Napoleon senior Ryan Otto might not show his emotions outwardly, but make no mistake he has a burning desire to make it to the state cross country meet.

Otto has been so close for three-straight years. He was 23rd overall at the regional meet as a freshman and 36th as a sophomore. Last year, he missed qualifying by one place and 4.6 seconds. 

Being that close to his goal has amped up Otto's competitive fire, as he increased his running schedule this summer going five to seven miles a day six days a week.

"I’ve wanted to make it to state since my freshman year," said Otto, who also wants his name among the best in Napoleon history. "I almost made it all three years. I’ve been short every year so that is a big motivator, especially since this is my senior year.

"There are top 15 times school history," added Otto. "Last week I set a PR that was few seconds off that 15th spot. My goal has been to get into that top 15, which is lower 16 minutes."

Napoleon cross country coach Jeff Ressler said watching Otto run you might not see the fire that is burning inside the Wildcats runner.

"He’s a very unassuming, pretty quiet guy," said Ressler. "Ever since he was a freshman he's been quiet. That’s not a bad thing. He’s a very hard worker, very even keeled. He doesn’t get too high or doesn’t get too low when he’s running or at practice, which kind of sets the tone for our team.

"He’s very competitive within himself," Ressler continued. "Within our team he is kind of head and shoulders above everyone else so it’s a lot of internal motivation. I think inside he’s got a burning desire to be successful. He just doesn’t show it externally."

Otto's personality has made him popular with his teammates.

"The whole entire team gets along with Ryan really well and they rally around Ryan," said Ressler. "Last couple years, he been the only guy getting a medal or trophy and the guys love that. I think they’re happy for Ryan. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion so they celebrate him for him."

Otto began running at the behest of his parents, who were both cross country runners in high school. His mom, Trish Otto, is Napoleon's girls cross country coach.

"She is my third coach," said Otto. "After Ressler and (assistant coach Virgil) Bohls, it's mom coaching me. She gives me advice on what workouts to do and when. If I miss a day, she will tell me what I think I should be doing."

Along with running cross country, Otto also plays tennis and runs distance events for the Napoleon track and field teams during the spring season.

"It’s hard on the body, but it’s fun going from tennis to track practice," said Otto.

"He does a great job doing both," said Napoleon tennis coach Nathan Butler. "When he is at tennis he gives 100%. He is also making sure he gets his running in and when he can will stay after to get extra hits in for us."

Otto started as a third singles player as a freshman. After losing his sophomore season to COVID, he split time between first and second singles last season.

Butler expects him to once again play either first or second singles.

"That's a lot of pressure, but I think he is up for it," said the Napoleon tennis coach. "He is a great kid and it is a huge thing for the younger guys to see him out there and see how hard he works for the team."

The son of Ty and Trish Otto of Napoleon holds a 4.0 grade point average. He is undecided about which college he wants to attend after high school or what major he wants to study.

By balancing school and athletics, Otto is ready for whatever his future holds.

"Any time you are a 4.0 student that shows you’re dedicated, got good time management, good priorities," said Ressler. "He is the same way in practice. He prioritizes his stretching, his warm up, his nutrition. The classroom and competition sports go hand in hand and he does a good job of balancing them very well."

E-mail comments to jeffr@northwestsignal.net.

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