Sept. 11, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
It wasn’t necessarily in Jeremy Greenwald’s plans to run cross country, but you wouldn’t know it from his first outing for Georgia Tech.
As a younger lad growing up in El Paso, Texas, Greenwald’s goal was to play another sport. When that didn’t work out, he started running. Fast forward several years and here he is at Tech running for the Yellow Jackets.
Then, after redshirting last year as a freshman, he competed for the first time as a collegian nearly two weeks ago and finished sixth out of 67 runners in the UGA invite. Not bad, huh?
So how did he end up here?
“I think it’s a pretty common story. I used to play soccer,” he said. “In fifth grade, I didn’t make one of the premier soccer teams in the area. My dad used to be a runner in high school, and he said, ‘Why don’t you try cross country?’ “
That’s worked out quite well. At one point, Greenwald was the No. 1-ranked junior in the nation in the 1,000 meters, and his favorite event remains the 1,500 – the metric mile – on a track.
Cross country is a different animal. Runners compete over eight kilometers (ramped up to 10K for the regionals and nationals), over a variety of terrain.
“I feel like track is a little more competitive. It’s intense. Everyone is packed together,” he said. “I think cross country is a little more mental.”
Although he said, “I still have time to change,” Greenwald is majoring in civil engineering. Even if he does go another direction, he said he’s likely to pursue an engineering career of some sort.
When he was much younger, he played basketball and baseball, and he still enjoys watching a wide variety of sports – chiefly college football.
Once the time came to choose a college, the engineering programs at Tech when combined with the city of Atlanta and coach Alan Drosky’s approach sent him south. By that time, his family had moved from Texas to Chesapeake, Va.
“I came to Georgia Tech for engineering, and coach Drosky. I like coach Drosky’s plan. He takes a long-term plan with athletes,” he said. “At a lot of big schools the coaches will bring in a lot of highly-recruited freshmen and put a lot of miles on them as freshmen and try to make them the best they can be right away.”
There can be a heightened risk of burnout with that approach, and injury risks may increase as well.
Greenwald battled some illness as a freshman, but he’s raring to go now.
He turned in a time of 26 minutes, 49.68 seconds in the UGA Invite on Sept. 1, and he and the Jackets will be looking to improve this Friday at the Virginia Tech Invitational. That will be the eventual site of the ACC Championships, so it’s kind of a bigger deal than usual.
Burnout doesn’t seem like much of a concern. Greenwald sounds excited. He runs all but a few days a month.
“Last year, I was on the 2,500-mile plan. I didn’t get that because of sickness and stuff like that,” he said. “This year, I’m on a 2,650-mile plan. This week I’m doing 72 miles, which is a big jump up for me from 40 or 50 a week in high school.”
It’s kind of funny, but I asked Greenwald what kind of math he’s taking and after he said differential equations, I wondered what that meant. He said, “I honestly don’t know. I’d like to figure that out before I take the test.” Greenwald laughed when he said that. He’s got plenty of time this semester to figure it out.