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Stewart runs to Shawnee State

PROCTORVILLE — For Joe Stewart, it’s the long and short of the situation.

And the long won.

Preferring to run more distance than shorter races, the Fairland Dragons senior runner signed with Shawnee State University Wednesday as the newest member of the Golden Bears’ cross country team.

Stewart had narrowed his choices to Rio Grande, Muskingum and Shawnee State, but the Bears won because of their strong cross country program and absence of a track program.

Shawnee State only is involved in a club track program which is fine with Stewart.

“I want to focus on cross country and it felt like a good fit for me at Shawnee. Obviously, it’s better for me running-wise,” said Stewart.

Fairland coach Jon Buchanan said it was no accident that Stewart has enjoyed so much success.

“This is a prime example of someone getting exactly what they deserve. Joe has worked harder and run more mileage than any distance runner I’ve ever coached here at Fairland,” said Buchanan.

“He didn’t come to me in the eighth grade as a natural runner and he has had his struggles in high school. He’s a guy we can all point to and say, ‘If you work as hard as Joe has, something good will come out of what you’re doing at the end of the day.’”

Shawnee State has been making regular trips to the NAIA nationals in cross country, which is what attracted Stewart along with his passion to run longer distances than track offers.

“I can’t wait. They have some good runners coming in,” said Stewart. “I know the commitment level will be more than what I’m doing now, but I’ll get used to it. I like running an 8K instead of a 5K. The longer the distance the better I do.”

Stewart will join a former teammate at Shawnee State. Former standout distance runner Chuckie Wentz is a sophomore with the Golden Bears.

“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 advanced to the regional cross country meet each of the past two years including a 14th place finish last fall that qualified him for the state cross country meet. He finished 74th out of a 146 qualifiers at the state meet.

Stewart plans to major in accounting or possibly education.