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Running becomes way of life for Stewart

PROCTORVILLE — It only took a nudge to get Joe Stewart running, and he hasn’t stopped yet.

The Fairland Dragons senior has found some success running long distances, whether it’s a 5K in cross country or the 3200-meter run in high school

“My cousin from Gallipolis got me running in the eighth grade. She got me involved and one day coach (Jon) Buchanan said, ‘Hey, come on out and try it.’ I tried it and I liked it,” said Stewart.

Stewart not only liked it, he got to be good. Real good.

He has qualified for the regional cross country meet the past two years and ran in the state meet this past fall.

He has been to the regional track meet last year and has his sights set on making a run at the state meet this spring.

Stewart likes cross country a little more than track, but there isn’t a lot of difference.

“I like a variety. Both sports have their ups and downs,” said Stewart.

“No matter where you run, you always have someone to run with, and no matter how many there are there is always someone to push you.”

Stewart said he likes the fact track has so many different events to break up the monotony of running cross country.

“Track has different races, pole vaulters, shot put, long jumpers. It’s good to be with them and share what they do,” said Stewart.

When Stewart talks about running for distance, he isn’t talking short term.

“The more the distance, the better for me,” said Stewart. “I feel I can run forever. I know I can’t, but it feels that way. I like the 5K and the competition it brings.”

One of the things that has helped Stewart improve his running was basketball. A member of the Dragons’ regional tournament team two years ago, Stewart said basketball was a valuable training asset.

“You lose a little with distance, but I had better footwork and my speed picked up,” said Stewart.

“My focus now is on distance. Even though you lose a little on distance, it only takes a little and it’s nothing you can’t make up in a short amount of time.”

But nothing helps a distance runner improve more than running more and more, especially in the off-season. Stewart said it was a little more difficult running this past off-season due to the weather.

“This winter it snowed three times a week, but you have to go out and do it,” said Stewart. “Discipline is a factor. It’s easier when there are people there who care about it as much as you, but you’ve just got to want to do it.”

Stewart has set a goal to run at the college level and he attributes that to former teammate and current Shawnee State distance runner Chuckie Wentz.

“When Chuckie signed with Shawnee, it got me excited and I knew I could run at the college level if I pursued it,” said Stewart.

Stewart isn’t sure how long he will run competitively, but he would like to run as long as possible.

“I’d like to stick with it a while. I know there will come a point in time when I’m not going to be able to run, but I’d like to stay involved whether it’s coming back to help high school kids or or in some other capacity,” said Stewart.

No matter what Stewart decides to do, one can be sure he’ll go the distance.