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#TGW: Lead Dog

Oct. 12, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

It may sound cliché but leading by example really is an important part of team sports — even one that can be as individual as Cross Country — and is something senior Jeremy Greenwald takes very seriously. In fact, this season he’s taken it quite literally to mean leading after every race.

And really, what better example is there than that? Especially for a young team that features 17 underclassmen, seven of them freshmen.

“My goal is to set a great example for them as one of the leaders on the team because they’re the future of the team,” said the Chesapeake, Va., native. “If we can keep working hard then we’ll keep improving and we’ll get to where we want to be.”

“What’s impressed me is how committed he is to being the best that he can be,” said Head Coach Alan Drosky. “I’m very impressed with how he’s running. It’s a continuation of the development that he’s really been seeing over the last couple of years, but in particular, last spring. He’s been a solid runner for us his whole career.”

Greenwald has three first-place finishes in three races and has helped Georgia Tech Cross Country put its best foot forward, as the ninth-ranked Jackets won their first two races and finished second in their third. The races came against some top-of-the-line competition, beating Georgia, in Athens, at the UGA Invitational, then No. 3 Florida and North Florida, both CC powerhouses in the Florida Mountain Dew Invitational, held in Gainesville, before coming in second last week behind only Wake Forest in the Upstate Invitational held in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

It’s a great start, but not a surprising one.

“I think we expected it,” said Greenwald, whose 24:17 in Gainesville was a career-best time. “We came into the season with high expectations and we know we can compete with teams like Georgia and Florida and the other top teams in our region. So we definitely expected to be winning these meets and I’m glad that we have met those expectations.”

An unexpected and quite pleasant surprise came the Monday after the Sept. 6 race in Athens, when Greenwald, who ran a winning time of 25:53, was named ACC Performer of the Week. The honor was made even sweeter as Yellow Jacket Katie Townsend took home the award the same week on the women’s side.

“That was a great feeling,” he said. “It’s always nice to have fellow teammates up there getting noticed for their accomplishments. It was a happy day at practice and it just happened to be on Coach Drosky’s birthday.”

While the wins over Georgia and Florida came early in the year, Greenwald feels a message was sent for future meetings.

“I think it means a lot,” he said. “They’re obviously great teams and they’re going to go to work and try to come back for Regionals and not let us beat them again. Our job is just to keep our heads down and not let this success get to our heads and just train hard and try to do the same thing in November.”

Early success has been a pattern for Greenwald, who set the pace for Georgia Tech in the first two races of 2013 and finished first overall in the first two races of 2012.

He credits the quick starts to his preparation during the summer.

“It’s the time of the year when I feel like I don’t have to be rested for any meets or competitions so I can go as hard as I want and do extra cross-training or whatever,” said Greenwald, who graduates in the Spring of 2015 — he has one more cross country season after 2014 as well as one more indoor and outdoor track season. “I like to come into the year in great shape and then continue getting in better shape as we start working out.

“This summer wasn’t as eventful as past summers regarding working out,” he continued. “I actually had a late start to the summer because track went late but I did a little bit of swimming, a lot of running. More miles, obviously, helps a lot, then a lot of strength stuff, too.”

Drosky has noticed a consistent improvement not only physically but tactically since Greenwald started running cross country in 2012.

“Last year, particularly during track season, indoors and outdoors, he really matured as an athlete, as a racer, understanding the tactics of racing, understanding how to be relaxed at certain points of the races and not pressing at times he doesn’t need to be pressing,” said Drosky. “So, it’s really just a maturity of him as a young man but also as an athlete that right now is just kind of building from season to season and week to week. It’s been great to see him mature as a young man and to see how that’s manifested itself in his racing. He’s just a great young man.”

As important to Greenwald is making an impression on the youngsters coming up.

“We’ve got a great group of young guys. I’m very impressed with them,” he said. “They’re extremely dedicated. My goal is just to set a great example for them as one of the leaders on the team because they’re the future of the team.”

Drosky feels Greenwald has accomplished that goal.

“I feel like we have a team full of Jeremy Greenwalds,” said Drosky. “We have a lot of great young men. They’re all in various stages of development. I hope we see some more Jeremy Greenwald types as far as performance in the coming seasons, too.”

The Jackets will compete in the Crimson Classic in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, Oct. 17, then, after a week off, prepare for the big meets of the season, the ACC Championships, being held in Earlysville, Va., on Oct. 31, then the NCAA South Regionals in Tallahassee, Fla., on Nov. 14, followed, a week later by the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

Greenwald would like to see the team continue to grow and have himself and the team hit its stride as the schedule hits the big time.

“Our goals as a team are hopefully to get to the National meet. I think we can definitely achieve that,” he said. “I think my times will come down as the races get a little more competitive. These first races have kind of been just sit in the lead pack and stay relaxed and kick to the finish line with less than half a mile to go. I fully expect my times to improve as the races get a little tougher for me.”

Drosky likes the team’s direction with Greenwald leading the way and expects even better things as Brandon Lasiter works his injured knee back to health.

“The team is fired up,” he said. “They’re seeing the possibilities of what they can accomplish, they’re seeing the benefit of the consistent, smart training that they’ve had. It’s consistently hard but smart training that they’ve been doing.

“[Greenwald is] setting a great example along with several others on the team,” he added. “They’re following the lead of some of the guys that were a little bit older than them. We’re in a good spot with the development of our student-athletes right now.”

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