By GIUSEPPE UNGARO
Jesse Schmeizer credits his success to changes he made mentally — not just this past season, but throughout his high school career.
The Ocean City senior went from being a promising runner to a great runner thanks to his commitment to the team concept. The Glory Days Magazine boys cross country Runner of the Year said he also changed his training from a mental standpoint heading into this past season, making him among the top runners in South Jersey.
“I knew from spring — I changed something in my strength program — I felt like a different person, a different runner. It was more mental than physical,” the 17-year-old Ocean City resident said. “What I had to learn was to be confident in who I was as a runner. I had to be confident when I got to the last lap of race that I can beat guys around me.”
His confidence carried over to the cross country season. Right from the start he helped lead the Red Raiders to a two-point win over rival Mainland Regional. They continued to be the team to beat in the dual-meet season, like they have been for more than a decade.
Ocean City ended the season undefeated, extending its winning streak to 90 straight, something Schmeizer wanted to make sure stayed intact in his final season.
It is part of the team-first mentality the Ocean City program preaches, and something Schmeizer brought into. He hopes other runners learn that the sport is a team sport and not an individual sport.
“What really changed for me as a runner, and as an athlete, is that it really became a more team-oriented sport than an individual sport. The most important thing, and the thing I have taken from this experience, and I hope a lot of runners figure it out, the sport grows from when you are a freshman and a sophomore, and you’re running fast times, you think you are something good. You become individualistic and self-oriented,” Schmeizer explained. “I remember my sophomore year saying I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that. It didn’t really matter to me at that point what my team was doing. However, that only works until you start running into some failures. Every runner goes through it. You have bad races. What I learned in my senior season — my best cross country season — is that when you are focused on the team and beyond yourself, it is so much more rewarding.”
That change in attitude turned Schmeizer into one of the area’s top runners. He finished second at the Cape May County Championships with a time of 16:09.72. He was then third at the Cape-Atlantic League with a time of 16:12.97.
Then, on one of the biggest stages of the year, the he was fourth in the Group 3 South Championships, crossing the finishing line in a time of 16:15.
“That was more than I expected,” said Schmeizer, who plans to run at Lafayette next year. “I thought I was going to be in the top 10. My team didn’t place in top 2, like every year I have been there, but based on how young we were as a team and the competition in South Jersey — Mainland was great, Delsea was great and so was Highland — considering how young we were, only retaining two varsity guys from the year before, I was elated how close we were to winning.”
Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDgisepu