In 2016, Alex Maier was a young whipper snapper who was viewed as the next king of Texas distance running.
At the time, Maier was just a sophomore, but week in and week out, he was on the heels of either Reed Brown Daniel Bernal, or Sam Worley who were between the three of them were the best runners in Texas and amongst the best nationally.
Maier ended his 2016 cross country season as a first team All-American runner nationally with his fifth place finishes at both NXN and the Foot Locker Nationals.
Last year, those expectations were as high as could be at the beginning of the year. Maier entered the season as the #2 ranked runner in the nation and he seemed to be on par as the was dropping fast enough times to keep himself in consideration of the top runners nationally.
Then, around this time last year, Maier had a respiratory infection that hindered the end of his 2017 season and required him to unexpectedly drop out of the state meet.
In just two weeks, Maier recovered enough to finish in second place at NXR South meet and help his team qualify for NXN.
Now that it's 2018, some of the public perception is that Maier is still not the same and the fear of him as a runner and the expectation from fans just isn't the same.
Quite a harsh reality, but I guess thats the era we live in. After having one of the top three sophomore seasons ever and being placed in conversations as the next GOAT here is where we are.
Let's look at why.
Maier went from a top five finish at NXN in 2016 to just a 14th place finish in 2017.
Currently, he is considered the second best runner on his team as he has the reigning UIL 6A state champion Jarrett Kirk that lines up next to him at every race. At one time, the only dudes in the state that could run with the guy are now suiting up for some of the top distance programs in the NCAA. This year alone, Maier has won only one race this year and placed third, fifth, and tenth in the other three races.
In 2016, Maier was absolutely rolling. The dude was dropping times weekly that were awesome. In what was an 11 race season, he had only ran two races that were slower than his current SB.
Here is why I believe Maier will return to his previous form by the end of this season.
That one race that Maier did win was his most recent race and in it, he beat the defending state champ as he went 15:12.80 to do so. Speaking of Jarrett Kirk, how many people in the state, let alone in the country have a training partner on or neat the level that as Kirk is on? Getting a challenge every day like that creates training sessions that can't be organically produced or simulated, which is bodes well.
Maier also has the race experiences and knowledge that very few runners in the state came close to. He has experienced a physical level not many have and his psyche is still elite. If anything, he has more of a respect for the sport than anyone. It is easily lost that although Maier was probably better than most freshman in his first year, he wasn't elite. He still had to work hard to get to the level he did in 2016.
Even though the times and some of the efforts don't indicate he is on the same level, don't be fooled by that. This past march, Maier dropped a 9:07.10 two mile race....indoors!
His amount of racing has also been drastically minimized as he only has four races so far on the season compared to 9-(2015), 11-(2016), 7-(2017). Maier and his Flower Mound teammates will perhaps be as fresh as ever in his career, which could be conducive to premium upcoming performances.
Maier appears to be just as humble and as respectful to the sport as ever. He still deflects to his teammates in interviews and is as big of a team guy as there is. With public expectations for him no longer through the roof, it just might be the time for Maier to return to conquering cross country courses again.