GREEN  It’s a bit early for official team practices, but that doesn’t mean Green senior Stewart Schmidt and his cross country teammates are taking it easy.

Schmidt, a two-time state qualifier, has served as a team captain the past two seasons and after taking two weeks off from running at the end of track season, he’s adjusting to the reality of being the team’s elder statesman.

“The leading position … coming in here, I had two years of experience of being a team captain, so now being my third year, I had some time to see what I needed to do differently coming into this season,” Schmidt said. “It’s a weird feeling because I’m the one deciding where we’re going for breakfast after practice and all the activities to make it a fun season for everyone.”

Although team conditioning hasn’t started yet, Schmidt decided it was best not to waste time and started organizing unofficial team runs at places such as Boettler Park. The runs have mostly been low-mileage, medium-paced treks, but that will soon shift to more strenuous runs.

Taking two weeks off before launching into any sort of summer training was a must for Schmidt after getting injured last year, a development he attributes to not taking enough time off between track and cross country seasons.

Resting for two weeks was tough to do for a dedicated runner, but Schmidt did his best to relax.

“It was tough to take two weeks off because you want to get back and you want to get better because you see everybody else around you, some of them have also started back up so you want to get out and running and it’s kind of a motivator,” he said.

Schmidt also includes bike rides in his training and a 70-plus mile ride earlier this summer was one of his toughest tests to date.

With those two weeks behind him, he can lock in on the quest for a third straight state meet appearance and get used to the idea that he’s now the senior leader that the rest of the team counts on to set the pace and serve as an example for them.

“It’s kind of sad at the same time because I look back and see I was the one following everyone’s lead and now everyone is following my lead, so going into my senior year, it’s sad but I have a lot of goals I want to achieve yet in high school even though I’m a senior,” Schmidt said.

The primary goal is to reach the state meet, but it doesn’t stop there. Getting the rest of his team there with him and bettering his disappointing results from his last two trips to Columbus are also high on the list. Those goals can seem far away in the middle of summer, when training runs with a pace of around 6:20 per mile are the norm and the first meet is still months away.

Yet the memory of not hitting his usual standards in the biggest meet of the season the past two years is a powerful inspiration at any time of year.

“From the last two years not running well and to get down there is such an accomplishment, but to get down there a second time and not run well again, it’s my biggest motivator,” Schmidt said. “Everybody wants to do well at state and I just haven’t yet, so that’s my goal. That’s what keeps my doing my miles every day and doing the extra things like the bike rides.”

As those extra things add up, Schmidt hopes their sum total is his best finish to date at the state meet and a senior year filled with memorable moments. 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB