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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
What Jack Gregorski has done this year is the stuff of legends.

Cross country individual state champion. Cross country team state champion. And now, 3200 indoor state champion, going sub-nine minutes in the process.

The thing is, as amazing of an athlete as Gregorski is, he’s an even better person and teammate.

If you look at the sectional results you’d have seen Gregorski listed as third, behind two of his teammates.

How did a runner who won the state title in the 3200, and go sub nine minutes in the race finish third at the sectional meet? He did it by sacrificing his own championship to help his teammates.

Gregorski had already hit the time required this year to guarantee himself a spot in states if he was top three at sectionals. The top two in every race already go to states, so Gregorski, knowing he could go if he took third, ran with his teammates Matt Gensel and Nathan Webb, and settled for third behind them to let all three qualify for states.

“Just careful running,” Gregorski said. “I want them to have the same opportunities I have had. I know earlier in my running career the people I ran with then would have done the same thing for me if the opportunity had arisen.

“I think there is a big community, we are really a team. We are always working to make each other better and make ourselves better and that’s a big component to our success.”

For the Corning senior having his teammates running with him at states was special, and seeing them shine makes his sacrifice worth it.

“It gives me a lot of confidence just to see their faces and know I’ve done workouts with them,” Gregorski said. “I worked with them and it gives me confidence that if they aren’t up there with me, they are at least with me in the race.

“Seeing your teammates succeed is one of the best feelings and to know you helped them is also a good feeling, just to see their goals realized.”

The sacrifice Gregorski made helped his teammates to get to states and hit some milestone times.

“I think sometimes you are willing to sacrifice your own goals at certain times to benefit your teammates and his teammate Nathan Webb, who was one of the guys who was able to get into the state meet, he was able to break 10 minutes at the state meet for the first time. Multiple times he had run 10:10, 10:07 and 9:59 there and it’s another one of those big barriers,” Corning coach Ray Lawson said.

“It’s much better to say I ran 9:59 than 10:07 and that’s thanks to Jack to give him that opportunity. And, Matt Gensel ran amazing there. He ran 9:31 at the state meet, which is a huge 10 second PR for him so a lot of good things happened because Jack was able to get his teammates there.”

For Lawson as long as the other kids put in the work, he know Gregorski was willing to sacrifice personal achievements at sectionals.

“We try to focus on what’s most important,” Lawson said. “There was no way he was going to get fourth in that race and not go to states, but he was willing to, if his teammates were willing to do the work and position themselves to make it safe for him, he was willing to sacrifice anything like a sectional title.

“People were saying I guess he had a bad race, and he doesn’t have to defend that. He knows what the reality is. He ran controlled so he could focus on the state meet, that’s just not being worried about what people think of you and think of that race. He thought of the bigger picture there.”

For Gregorski he didn’t realize how close he was to the magical nine-minute barrier until late in the race.

“It was super exciting,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was even on pace to do that until the last leg of the race, the last 400. To go from not realizing I was there to being there and also at the same time being state champion is really exciting.”

Winning the state title was special, getting the milestone number was also hugely special for Gregorski.

“Your place in a race is sort of how you prepare yourself to others,” Gregorski said. “But, your time is how you can judge your own ability so I think when you go out and race and go for time it’s a way to prove to myself how much I’ve grown and how much faster I’ve become.”

The nine minute barrier has been on Gregorski’s mind for a while.

“I think you get the beginnings of thoughts as soon as I broke 10 my sophomore year,” Gregorski said. “But, I think it’s only been this last year that I’ve seen it as a real possibility.”

The time that Gregorski ran was the fastest in the history of Section 4.

“No other two miler here, no other two miler in Section 4 has ever gone under nine minutes indoor,” Corning coach Ray Lawson said. “I think the record, I looked it up, it was Chad Noel from Greene, who was a sub four minute miler in college. He ran 9:09 indoors. If you say you are the fastest two miler in the Section 4 history, and they have been doing the two mile for a long time, so that was very good. The outdoor record is 8:56 and that’s Chad Noel’s so I’m sure he’ll have that outdoor record on his mind.”

For Lawson it was special seeing the type of time Gregorski ran.

“I’m just very impressed,” Lawson said. “He’s been doing this on 50 miles a week, 55 miles a week so that really shows his talent. I would have been hard pressed to think I would see one of my runners going under nine minutes. It would be hard with the way we train, because we are not a super high mileage team.

“The fact that he did that on the mileage that’s what is impressive to me. A lot of times to run that kind of time you have to be so strong and a lot of times the strength comes from really, really building a base.”

Having good competition at the state meet just made Gregorski better. While Gregorski won the public school state title he races Myles Hogan, who won the Federation title, and Hogan helped make Gregorski even faster.

“I think seeing fast seed times in the race, seeing a racer like Myles gets your hopes up for a fast race and even if it’s not a fast race, it’s going to be an exciting race,” Gregroski said.

“It’s a different experience. It is soft of a whole other challenge to race by yourself, but it’s more intense, more exciting, more rewarding of a challenge when you get to race against somebody else and you are going head to head.”

Getting below nine minutes is special, doing it indoors is even more amazing for Gregorski. And, winning an indoor state title is always a challenge.

“I knew it was going to be harder, people specialize more in their events in indoors, but just going out there and giving it my all I was definitely hopeful. “I am looking forward to outdoor. I get more opportunities to race fast completion. I think I’ve seen what I can do indoor. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do and looking forward to seeing my times get down even further if possible.

Definitely going into this indoor season I had that one of my goals for outdoors. I don’t try and consider the two seasons separate entities. I consider outdoor an extension of indoor and indoor as the prequel to outdoors. But, definitely hitting that goal so early in those two seasons and hitting it in indoor was much better than I was expecting so it sort of heightens my goal for outdoor.”

There are some big goals in mind for Gregorski this outdoor season.

“I think 8:50 is a big goal,” he said. “I am not sure if I can get there, I think I would have to race a couple more races at that pace to see how it feels, but that’s sort of what I’m aiming for.”

Adding an outdoor state title to his cross country and indoor titles would also be special.

“Leaving my mark would be a pretty cool way to go out,” Gregorski said. “I try not to focus on that, but it would be sort of a capstones. A feather in my cap.”

While the race at indoor states was a special time, it was also something Lawson thinks he can repeat. And, in fact, at nationals he ran the 1600 in two relays and had times under 4:15 twice, showing what he might be capable of this outdoor season.

“I think it’s always just focused on being patient and just keeping healthy,” Lawson said. “The way he ran that race, the one thing I will say for him, sometimes you see someone run a race and it’s so amazing and the effort is so extraordinary that you are like that’s going to be a long time before they repeat that.

“Everything came together that race for him and it looked like he was in control. He did a lot of the running in lane two so he was poisoned well so he ran further than a lot of people in that race, because he wanted to be where he was in contact and wanted to be clean, so I feel like there is more time there so that’s the thing. It’s never easy to repeat some of those things, but we are looking at some big meets where he’ll have a chance to run some sub-nine guys outdoors.”

Gregorski plans to run at the college level, and while he hasn’t finalized where yet, races like states only helps open even more eyes.

“It is definitely an exciting number and it definitely showcases my ability,” he said. “Most of the coaches I’ve talked to could see it in me even before I ran those numbers, but it is a confidence booster to me to prove I could be there, where they thought I could be.”

Gregorski is excited to see what he can do at the collegiate level.

“I think college is definitely an increase in intensity and you are training with people that are at your level, so I am definitely looking forward to that,” he said. “Looking forward to being humbled a little bit by training with people faster than me and also looking forward to the opportunities.”

It’s rare to do what Gregorski did and Lawson is excited to see what he does this spring, and in college.

“When you run under nine in the last 20 years, he’s one of the top 20 runners from New York State in two decades,” Lawson said. “There aren’t that many people to break nine and even nationally there aren’t that many people who break nine, it’s a pretty elite group.

“I’m excited to see what he’ll do in college, and he’ll make that decision pretty soon here. What you want to do is have a chance to have some other fast people to train with and get into some meets where everybody is running sub nine and that will bring out the best in him.”
Jack Gregorski has been a state champion indoors and in cross country season this year. . . PHOTO COURTESY OF SHEILA SUTTON.

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