After sitting out last year, runner is back on top

Braedon Koerwitz is not used to playing catch up in his cross country races, but this year he's trying to make up for an entire season lost.

Koerwitz had to sit out last season after he transferred back to Jay M. Robinson, the school he attended for two-and-a-half of his first three high school years.

Early in the spring semester of his sophomore year, Koerwitz says he started "feeling a little burned out" with running and was on the "verge of giving up."

He felt like he needed a change of scenery and decided to transfer to Mooresville High, where his mother is a teacher.

But that following summer Koerwitz started having doubts about returning to Mooresville and two days into the 2009-10 school year he transferred back to Robinson.

He was forced to sit out the 2009 cross country season by state athletic association guidelines.

But Koerwitz didn't sit and wait until the indoor track season, instead he spent the fall season training on his own, adding up mileage through his neighborhood and county parks. He returned to competitive running in the fall.

So far this season, the Bulldogs senior has been impressive, winning his only South Piedmont 3A Conference meet and finishing as runner-up in two large-field prestigious events.

Koerwitz won the South Piedmont Pre-conference meet Aug. 31 at Frank Liske Park. At a Spartanburg, S.C., meet Sept. 4, Koerwitz took second place in the championship division, which was the highest level of competition for high school runners.

On Sept. 11 at the Cannon School Invitational, Koerwitz took an early lead and dictated the pace for much of the race only to trail the winning runner at the end.

A one-time aspiring basketball player, Koerwitz picked up running for the first time as a J.N. Fries Middle student.

He competed in a USA Track & Field Junior Olympic event in the fall of his sixth grade year and says he "did all right," but it was enough to spark an interest.

Koerwitz was a member of Fries' track and field team in seventh grade and even though his first season was uneventful it was enough for him to concentrate on running and give up basketball. As an eighth-grader, Koerwitz says he won the 800 and 1600 meters at Fries' conference meet.

Koerwitz said running distance has always been his specialty.

"Running distance is a stress reliever," he said. "And I like pushing myself. If I go without running, I get cranky. I need it."

Koerwitz needed a year to adjust to high school running, but he had a breakout season as a sophomore.

He was the ME-CA 7 Male Runner of the Year in cross country and Robinson qualified as a team for the state meet. Koerwitz finished ninth as an individual at the 4A Midwest regional meet.

Running for Mooresville, he and three other new Blue Devil teammates ran at the Nike Indoor Nationals in Boston and finished seventh in the mile relay.

In the outdoor track and field season, his highlight was finishing third at the 3A West Regional in the 3200 meters and qualifying for the state meet.

At the start of the 2010 outdoor season, Koerwitz began working out with Robinson volunteer distance coach Justin Gutierrez, who is now the cross country team's head coach.

Working on his time in shorter sprints, "raw speed" as Gutierrez calls it, Koerwitz improved his distance times.

Koerwitz won the 1600- and 3200-meter races at both the South Piedmont 3A meet and at regionals. At the state meet, Koerwitz placed seventh in the 1600 meters, eighth in the 3200 meters and was a member of the 3200-meter relay team that finished sixth.

In a defining moment heading into his senior year, Koerwitz ran a "metric mile" 1500 meters in four minutes, 2.9 seconds at a June meet in Richmond, Va., Koerwitz stayed faithful to his summer training regiment and it has paid off.

Koerwitz is happy with the start of his final year and looks forward to bigger things to come.

"Racing is a continual learning process," he said. "I just need to get my nose in there and compete."