Senior cross country star Jeremy Porter’s hard work and determination has led to his first career trip to nationals
“The secret to long distance running is that there is no secret,” senior Jeremy Porter said with a smile.
Some of his cross country teammates are within earshot; they groan. Porter is known to give this motivational spiel often: “There’s nothing but hard work that goes into training. Little by little, you push yourself every day, and one day you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come,” Porter says.
Whatever the secret (or lack thereof), it seems to be working out well for him. Porter has had a dazzling cross country career so far. He’s been a regular on the All-PacWest Men’s Cross Country performer’s list since he was a freshman. He’s been named PacWest Runner of the Week twice this season. And this year, Porter received an individual bid to compete at the NCAA’s 2017 Division II Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 18 in Evansville, Ind.
Porter says that while he always pushed himself to work hard, he never dreamed he’d end up competing at Nationals.
“I just came in wanting to run and have fun with it,” Porter said. “In high school I was a good runner, but ever since I started [at APU], at a school that expects its athletes to run at a high level and be national qualifiers and All-Americans, the training I do feels like an uphill battle that never stops. I push myself to get better every day.”
Cross country head coach Preston Grey has watched and guided Porter’s progress over the past four years.
“I still remember talking with him as a recruit, showing him what he could do if he put in the work. I’ve seen him really embrace that over four years, going from that young freshman to becoming a senior and running literally 100 miles a week. Getting to see him see the rewards of that is a pretty special thing.This season was definitely the culmination of a four-year process for Jeremy,” Grey said.
Grey’s coaching seems to have stuck with Porter as he’s trained over the years. In preparation for Nationals, Grey says that most of the hard training is already done. He helps Porter mentally prepare by reminding him of the work he’s already done to prepare himself.
“For him, we really gotta keep him focused. Sometimes when you’re competing in the higher levels you can start to doubt yourself and question your fitness. We want to keep him focused on the work he’s done all year to get him to that place,” Grey said.
Porter says that the work is grueling, difficult and grinding, but that it humbles him, too.
“This year I put in about two or more miles a day, from 90 to 95 miles a week. It’s hard work, but it keeps you humble. So I’m gonna use that as motivation when I’m there running and it gets tough, when I’ve got a mile to go and I’ve already put down five miles, and it’s 40 degrees outside and pouring down rain,” Porter said.
Porter’s message of hard work also encourages the up-and-coming runners on the cross country team. Freshman Nathaniel Tamminga shares his experience running with Porter.
“[Porter] is a very motivated and focused individual. He brings an energy and a standard of work that motivates us. A lot of us are freshman, so he really shows us what it is to run at that championship level. Watching him put in that work and having that work ethic all season to make it to nationals has been an awesome journey to watch him go through,” Tamminga said.
Tamminga describes the lessons he learned from Porter about hard work and practice.
“Knowing that there’s no secret puts pressure on you, because you can’t blame a bad race on something you can’t control. It’s all about how hard you work in practice, what you’re willing to sacrifice and how much you’re willing to put in and knowing that is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing knowing that you can achieve what you put your mind to, knowing that it’s all based on your work, but at the same time if you have a bad race all the blame is on you. You can’t blame it on outside factors,” Tamminga said.
Porter says that he is thankful for the opportunity to go to Nationals, and is going to treat it as a new experience.
“I’m really grateful for this opportunity that’s presented itself through a ton of work. It’s been a long time coming. Four years, and beyond that, of just work. Once you really get to the actual goal, the so-called ‘secret’ is something you look back on and say, ‘Wow, I’m grateful that I got to experience all that hard work and that suffering to get to where I am now. I get to enjoy all of that work now,'” Porter said.