Cross country is the rare sport where, in the grand scheme of things, regular season results matter little. Sure, it’s encouraging to finish in the top five at the Bob Blastow Early Bird, and the Clara Bowl Invitational, and the AT&T Panther Invitational, and the Wendy’s Invitational, and the Coach Wood Invitational—as Lambert’s Jonathan Schwind did.
But the only way to qualify for the state meet in Carrollton is by running well at region, and the best way to earn a spot on the Atlanta Track Club All-Metro team is, by all accounts, to finish high up the leaderboard at state.
Schwind, the Forsyth County News’ Boys’ Runner of the Year, saved his best for the final two meets of the 2014 season. The Lambert junior won Region 6-AAAAAA with a 16:31 finish on Nov. 1, and then beat every other Forsyth runner with a fifth-place finish (16:42.66) in Carrollton, earning him a spot on the All-Metro second team.
He returns next year for his senior season with eyes set firmly on another top-five finish at state. Schwind knows now that he’s capable of competing with the best in Georgia. Unfortunately, he said with a laugh, the four runners who finished ahead of him in Carrollton will again stand in his way next year.
Question: How would you describe your 2014 season?
Schwind: “It went a lot better than I thought it was going to be. We lost our best runner from last year and it was a matter of who was going to replace him. Our team, we started out slow. We got it together towards the end.”
Q: What was your goal for this season?
Schwind: “My first goal was to be the top runner on our team, and that ended up being me. It was a joke between me and a friend, ‘Hey, let’s break 16 [minutes] this year,’ and the people I told it to sort of just laughed. I got 16:01, which I’m happy with, but also I’m thinking what I could’ve done to improve in that race.”
Q: Did your region win and fifth-place finish at state surprise you?
Schwind: “My coaches would always tell me that I had to want to finish first. I would listen to them but I never really felt that, but region was a huge surprise. I didn’t think I had that in me towards the end.”
Q: What was your biggest challenge?
Schwind: “Staying healthy and not over-training. All of our workouts, I would always push it too much. My coaches would have to tell me to slow down and not go as hard. They would tell me to run at the front of the pack but I would get up there and fall back from being tired. I did a better job of that this year and it’s helped.”
Q: What was the highlight of the season?
Schwind: “I would say state. Going in, I thought I would be happy with a top-10 finish. It was weird being at the front of the pack and being able to see the course and not the back of other people. I think I finally put it all together and getting top-five was great.”
Q: What goals and expectations do you have next year?
Schwind: “I haven’t thought of a specific goal, but now I know what I’m capable of and I can push myself a lot harder.”