Ask any cross country coach you encounter what the most important thing is for their team to do in order for it to be at its best and the answer is virtually unanimous.
Put your miles in during the summer and offseason.
For those kids intending on running for Minooka, this has been hammered home by coach Kevin Gummerson.
“Monday through Friday we have team summer running from 8-9:15 a.m. That’s when we all get to run together,” senior runner Kyle Swanson said in an interview last week. “Then sometimes the guys will meet on their own and we might play soccer or we’ll get a run in on our own. We like to do a lot of things for two-a-days just to get in more miles. Coach really stresses that we get a lot of miles because he knows the more miles you run the more energy you are going to have for the races.”
The success by the Indians on the cross country front is obvious, especially considering they’ve made the state’s final race of the year as a team every year since 2008.
While volunteering at the final Indian Pride Meet of the season last week, Swanson agreed to engage the Morris Daily Herald in this week’s Question and Answer session.
Q. Some people say that running cross country is not easy. What made you want to be a distance runner?
A. I decided to give cross country a shot my sophomore year in order to stay in shape for basketball, the sport I played at the time. Also, I always remember winning the pacer test in gym class and that was very fun.
Q. When did you start taking the sport seriously?
A. As soon as my first race was about to start, I realized that if I give 110 percent and run my very best, positive results will show. Ever since then I’ve been taking this sport seriously.
Q. Did you have any influences that guided you into the sport? If so, who and what exactly was that influence?
A. I remember hearing about the great Joe McAsey and how he just kind of picked up running. I figured if he could become a Division I athlete, maybe I could too.
Q. Have you been involved in other sports growing up? If so, which ones?
A. Of course. I participated in a ton of sports — soccer, baseball, basketball, football, track and field and volleyball.
Q. Tell me about your earliest competitive memory. Was it an organized sport or was it perhaps playing sports in the backyard?
A. I’m very competitive. I remember playing little league baseball and just diving all over the place because I was the aggressive and always wanted to make my coaches proud.
Q. Let’s fast forward to the last five years. You probably don’t even remember the last time the Minooka cross country team didn’t go to state, do you?
A. Actually I do because I know both our boys and girls cross country team have made state six consecutive years each so my answer is 2007.
Q. What does that mean in terms of the culture and environment that has been created for the cross country team today?
A. We know we have high expectations and nothing will stop this team from greatness.
Q. This question gets asked every year to a new team coming in at Minooka, but do you guys feel any pressure to keep that streak of state appearances going?
A. I feel like we do because we’ve lost a lot of talent of the boys side last year but I’m confident our new guys including myself will get the job done.
Q. You guys lost a lot of quality runners from last year. Who do you see filling in for those seniors who have graduated?
A. On the senior side, it will be myself and Andy Geldean. For juniors, it will be our best returning finisher at state last year, Henry Bugaski, and the others, Ben Ubert and Gabe Ceballos. The other two spots in the top seven should be up for grabs.
No matter who the runners on this team are, I know for a fact that were going to give it our all with our never-quit attitudes.
Q. Can you tell me about your goals? Goals for both yourself and the team this year.
A. Individual — run in top seven, achieve PRs every race, and earn SPC All-Conference team; win the following: conference, regionals, sectionals, state and every other invite/team races.
Q. Finally, if you had a piece of advice to offer a grade school kid who wanted to make a name for themselves in the sport of cross country in Minooka, what would your advice be for them?
A. To train everyday and always find a way to become a better distance runner. Playing other sports and staying fit are great ways to stay in shape. Never give up and the sky is the limit.