Who are you?

I’m you, but stronger.

The girl on the top has just fallen in love with running.

Even though she does not think she is good, she knows she gives her entire heart each time she steps onto the line and that she loves her sport. The girl on the top does not think she will run again after high school or that she is fast enough, experienced enough, strong enough or fit enough to do so.  

The girl on the bottom is the same girl, but stronger, faster and now a collegiate student-athlete. The two girls look the same; the only difference is the school on their singlet. They have the same face, same form, same thumb-under-the-index-finger, same love for running and—of course—the same semi-relaxed look when they see the team photographer. 

If only the girl on the top knew her capabilities and who she could become with a combination of hard work and persistence. The girl on the bottom is strong as ever, because the girl on the top motivates her. She remembers why she’s a runner; she remembers everything she’s endured to become who she is today. If only the girl on the bottom could tell the girl on the top that her smile and her some determination could take her anywhere she wanted to go. 

The girl on the bottom is strong, but still has the same worries as the girl on the top once did: that she isn’t fast enough, experienced enough, strong enough or fit enough. But then she remembers that she is enough. She never runs alone; the girl on the top is always with her and cheers her on with every step she takes. No matter what the clock says, in the end, the girl on the top watches, in amazement and awe that she made it to the starting line in the first place.

“Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”

Steve Prefontaine

When I first saw the bottom image from my race at the Watts Invitational in Edinboro, PA, I immediately thought of one of my favorite pictures from running in high school. When I looked at these images, I couldn’t help but reflect on how different a person I am today, yet my passion remains, as do my worries. I started running cross country my senior year in high school, the year of the first picture. Girls surrounded me who had ran since childhood, as well as girls relatively new to the sport but with seemingly natural talent. I couldn’t help comparing myself to those girls. But one of the greatest lessons I have learned since is that running is about your personal progress. Each runner has a different journey. I’m still shocked I’m on a team at all; the fact that I am now running more than 12 minutes faster than the first race I ever ran shows that I am doing something right. 

Am I the best? No. But I am doing my best, and that IS good enough. 

I’ll never become a record-breaking runner who makes headlines or one who makes people say, wow, she’s fast. But I am better than before, and I know I can become even better. What’s more, I do it all with a smile on my face; my smile keeps me going. In a sport like cross country, it is incredibly difficult not to compare yourself to others, because that is the nature of the sport. If you beat someone, that means you’re faster than them. Your time equals your performance and your speed on one given day, but it is important to not get caught up in what the clock says. 

Because the clock doesn’t say how long I’ve been running, or how many miles I ran during the summer or how much I’ve cried over my sport. The clock doesn’t show the expectations that I’m afraid I won’t meet. The clock shows one thing: time. But that’s just one thing. I can’t let a number define me. A number does not define my self-worth: I do.  

No matter what the clock says, the true measure of my performance and abilities IS how I feel about my own performance, which is something I’m still learning. The whole reason I started running in the first place was because I liked it and thought it was fun; I still run today for that reason, not for validation from a clock. Writing things like this helps remind me of why I make time for this sport day in, day out, and of what I can take from it long after I step to the line with “Bonnies” across my chest for the final time. I can bring these things to my job and hopefully show them to my future students and athletes when I am a teacher or a coach. 

It is also important as an athlete to have an identity outside of the sport, because athletics do not last forever. I am not only a runner, but also a writer, reader, musician, dog lover, friend, daughter, sister, future teacher and lifelong learner. This is my first year writing for The Intrepid, and one thing I hope to gain from my experience is to learn more about myself while conveying my thoughts and feelings to others in a relatable way. 

If you have made it this far, I sincerely appreciate your time, and I only hope you find something meaningful in my stream of consciousness. 

Don’t forget to smile today. 

(Iris Archer is a feature contributor to The Intrepid and a junior cross-country and track runner for St. Bonaventure University.)

Top photo courtesy RunningWorksPics 2018. Bottom photo courtesy GoBonnies 2021.

XC FEATURE: Osswald ready for senior season after unique summer of training

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — When the COVID-19 pandemic spoiled the 2020 spring college sports season, Jacob Osswald was not deterred.

Osswald, a runner on the St. Bonaventure men’s cross country team, used the downtime as an opportunity to upgrade his training.

The Buffalo native moved to Flagstaff, Arizona over the summer to train for his senior season. And, now that he’s back, he’s ready to lead a deep Bona team when the time for competition comes.

“Over spring break I went to Flagstaff, and I know that people go there to train over the summer, so I wanted to see if I could make it work somehow,” Osswald said. “I started looking for apartments and planned it out, but then in April and May I didn’t think it was going to happen because of COVID-.”

By the time May ended, Osswald had made the decision that he was heading to Flagstaff matter what. A week later, he found an apartment and drove across the country to his temporary home.

Flagstaff, a city that sits at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet, attracts runners from around the country to train in its high altitude.

“The altitude takes a bit to get used to,” Osswald said. “All of the runners are there to work, so the environment is really good. If you see a runner there, you know they mean business.”

Osswald trained on the campus of Northern Arizona University, where he met runners from San Diego State, Oklahoma State, Portland University and more.

“There were a bunch of good college teams there that were available to train with,” Osswald said. “Getting to see them every day you get to know them, so it was really nice.”

After spending two months in Arizona, Osswald returned home to Buffalo to complete his state-mandated, two-week quarantine before heading back to SBU for the fall semester.

He ran a triathlon in early September, then subsequently took two weeks off from training. The time off, he said, was the first he had taken since March.

Osswald is optimistic about SBU’s cross country team this year, saying that this roster could be “the best team we’ve ever had.”

“Our whole record board got erased (last year),” Osswald said. “Now, people are being more successful and we’re getting better recruits so it should be a little easier to move up in the A-10.”

Osswald ran a career-best 17:17.6 5K at the “Little Three Championship” last fall, as well as a career-best 27:23.4 8K at the “Louisville XC Classic.”

One of six seniors on SBU’s cross country roster, Osswald has taken on a leadership role within the team. He cites former teammate William Delaney, who graduated a year ago, as someone who prepared him to take on that role.

“(Delaney) taught me the most,” Osswald said. “He taught me the leadership role so I feel the same as him now, since he’s engrained it into my mind.”

Osswald hopes that he can lead by example for the younger runners on the team.

“A lot of the people on the team understand how much I do,” he said. “I have to work for what little I have, so I think that they respect that.”

Due to losing track season last spring, and an injury during his freshman cross country season, Osswald has a full year of eligibility left after his senior year. He plans on running while attending graduate school, and has Rutgers University on his mind as a potential target.

However, Osswald’s future plans don’t stop there. After grad school, he plans on moving to Spain to become a triathlete. The Cleveland Hill alumnus swam in high school, and said that triathlons came “pretty natural” to him because he enjoys endurance exercises.

“I won’t be able to do (triathlon) full time for three or four years because most triathletes are older and have a lot of experience under their belt,” Osswlald said. “But by the time I’m 25 or 26, I think I’ll be able to do it full time.”