That is the question Western Reserve coach Brad Perkins asked his cross country squad before the 2016 season started. For senior Brendan Oswalt, it lit a fire in him to leave a lasting legacy at Western Reserve and on the cross country program.
The senior sealed the deal after finishing the Division III regional cross country meet in eighth place with a 16:52.81 punching his ticket to state on Saturday. It will be his second trip to state, but the only thing he worries about is he will have to run it alone without the comfort of his teammates.
“It is a bitter sweet feeling just knowing my teammates that work just as hard as I do at practice won't be competing along side with me, but also knowing that I'll be the only one representing my school gives me a motivation to represent well and to go accomplish bigger things,” Oswalt said.
Perkins knows there are three areas that Oswalt excels at that has allowed him to continue his cross country season for one more race.
“He has an incredible work ethic, fantastic ability, and an extreme desire to always battle and compete,” Perkins said. “It's been my observation that all have played an equal role in Brendan's many achievements.”
Oswalt used that determination to set his new personal record of 16:36 at this years John Speer Invite, a race he ran away with. While it was a huge goal achieved, he has a bigger goal in mind for state.
I'm trying to hold some confident expectations that I'll go in and get my goal of all Ohio,” Oswalt said.
“With out a doubt Brendan's goal is to become an all-state cross country runner,” Perkins added. “He has now been a 2-time state qualifier in cross, a state qualifier in track, 2-time Firelands conference champion in cross, numerous Firelands conference championships in various track events and countless other awards. Being All-Ohio is a goal he set for himself early in his high school career. Nothing would make me happier or more proud than to watch him achieve this Saturday morning.”
Oswalt has gone into battle against two other FC runners and state qualifiers in Jared Arnold and Nathaniel Redden on multiple occasions and admits having them as tough competition has made him better
“Definitely being pushed every single race with Jared and Nathaniel has made a huge impact and all of us going in will do our best to represent the Firelands conference to the best of our ability,” Oswalt added.
As he crossed the finish line ahead of his FC competitors in last week’s regional race, there was just one thing running through his mind.
The first thing through my mind was it's time to start preparing myself for the next step, to achieve my goal at the beginning of the year of all Ohio honors,” Oswalt said. “To get to this point I've just set so many goals for myself and just go at them with all I've got. It also helps when you have a coach and teammates that do what they need to do to push me to get my goals as well.”
Perkins has seen some impressive runners come through the Roughrider program recently and believes those talented athletes contributed to Oswalt’s success and believes that Oswalt has returned the favor leaving a lasting impression on future Western runners.
“Brendan will leave a huge impression on the future of the Western Reserve cross country program,” Perkins said. “It's my belief that you need your most talented or accomplished athletes to be among your hardest workers. There has not been a day that Brendan was not been at the top of this list. It made no difference if the team was doing a speed repeat workout, fartleks, going for a longer timed run, or doing our strength workouts he always did what was asked of him. In this way he has become a great leader for our program. Our younger runners now see what it takes to reach their goals and will be able to pass this on to a new generation of Western athletes. Brendan got to witness this when he was younger observing teammates such as Nick Falbo and Drew Dillon. These former Roughriders set the standard for our program and no doubt others will now follow Brendan's lead and will continue to lead Western in a positive direction.”