As he desperately tried to cool down in the scorching Texas heat, Kyle Mau anxiously took a look at the scoreboard.
At that point, the voice inside Mau’s head took over the bone-weary 22-year-old’s body.
And he could do nothing to silence it.
"I just kept thinking to myself, ‘Please let me be eighth,’" the 2015 Hudson graduate said. "‘Please let me be eighth ... Please let me be eighth ... Please let me be eighth.’"
The clairvoyant Mau got the magic number he coveted. And just like that, his anxiety vanished like a puff of smoke.
Being an All-American certainly has its privileges. For Mau, that distinction proved to be quite therapeutic.
Mau, a rising senior at Indiana University Bloomington, capped a breakthrough junior year after attaining first-team All-American honors at the NCAA Division I Championships. The competition took place June 5-8 at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas.
Mau, a former high school state champion, finished eighth with a time of 14 minutes, 9.62 seconds in the 5,000-meter run. The top eight performers in the prestigious race achieved first-team All-American recognition.
It wasn’t Mau’s best time of his career. But reaching a certain number on a stopwatch wasn’t the task at hand when he took his place on the starting block.
The overriding need in this case is to cross the finish line before 16 other fire-breathing distance dynamos.
"I was happy with it," Mau said. "It’s really rewarding to be a first-team All-American. It’s a culmination of all the hard work I put in last summer."
Mau couldn’t turn away his inner demons of consternation moments after his race. There were no signs of distress whatsoever when he exploded off the block, though.
Mau felt perfectly at ease taking part in a rigorous aerobic activity he fell madly in love with many years ago.
And that serene demeanor is a pivotal reason why he is one of the fastest amateur distance runners in a land that is quite fond of the red, white and blue colors.
"My game plan was to keep myself as relaxed as possible," Mau said. "I wanted to stay in the front pack with about 800 [meters] to go. It was pretty congested. It broke up with 400 to go."
Mau’s noteworthy honor was the grand prize in a year that featured a surplus of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The sport marketing and management major, who has one more year left of eligibility, advanced to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships last fall.
Mau placed 49th with a clocking of 30:08.65 in the 10K race. He led the Hoosiers to an 18th-place finish.
"Kyle is a workhorse," Indiana men’s track and field and cross country coach Ron Helmer said. "He does whatever is needed to get the job done.
"He’s a joy to coach. I don’t remember him ever having a bad workout. He comes to practice and makes no excuses. He’s a great student and he cares about his teammates."
Mau established his fidgety lifestyle at a very young age. Lounging on the couch has never been a huge priority when it comes to his thorough to-do list.
But one may want to think twice about rumors of Mau being an indestructible machine.
Yes, he thrives on an extremely healthy diet that features avocados. On the other hand, Mau is not immune to having the occasional sweet tooth.
"I enjoy ice cream," he said. "My weakness is any dessert or bakery item."
So there you have it.
To neutralize the unflappable Mau, all one must do is place a doughnut or a cupcake in front of his face.
It’s hard to be an All-American when you’re devouring so many empty calories, right?
Mau seems to be one of the few exceptions. Maybe some guys do have all the luck after all.
"I do lead a relatively healthy lifestyle, but you also have to enjoy dessert," Mau said. "I’ve always been a big believer in enjoying those things. As long as it’s in moderation."
Mau considers Bloomington, which has been called the "Gateway to Scenic Southern Indiana" by natives in the Hoosier state, as his home now.
But Mau will never forget his extraordinary former life that took place in a certain affluent suburban community located in Summit County.
Mau was one of the greatest distance runners to ever wear the Explorer blue and white colors.
He won a state championship in the 3,200-meter run during his senior year after finishing as the runner-up in that race the previous season.
Mau also was a multiple-time All-Ohioan on Hudson’s powerful cross country teams.
"Coach [Mark] McConnell is doing a great job," Mau said. "The success is the product of the culture he created."
That culture of excellence continued as he switched from blue to red. And like his alma mater, the Hoosiers’ architect of this winning lifestyle deserves much of the credit.
"Coach Helmer is a really great coach," Mau said. "He cares so much about the athletes.
He goes above and beyond.
"He has a passion for the sport and a passion for the athletes. It just spreads throughout the team."
Mau doesn’t plan to develop that dangerous syndrome known as senioritis. The driven, dedicated Hudson native knows there are more worlds to conquer in what could be his last hurrah as an athlete.
This script could include a juicy twist, though.
If he continues his success, Mau could have a complicated situation on the horizon.
Can a sport he loves so dearly possibly pay his bills down the road?
"It’s something I’ll assess at the end of my five years," Mau said. "It’s on my mind. Right now, I’m just focusing on enjoying the experience."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.