Most high school runners are just that, runners.
Cross country in the autumn, indoor track during the winter, and outdoor track during the spring – a ready-made schedule designed to produce variety in one of the most basic of sports.
But not everyone follows such a regimen, and it’s not necessarily a prerequisite to success.
Ellsworth High senior Corey DeWitt has meshed the loneliness of the long-distance runner with the team chemistry required of basketball into a highly successful sporting life.
The reigning Eastern Maine Class B cross country champ and 1,600-meter runner-up at the 2006 Class B outdoor track championships, DeWitt is also one of the top basketball guards in the region, leading Ellsworth to the Eastern B tourney last February.
For DeWitt – whose brothers Steven and Joey followed a similar dual-sport path to college track and cross country success at Stanford and UMass Lowell – running season is running season and basketball season is basketball season.
“I pretty much go by feel,” said the 6-foot-2, 155-pound DeWitt, whose dad Michael helped Ellsworth win a 1977 cross country state title before having his running career derailed until recently by a baseball-related broken ankle. “If I feel like going out and running during basketball, I go out and run, but there’s been no real structure for the winter. Usually I just like to focus on what I’m doing at the time.”
But that’s beginning to change. He dedicated the most recent offseason to cross country and track, as much with an eye toward his future as due to personal preference.
“Last summer I focused more on running, once I found out colleges were a lot more interested in my running than my basketball,” he said. “I wanted to build more of a base, to try to be the best I could be with running.”
Midway through this cross country season, DeWitt is feeling the effect of that focus.
“My strength seems to be a lot better, at the end of runs I’m feeling strong, which comes with mileage I guess,” said DeWitt, who last weekend won the Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions boys division for the second straight year. “My fitness level seems at an all-time high for running.”
That may be bad news for other elite runners in Class B such as Sam Sheehan of Caribou, Nick Williams of Poland and Graham Egan of Cape Elizabeth. Not only is DeWitt stronger, he’s motivated by past disappointments that may stem from having divided his training loyalties between cross country and basketball.
Last fall, for instance, he expected to challenge Lake Region of Naples’ Miles Bartlett for state supremacy after winning the EM crown but finished fourth.
“I’ve had a couple of bad races at the end of the year,” he admitted.
DeWitt plans to stay in the Northeast next year – in part on the advice of brother Steven, who recently graduated from Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., and is assisting Ellsworth cross country coach Andy Beardsley this fall while preparing for medical school.
He will visit Dartmouth this weekend and also has Boston College, Boston University, and Tufts high on his list of possible destinations.
“Running is an outlet for me, really,” DeWitt said. “I’ll be in a classroom and look outside, and I’ll just want to go out and take a run. It helps clear my mind. I go out and run, and by the end of the run, there’s nothing better. You go out, you run, and you feel great.”
Ernie Clark may be reached at 990-8045, 1-800-310-8600 or at email@example.com