COLUMBIA— For Hickman distance runners Seth O’Laughlin and Zach Lynn, running is a part of their daily lives.
O’Laughlin, a junior, has been running since seventh grade, and the sport has become a habit in his life because of a coach’s inspiration.
“At Oakland (Junior High School), I had a really influential coach, Josh Johnson,” O’Laughlin said. “He has been a really powerful figure for both me and Zach and other runners in the past. He really got us hyped up to run for Hickman our freshman year. He really started our lives.”
Johnson was a four-year athlete for Hickman who also ran track and cross-country for the Kewpies. Hickman coach Steve Kissane said he admires the way his former runner coaches his runners at Oakland.
“He’s got that passion for working with kids,” Kissane said.
That passion is important for the coaching staff at Hickman, where the track and cross country teams try to cultivate a family environment among their runners. Hopefully this kind of environment creates positive feelings about a sport in which training can be taxing.
Lynn, another junior, said track and cross country create bonds with other athletes.
“When you run with somebody and train with somebody, basically you go through physical pain every day, but you gain that close bond,” Lynn said. “Seth is a really great guy and a great friend, and now like my teammate.”
Kissane said he hopes to have made enough of an impact on his runners to make them want to continue their track and field careers beyond high school.
“Anytime one of these young people continue at the collegiate program, that means we’ve provided them a positive experience here,” Kissane said.
“Running in high school is a gateway to running in college,” O’Laughlin said. “I think anyone who is really serious about running will run in college. It's an extension that becomes such a part of your life.”
Lynn agrees, “Running is probably the most influential thing I have done, and it has really shaped who I am.”
The distances, terrain and climate changes between the cross country season in the fall and the spring track season. But Lynn and O'Laughlin said the sports, at their cores, are interchangeable.
“If you are a good miler, or two miler, generally, you are good at the 5K as well,” O’Laughlin said. “As soon as you are done with track, you are training for cross, and vice versa. They complement each other. You are always training year round.”
Lynn and O'Laughlin said teammates can help motivate young runners. When an athlete starts out, they need to meet people who have put in training miles and experienced races to understand the sport.
“Having a young team will especially help us out next year once the guys will get their experience,” Lynn said. “The younger they are, the more time they will have had together. Having these experiences together will help them grow as a team.”
Lynn said learning how to lower times comes from training with larger groups.
“Cross country is so small, but with the different big groups in track, it makes you a well rounded and experienced athlete," he said.
Lynn and O’Laughlin said they would like to lead the cross country team to a more competitive season next year. Lynn would like to run good times to help him get into a good college and for O’Laughlin, its about getting all-state honors in both cross country and track.
“Going all-state your senior year is something everyone looks forward to,” O’Laughlin said. “Some people go to win it, some people go to get there. But you always have to look a step forward to get what you really want.”