Senior Sawyer Hitchcock of the men’s cross-country team has collected many accolades over his collegiate career. In 2012, Hitchcock was selected as the Empire 8 Rookie of the Year and tallied a season-best time of 26:01.50 in the 8,000-meter run at the NCAA Championship.
During his sophomore year, he battled injuries but came back to clock a season-best 8,000-meter time of 26:13.10 at the NCAA Atlantic Region Championship, the second-best 8K time on the team in 2013. Last season, Hitchcock was named Runner of the Year by the Empire 8 conference after earning a bid to the NCAA Championships. He was also named to the NCAA All-Region team, All-Empire 8 team and All-New York State Collegiate Track Conference First Team.
Currently, Hitchcock is ranked eighth on the all-time list for the 8K with a time of 25:08.6. He cracked the top 10 Oct. 31 after he repeated as the individual Empire 8 champion, leading his team to its sixth straight conference title.
Sports Editor Jonathan Beck spoke with Hitchcock regarding his collegiate running career, what he was aiming for heading into this season and if he intends to break the school record in the 8K of 24:37 set by Jerry Goodenough in 1983.
Jonathan Beck: What have been some of your goals heading into this season?
Sawyer Hitchcock: I think the most important goals have been team-wise. This is the team that has the best potential that I’ve ever been on since I’ve ran here, so we’re really trying to get to Nationals this year. And I guess, personally, time-wise I want to be around 25 minutes … hopefully under 25 minutes in the 8K, which is sort of a big milestone in terms of the 8K in cross-country.
JB: What has motivated you to step up and perform this season as a senior on the team?
SH: Well there’s definitely a sense of urgency with it being the last year. And it’s especially urgent because I’ve been running for 10 years, and after this I’m not going to have a team to run with anymore. So I’m definitely very conscious of that as I’m going and I only have three or four races left, so it’s a little more precious this year than it ever has been before.
JB: Have you done anything to push yourself to decrease your times, being it is your last season?
SH: This summer was probably my best summer of training. I guess last summer was pretty good too, but this past summer I increased my mileage a little more than it ever has been. That was in name to prepare for this season that I knew I could be really good.
JB: You’re pretty close to breaking the school record in the 8K. Is it something you think about during races?
SH: Honestly, I have not even given it a thought, breaking that specific time. I’m, I guess, more concerned with just improving from where I have been and focusing on this season and focusing on the team. It’s interesting, I haven’t actually thought about that at all. I’ve thought about moving up on the list, as anyone would, but I haven’t really felt the need to break [it] … I mean there’s the list in the locker room that says what place you are, but … I guess I’m more focused on the now.
JB: What are some things you have tried to do to improve your times this season and push toward your goals?
SH: The one thing that seems to be very important for me is sleep. I think it’s something that a lot of people underestimate. But for me, sleep is a very important aspect of training, and I’ve been definitely focusing on trying to go to sleep and get my work done early enough to go to sleep and get enough rest. Because especially for a sport like running and cross-country, rest is supremely important. That’s one thing that I guess more directly would be the summer training, and I’m also one of the team captains this year, and I’ve just been trying to be really aware of that and trying to use whatever influence you get from being a captain to really make this team go to its full potential.
JB: What do you think your biggest accomplishment in your college career has been?
SH: I think last cross-country season was definitely the highlight of my running life, from fifth grade to now. I felt like it was a breakthrough season last year. After sophomore year, I had sort of some injuries and didn’t make it to Nationals. So last year, I really felt good about how I did, and it was definitely the best season I ever had.