One More Title

He’s spent the past four years running and running. To start his season, he couldn’t run due to injury. To finish it, he took the state title.

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One More Title

Smith has spent his four years of high school dedicated to moments like winning the 2A cross country state title.

Smith has spent his four years of high school dedicated to moments like winning the 2A cross country state title.

Valerie Rosek

Smith has spent his four years of high school dedicated to moments like winning the 2A cross country state title.

Valerie Rosek

Valerie Rosek

Smith has spent his four years of high school dedicated to moments like winning the 2A cross country state title.

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The gun fires, marking the start of the Class 2a Illinois High School Association Cross Country State Championships. Senior Charlie Smith was one of those runners racing down the fields of Detweiller Park to the front of a large pack of runners, with one thought crossing through Smith’s mind: Winning the state title. There’s a lot of work that needed to be done behind the scenes; four years of cross country training as a Sequoit led up to that moment. The big question: what has Smith learned through his cross country career at ACHS.

I kind of thought through my head the whole week going into it [Illinois high school cross country state championships] what I’d feel like if I ended up winning. It was so emotional, forty-five seconds after the race my whole family-my parents, my sister, my grandparents, my aunt and my uncle, they were all there cheering me on. Just a minute after the race I was already with them, that was pretty much the best moment of my entire life not gonna lie. It was pretty awesome.

I’ve learned a lot about myself. I learned that I’m not just a runner. Running although it’s a part of my life, it’s not who I am. I’m not a runner. I’d rather be remembered as a good person rather than a good runner. That’s probably what I learned most about my four years [as a Sequoit].

One lesson regarding efforts needed to compete? It takes a lot of mental toughness and it’s not just about how physically fit you are. You have to be prepared to race at a high level mentally, too. It takes a lot of good rest and focus.

Something that I can’t run without? I think just a positive attitude; I never step out the door to run if I’m feeling bad or anything. Whenever I run happy is when I run best.

I’ve learned a lot about patience and how important it is to running, not just when you’re injured, but with running you also don’t see improvements right off the bat. It takes a while before you really start seeing times drop. Even without being injured I learned a lot about patience; being injured I learned that it’s not always going to be real easy, where I can just go outside and run. Sometimes I have to do different things such as swimming or biking instead.

One piece of advice that’s stuck with me throughout four years… I’d say probably just the whole patience thing, and running is so different from other sports with how patient you really need to be. I think once I figured that out, is when I really started to see improvements.

My first thoughts on the start line of a race… when I step up to the start line I always look at the course, and I always pay attention to when my first turn is going to be because when the gun goes off that’s really what’s most important that you’re heading in the right direction. That’s really critical because the start of the race is so hectic and chaotic that you can find yourself veering off too far to the right or too far to the left. I’m always looking for that first flag.

Really just enjoying it more. I think when I first started cross country I was really only doing it because I was good at it. That’s part of me I regret because I’ve really learned to love the sport a lot. I wish I figured that out my freshman year cause I think I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more.

What motivates me to push myself during a race… that urge to get better, I always want to get better each day. Everyday I go to practice, I always have that thought in my head of “How am I going to get better today?”

It’s taught me to be a better person. My coaches have not only told me how to be a better runner but they’ve taught me how to handle different situations in life in general. I can’t thank them enough for that because the things I’ve learned in cross country, I’ll never forget. It’s all thanks to a lot of my coaches.

 I was injured in the start of July. That’s pretty much my primary training period of endurance, I don’t do a lot of speed work in the summer. I do, do a lot of strength training and endurance. So I definitely missed a good portion of that, I think that if I wasn’t injured I would be faster this year. It taught me how to be mentally tougher and it really refuelled my love for this sport. I think that if I wasn’t injured, I wouldn’t have been so hungry for winning.

The whole week leading up to state I was reflecting on pretty much my whole career as a cross country runner at Antioch and I knew that stepping up to the start line I might be a little bit emotional knowing that it’s my last race as a Sequoit cross country runner. When I got up to the start line I thought about what my coach always told me and how I’ve just been waiting for this opportunity for so long and I wasn’t going to let it go by me. That’s what I thought about when I stepped up.

During the state finals I was just trying to stay focused, it wasn’t really anything different than other races. I always kind of just focus who’s around me, what position I’m in and if I need to make any moves soon. I was really just staying focused on the race.

 The week of a race we do a couple of workouts. We usually workout on Tuesdays and Thursdays, if we have a race on Saturday. The day before I just get a lot of rest, but usually what’s most important is two nights before; 48 hours is really the most critical point or night of rest. I always make sure I get rest throughout the week, and then as for the day of,  I just have a light breakfast. I’ll just stay focused and don’t really pay attention to my phone a lot. 

The start of the cross country year, I was a little injured. It was definitely a stressful time, and somewhat disappointing, I want to say, but it helped me realize that I’m really hungry for winning. When you’re away from the sport you love so much, that’s when you really realize you love it. That just refueled me to want to win more, and want to chase my goal of a state championship.

I learned a lot about competition through swimming and how every race you have an opportunity to beat other guys and you can say that you’re faster than other people. I translated that to cross country and track where whenever I step up to the line I know I have a chance at beating my competition.

A quote I’ll follow in cross country… “you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take”, I mean this one is pretty cliché. I know whenever I step up to the line I’ll have an opportunity and if I always had that thought in my head then I won’t be afraid of failure. I won’t back down from any type of competition.