's like, ‘Coach, I just hate second, I hate being second,’ and I think his drive to be his greatest fuels him.”

Micah Schuster battles adversity

Streetsboro's Micah Schuster runs the boys 400 meters at the John Kudley Invitational on April 14.

As easy as Micah Schuster makes the 400 seem, or the anchor leg of the 4x200 seem, or the anchor leg of the 4x400 seem, or really any event he runs seem, he has seen more than his share of adversity.

Like everyone else in the Class of 2023, Schuster lost his freshman season to COVID-19. As a sophomore, Schuster was part of an explosive 4x200 relay with his older brother, Ethan, and witnessed Ethan suffer an injury at state and valiantly hobble his way over to Micah to hand off the baton.

As a junior, Schuster suffered his own significant injury.

Remarkably, he finished fifth in the state despite the pain he felt in his hip.

But he still burned knowing he could be better.

"I think my motivation is just like myself," Schuster said. "I felt like last year, I didn't let myself down, but I knew I could have done better, so this year's just finding a way to do that."

Micah Schuster's work ethic stands out

Beyond the injuries and the pandemic, Schuster also had a journey to make before he joined the pantheon of recent Rockets greats like Dakari Carter and KeShun Jones.

It’s easy to forget now, as the senior has long established himself as one of the best in the area, but Schuster didn’t come anywhere close to making state in the 400 as a sophomore, taking 10th at the Austintown regional with a time of 52.14.

Going back further, Schuster said he wasn’t a prodigy when he began running in the seventh grade.

“I wasn't anything special,” Schuster said. “I was average for my grade and my size.”

Schuster’s work ethic was never average, however. After COVID canceled his freshman year, he spent the spring and summer training with his brother and Streetsboro alum Benny Shaffer.

He also watched carefully as his brother’s times went down as his high school career progressed.

“Just seeing him progress,” Schuster said. “Seeing him break 50 for the first time during indoors just kind of put that in me, that competitive spirit.”

Kidd saw the change first-hand.

“He wasn't, I would say, skinny, but he was nowhere near as developed," Kidd said. "Within a year, when he came back, the workouts that he had been putting on really showed."

From Schuster's sophomore season to his junior year, 10th in the region turned into a title. His 52.14 in Austintown turned into a 49.28.

Those jumps just don’t happen for most people. Most people aren’t Micah Schuster.

“The kid just wants to be the greatest he can be, and he does everything right in pursuit of that,” Kidd said. “I have so much trust and faith in that kid.”

Micah Schuster finds his event

Streetsboro's Micah Schuster runs the boys 200 meters at the Division II district meet at Lakeview High School on May 20.

Micah Schuster is a bit of a track unicorn, a conundrum in the best way.

For Kidd, one of the few challenges he had to deal with when it came to coaching Schuster was simply figuring out how to use him. How should Kidd best deploy a runner who could compete in seemingly every event?

There was no eureka moment regarding the 400, said the veteran coach, but it surely didn’t hurt that his older brother had excelled in the longest of the dashes.

“He just kind of came in and just assumed into that position,” Kidd said. “With his size and his strength and his stride length, it just kind of married perfectly.”

Once the Rockets discovered how good the younger Schuster was in the 400, everything began with that one event.

“The last two seasons especially, we always start off number one with his 400, and for him it revolves completely around that,” Kidd said. “So we start with the four and then we work backwards and forwards.”

Now, Schuster is running the 200, the 400, and the 4x200 and 4x400 relays.

The amazing thing about the relays is it doesn’t matter how far behind Schuster is when he gets the baton. There’s always a feeling of hope.

“Just to know that he is going to touch that [baton], I always believe that we have a chance,” Kidd said. “I'll always put my money on Micah. Every time that we're running a 4x2 or a 4x4 and, if it's humanly possible, I believe that that kid can do it.”

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Streetsboro senior Micah Schuster a rare track talent