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Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

A second chance
May 7, 2024

A dream becoming a reality

Fear, excitement, and determination. These are the words that race through the minds of many cross country athletes waiting for the gun to release them from the line at nationals against hundreds of other D3 athletes.

SUNY Brockport recently sent three of these athletes, Jon Zavala, Jared Smith, and Gabriel Winters-Bons to Newville, PA for a hard worked, once in a lifetime opportunity. Two of those runners were able to experience this for the first time as it is Zavala’s second time competing in nationals.

Smith and Winters-Bona are not new to running. Both athletes started their career their freshman year of high school where they ultimately fell in love with the sport.

“Cross country is always somehow a movie. The stakes are somehow higher for some reason and everything is so much more team oriented,” said Smith.

Both Smith and Winters-Bona have always had a connection with cross country. Whether it be the coaches, team environment, or the races themselves, they have always put their all into the sport.

Winters-Bona, Smith and Zavala on the line at Nationals. Photo Credit: Jen Reagan

Going into the season

After having the opportunity to train for a month in Arizona, Smith felt confident going into this season.

“When we got here in the season, I thought yes, I have the talent to make it happen but during early September I ran into some injury problems. I had a really poor performance my first 8k coming back so mentally you have to kind of navigate through that,” said Smith.

Smith knew that an injury wasn’t going to step in the way of him making it to nationals, so a new training plan was set in place starting with the understanding of stress and rest. Smith and his coach then changed from training at a 7-day cycle to a 10-day cycle where he saw a big difference.

Winters-Bona went into this season with a little bit of a different outlook.

“My process this season was to stay positive, give it my all and have fun. I figured I wasn’t going to go as an individual leading up to the season. Then after Mike Woods, when Jon and I broke the school record, I knew there was a shot at making it,” said Winters-Bona.

Finding out the ticket was punched

Regionals, the meet before nationals, was where runners found out if they had their ticket punched to run at nationals and where the nerves were ultimately set in place.

“At regionals, I went out kinda slow and farther back than I should have been and in the early stages of the race the chances were very slim. However, I knew that I was going to run a great race as I felt very strong after the first mile. Passing people on the course is one of the best feelings so I used it and just kept trying to pass people as much as I could,” said Winters-Bona.

Winters-Bona recieving a medal at Regionals.
Photo Credit: Jen Reagan

The stakes were high and both Smith and Winters-Bona were doing what it took to run the race that counted.

“I looked back and I saw Jon and we both looked at each other and thought we’re pretty good. We’re set. And so it was more about don’t mess anything up and probably around that 15 minute mark in the race I thought we were okay,” said Smith.

Zavala and Smith recieving medals at Regionals.
Photo Credit: Jen Reagan

Both athletes finished out the race feeling good and strong. All their training and hard work led up to this moment and the confidence was there.

“I told myself this does not feel real. I get to live this life. I get to be in a position where I’m actually chasing after a dream that gets me out of bed in the morning and I never get sick of it and I’m very lucky to have that,” said Smith.

Sometimes it’s more than luck when talking about the people they are surrounded by, respect, and care about on a daily basis. Smith and Winters-Bond fell in love with this environment, and it has really helped them both reach their potential.

“This is it. This is my place. I’ve found my people and that’s what matters,” said Smith.

Gratitude, accomplishment, and satisfaction are words that ran through the minds of these two talented athletes that will stay with them forever after running that hard worked for race and crossing that finish line

Smith at Nationals.
Photo Credit: Jen Reagan
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