The Final Sprint

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A Moving Anecdote from an important Cross Country Meet
Story by Luke Price

Spectators watching on both sides as Jarrett Kirk comes off the bridge and rounds the corner. Arms pumping, heart racing, he knows he can do this. He starts sprinting as hard as he can down the last stretch. Evan Caswell from Coppell High School is right by Jarrett’s side. A hundred meters left to decide who is the regional champion. A win would qualify Jarrett to the state Cross Country Championships. He gets tunnel vision and the sounds of the crowd start to fade from his head. The look on his face shows how much this race means to him.
“I couldn’t feel anything in my body,” Jarrett said. “I also couldn’t hear anything because I was so focused on the finish line.” Seventy five meters left in this brutal 3-mile race and it is going to come down to just a few steps. Fifty meters left and Jarrett starts to pull away from Evan. He is running the hardest he ever has before. He looks back right before he crosses the finish line. The crowd erupts in cheers and hollers! He did it! Jarrett Kirk is the Regional Cross Country Champion.
“When I turned around right at the line and saw Evan still running, I was so happy,” Jarrett said. “I thought he was right behind me and was going to pass me at the last second but he didn’t.”
Jarrett who lost to Evan at the district level by 19 seconds goes over and shakes his hand. “You are one hell of a runner, great race!” Jarrett tells Evan. Jarrett is overwhelmed with joy and he has a smile glued to his face. “This is what I love about cross country. It’s a team sport but at the same time it’s just as much an individual sport,” Jarrett said. “Beating my competition is what I strive for, but at the same time I’m [only] as important as our 7th runner. Every point matters.”
Jarrett did win the race but this was one of his hardest races that he has competed in. The race was hosted in Lubbock, Texas and at the time of the race it was 40 degrees. “Normally our post season races are cold, but we have never had it this cold during a meet before. My body was numb and my nose was stuffy from the cold,” Jarrett said.
In addition to the cold, this course was very hilly. At the start of the race there is a massive hill with an incline of about 150 feet. “We do hill work every Thursday,” he said. “We have a route that puts in about five pretty nice sized hills, but no hill can prepare you for this one.”
Then at mile one and two you also have a hill both about a 75-100 foot incline although these two are much longer making it not as steep. “Most people see cross country and think, ‘Oh you just go out and run a 5k and that’s it’ but they don’t see all the work and dedication that we put into this sport. That was me before I ever started running, that was me in 9th grade.”
Jarrett originally tried out for the basketball team freshman year but got cut and so he tried cross country and it turns out he’s one of the best. “We go out every morning at 7:00 am and run 8-10 miles, “he said. “We have two fast-paced endurance and speed workouts on Mondays and Wednesdays and then we have strength practice after school also on both those days. Our summer mileage is insane. The top guys on the team usually run over 700 miles in the summer.”
Jarrett says cross country is his passion and he hopes he can run it in college. “I have been looking at some colleges, Princeton is pretty high up on my list, I just need to make sure I keep my grades up,” he said.
Although running is Jarrett’s passion, he doesn’t let that get in the way of his school work. “Grades come before everything. If you make terrible grades but can run super fast that’s no use. Grades get you places in life,” he explains.
With Jarrett’s win, that led Flower Mound to get 3rd place at Regionals in which the top four teams qualify to the State meet. Flower Mound has a hard
State meet coming up with huge competitors such as Southlake Carroll, El Paso, The Woodlands and Coppell. With 5th runner Jake Price injured, Flower Mound is going to have to have people step up and take the spot. They cannot afford to have any room for error during the state meet. They are doubted this year, but they hope to prove everybody wrong. Flower Mound has gotten so close to winning state the past three years, getting third in 2016, and 2018 and getting 8th in 2017 when #1 ranked runner in the state Flower Mound’s Alex Maier dropped out of the race due to being sick. Jarrett stepped up and won the state championship in 2017 when Alex dropped out and he knows he can win again. Flower Mound winning the state championship would be amazing and Coach Cook says that they have a chance to do so if they step up and they have to want it. Jarrett says, “There’s no telling how the race is going to play out based on how many good teams and runners are going to be there, but I’m just going to try my hardest and hope my teammates can do the same. Going out my senior year with not only a state individual championship but also a team win would be amazing. Then we can go on to do big things as a team such as qualifying to Nike Cross Country Nationals in Portland,” Jarrett said. “We need to not get ahead of ourselves though, we take this one step at a time and focus on one goal at a time and the rest will come to us.”