The following article profiling Jonathan Anderson and the Army men's cross country team was written by Eric S. Bartelt and appeared in the Pointer View on Sept 26, 2008.
The defining moment of Firstie Jon Anderson’s collegiate running career came last spring when he won the 2008 Patriot League championship in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter runs at the PL track and field championships. His two long distance victories were built off of a great end to the 2007 cross country season where he finished eighth at the Patriot League Championships.
With that kind of success in his back pocket, he has a chance to build a resume that can rival former teammates John Mickowski, a 2008 graduate who reached the NCAA championships in cross country and track and field last year, and Philip Sakala, a 2006 graduate who also was an NCAA participant in his firstie season.
Getting to the NCAAs is the ultimate step for any athlete in cross country, and Anderson is trying to follow the steps of his former teammates to reach that goal.
“John Mickowski and Philip Sakala taught me that it is important to do two-a-days,” Anderson said, “and I’ve been able to do that this year.”
He wakes up at 5:50 a.m. Monday through Friday to run two to four miles and then will run nine to 10 miles in the afternoon with the team. It’s a commitment he didn’t previously have and one he made during the summer after his great success in the spring. He finally incorporated Mickowski’s and Sakala’s work ethic into his own workout routines to better himself for this season.
“I put in 60-70 miles a week in the summer, and I’m up to 80 miles a week right now, and I’m trying to capitalize on that,” Anderson said. “One of the things I learned from (former Army cross country) coach (Jerry) Quiller is that you have to look at different training philosophies and test them out and see which one works for you.
“Mickowski and Sakala are both milers, and I’m more of a 5,000-meter guy, but I’m trying to do the stuff they did to help my versatility because I believe a good 1,500-meter runner can also be a good 5,000-meter runner,” Anderson added. “Phil is really big into cross training and doing that once a week, and John was always getting on us about the milers,being focused and taking time to recover and getting out there and fighting every weekend.”
After missing the season opener at the Army Open Aug. 29 because of a sore throat and fever, Anderson came back with a seventh place finish in the dual meet versus Cornell Sept. 12. Despite missing a few two-a-days because of his illness, he feels he’s back on track for a strong showing Saturday at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis.
Injuries during training hurt Anderson his first two years at West Point, which led him to lose his focus and caused him to hurt academically.
At one point, he felt like he wanted to leave the academy but decided to stay because he wanted to prove he can be just a good as Mickowski and Sakala.
“Sakala is in the WCAP Program, which is a goal of mine,and Mickowski and I were on the same recruiting trip, and I was faster than the both of them in high school,” Anderson said. “But, during their college careers, they worked a lot harder than I did. So watching them succeed over the past three years and knowing that I wasn’t working as hard kind of helped me realize what I needed to do to get back on my game.”
Army cross country coach Laura Kirchgarber has seen Anderson grow into a terrific runner and was impressed by his seventh place finish against Cornell.
“Jon did a great job,” Kirchgraber said. “He had been very ill at the beginning of the season, and he just started looking like himself again (a week ago) in practice. Given the training time he lost, it was just remarkable.”
She believes his victories in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter runs last spring can be his confidence booster for this season.
“Anytime you can come off a good track season, you feel a little faster and you have that kind of success, you just want to build off that,” Kirchgraber explained. “Jon is very talented, and I think he’s a lot stronger. He has tremendous drive now, both mentally and physically, to win, and he brings that mental toughness and leadership to the table.”
The Cinnaminson, N.J., native is focused on beating Navy this year, which Army hasn’t done since his plebe year, and said that it is, “very important to us and something we think about every day.”
The history major, who hopes to branch field artillery, has a strong feeling the squad will place better than their predicted third place conference finish this fall.
He said Kirk Chitwood should make a strong return his cow year after an injury-plagued yearling season. He talked about how Cows Greg Griffith and Zac Reiter,who each competed with the Nike (National) Team, bring, “the knowledge from a national level team that is going to help us this year.”
Anderson said what is most important to this year’s success will be the guidance of the firstie class to get them running as a team.
“I think the team is more focused than in years past,” Anderson said. “During our workouts, the entire team tries to work as a pack rather than in the past where everyone just went out and did their own workout, so there’s more of a focus on the team this year.”
Part of that team focus is the guidance of Firsties Fitz-William Taylor and team captain Andrew Catalano, who have been vital during the absence of a men’s coach until Troy Engle takes his post Oct. 1.
“Taylor is one of those great seniors who’s always pushing it in the workouts and every day is out there working hard and motivating the freshmen,” Anderson said. “Catalano is doing a great job as captain. When he talks to us, he’s level-headed and is not just out there yelling at us to do something or just spitting out orders -- he’s a great leader.”
Anderson, a former U.S. Military Academy Preparatory Schooler, has come a long way from his decision to stay at the academy, and to this day, he has never regretted that decision.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be unhappy with my decision to stay because I thought long and hard about it,” Anderson remarked. “It’s a little bit harder than most places, especially with challenging yourself, but it’s something I always wanted to do.”