Senior Swan Song: Katya Schwieterman

Name: Katya Schwieterman

School: The One And Only Paonia Jr-Sr High

Q) What was your most memorable race/throw/jump/vault/moment?

It's a toss-up for sure, but I'd have to go with our first cross country meet on Grand Mesa this year.

We had stolen a new coach from another sport (after we lost all three coaches from last year), and this was the first time he had ever been to a cross country meet.

We have a very young team: most of our runners were on their first or second season. At 10,800 feet, PRs weren't the goal, but seeing the shining smiles of joy and accomplishment from our newest athletes and our coach helped me know that this was the beginning of a very special season.

Q) Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?

Most of my coaches understand that I have the "angry beast" somewhere in me. This beast, see, fixates on particular runners. I judge myself based on my performance compared to their races. While I'm incredibly motivated by runners around me, my greatest competition comes from my hopeful expectations of myself.

Q) What was your greatest accomplishment?

I am one of the Paonia Cross Country Corn Maze Champions-a prestigious honor.

However, our homecoming dates conflicted with the meet we usually attend, so my coach and I decided to host our own mini-meet.

I invited every community runner I could find in Paonia to join our high school team for a Saturday morning 5k. Assigning each runner a color, I split up the field into teams of 5 and we scored the meet like a high school race.

To staff the course I designed, I enlisted the help of our school counselor, track coach, track coach's wife, a community runner's husband and more. This event ended in fun for every racer. With runners ages 8 to 67, I think we succeeded in creating a meeting of runners, in random teams, to run for the joy of running.

Q) If you could do it all over again what would you change about your career in high school?

If I could go back, I would make sure to throw my heart and soul into every team, every year. It's not every day that you find a group of people who willingly push themselves through extended mental and physical pain. If you happen to find some of this insanity, hold on to these people. They're some of the best I've seen.

Q) What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?

Of course injuries and hill repeats plague every runner's career, but my largest obstacle has always been my own doubt and aversion to finding my personal limits. I'm grateful for my coaches, other coaches, my parents, other people's parents, and the dazzling community of Colorado runners that help me challenge my goals every race.

Q) What will you miss the most?

There's this special feeling: morning run before school. The river breeze traces exposed skin, hearts beat with strength and exhilaration. Knowing my teammates and I face solitary obstacles in our own minds, but share in the unity of challenge is a memory I'll always carry close to my heart.

Q) What advice would you give to younger athletes?

I had never dreamed of becoming a distance runner before my freshman year. Younger athletes, the adventures that will come in the next years of your life are just the beginnings of your identity. Take this time to run your heart out: love your team, love your sport, and stretch the boundaries of your comfort zone in every direction possible.

Q) What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?

The people that settle in the education sector in Paonia certainly don't come for the fame or the money. Thus, only a very special type of practical, dedicated, and morally grounded person ends up here.

All of my coaches make a point to learn what makes me run, what holds me back and urge me over the hurdles. The coaches in my life have shaped who I am in and out of the classroom, on and off the track. Over the years, they have been my daily structure, my partners in snarky banter, and the real life inspirations for my life goals today.

Q) What are your college plans?

At this moment, my plan is to attend college. Somewhere. To embark on a study of something. Beyond that, everything is a mystery.

Q) Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?

My very first coach walked up to me and stated "you should run cross country." That moment changed my life. Second, I have a few running idols in my community that never fail to encourage me: waving from the sidewalk or checking on me (futilely) chasing them in a 4th of July 5k. Beyond those, I'm forever thankful for the runners around me who decided, for some reason, that this was a good idea. They were right.