A Race Against Time

Jayden Zywicki runs second fastest 5k in SHS history

On Sep. 25, SHS senior and cross country captain Jayden Zywicki ran the second-fastest 5k in SHS history. Completing the entirety of the Janesville course in a mere 15 minutes and 44.6 seconds, Zywicki came within three seconds of breaking the current record of 15 minutes and 42 seconds which has been held by Aaron Castlemberg since the year 2000.
From a young age, Zywicki has shown the traits and dedication of a natural athlete. Zywicki has seized every opportunity to push and challenge his athletic abilities, packing his schedule full of practices and meets and playing a sport for all three seasons. However, for the first year of high school, Zywicki played football in the fall, so it wasn’t until the end of his freshman year that he even considered joining cross country instead. Looking for a sport to occupy his spring season, Zywicki joined the track team which, coincidentally, introduced him to many members of the cross country team. Many of the members were very impressed with Zywicki’s abilities, so they attempted to convince him to join the cross country team.
“I decided to try it out, and I was pretty good, so I kept going,” Zywicki says.
However, it wasn’t until his sophomore year conference meet that he realized his true potential.
“I was projected to get like seventh, and I ended up getting third,” Zywicki says. “I was like, ‘I’m actually pretty good at [this],’ and that kinda sparked the love for the sport.”
Talent and drive can take you very far. However, Zywicki recognizes that there are many people in his life that have assisted him and stood by his side throughout this whole process, the main person being varsity cross country coach Patrick Schneider. “[Schneider] pushes me. He encourages me. I don’t think I would be as fast as I am if he wasn’t the coach because he knows how to train without getting injured and still get you faster,” Zywicki says. The advice that Schneider has been able to offer Zywicki has changed the way he approaches the sport entirely.
“I feel like the notion around running is that you have to go fast every run to get better, so I used to try to do that, and I would get hurt,” Zywicki says. “Schneider told me that I can go slow on my slow runs and that will still give me the same effect as going a couple of minutes faster.”
Since each athlete is different, Coach Schneider needs to analyze each of their qualities as runners to find the best strategy for them.
“[Jayden] tends to be a bit more of a low mileage runner, so we do not typically have him run as many total miles per week as many runners of similar talent levels from other schools,” Schneider says.
Having coached cross country since 2007, Schneider has had the opportunity to observe and coach many talented individuals, but he claims that Jayden is the “fastest male runner” he has ever coached. While this is a clear plus, Jayden’s speed is not the only thing that sets him apart from the competition.
“I have coached a fair amount of fast runners over the years, but some of them have not taken direction very well. What takes Jayden to the next level is his willingness to do what he needs to do day in and day out in order to become a better runner,” Schneider says. “Jayden mixes natural talent with a superb work ethic and competitive drive. Many runners lack one of these variables.”
Zywicki has been training intensively to beat the school record for months now. On average, he runs 30 to 35 miles per week, alternating between slow and fast paces. “Before this year, I was kinda just training in season because I wasn’t really taking it seriously, but this year, it’s been year-round,” Zywicki says.
Zywicki’s journey has been far from a walk in the park. There have been many injuries, muddy practices, and scorching sunny days in which running is one of the last things that one would want to do. Despite these occasional irritations, Zywicki now feels as though he has found something that he genuinely enjoys.
“Jayden can sometimes make running look easy,” Schneider says. “However, you have to remember that every fast race has hundreds of miles, hours of good sleep, and months of good food behind it.”
Zywicki offers his best advice to cross country members and athletes alike.
“Just stay focused. Eating healthy is a big part of it, so you can get [the most] out of your runs every time,” Zywicki says. “Just have fun.”