When people see Mitchell Summers now, they see a young confident runner who has racked up several first place finishes as a middle school runner. But only two years ago, the story was a lot different.
“About half way through fifth grade, I started running.” Summers said. “I was tired of being fat, and my dad was running at the time. So, I started running as well.”
But all though the cross country runner averages six miles a day, when he first started running, a half mile was extremely difficult.
“Before I actually started running, I would go to the park with my father and sit on the bench and play video games while he ran. So, when I ran for the first time, I started off with just a half mile and I thought I was going to die.”
But according to his mother, Toni Martin, she could tell by the look on his face it was something he liked doing, even if her son thought he was going to die.
“When I saw him after he got done with that first half mile, I knew he liked running,” Martin said. “He had that look on his face that said, ‘I really like this'.”
The more Summers began to run, the more confident he became, and so it wasn’t long before he was starting to add miles to his routine.
“My dad was a runner in college so he gave me schedule to follow,” Summers said. “I would run for three days and rest for two.”
But being competitive by nature, Summers pushed himself where even that running schedule wasn’t enough. He began a harder running schedule that would prepare him for competitive running.
“I started running what they call tempo running,” Summers said. “I run at an easy pace for minutes and then a racing pace for a minute. You keep that up until you reach the mileage you want and that varies anywhere from three miles to six miles.”
Although he had raced in the Turkey Trot and the Jingle Run, the first race that Summers ran where he showcased his talent was the Biggest Loser Run Walk Challenge Series at Six Flags.
“When I ran that race, I was either in sixth or seventh grade,” Summers said. “Most of the runners in the race were in high school, but I took third overall with a time of 44:22.”
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Even though Summers was meeting with success as a runner, he still wasn’t running on the middle school cross country.
“In seventh grade, I was playing football,” Summers said, “But baseball was my number one sport. I thought I was pretty good at it.”
According to Martin, what eventually sent her son to the cross country team was some words of encouragement from one of his coaches who told her son that he rarely sees someone as fast and he should really concentrate on running.
As a cross-country runner this year, the eighth grade runner began the season off strong. First with a sixth place overall finish at the Notre Dame Invitational and then a 12th place finish at the Forest Park Invitational, which was the team’s biggest meet.
By time the conference invitational came around on Oct. 17, Summer, along with his team, took first place overall in the district and Summers took first place in the invitational and overall district with a winning time of 8:57.
With cross country season ended, Summers has his eye set on this year’s track season where he is the go-to runner on the team.
“I pretty much run every race from the 400 meter on up,” Summers said. “But I really like the mile.”
According to Summers, he is presently running a 5:01 minute mile, but is pretty confident he will be in the fours shortly. In fact the young runner has his eye set on breaking the school record set by Ryan Parson, this year’s 10th place cross country finalist in state competition.
Although running seems to come naturally to Summers, it may be a bit harder for him then most runners. Summers has been dealing with asthma.
“I like to run. It’s fun to me,” Summers said. “It makes me work harder, especially during the spring when my asthma is at its worst.”
With high school less than a year away, Summers career as a runner for the varsity Knights seems pretty secure.