Track star and senior Joe Kortenhof took first place in two events at the Midwest Conference Championship this past weekend. We sat down with Kortenhof to discuss how he achieved such a success, as well as with Head Coach Jason Fast to get his perspective on how Kortenhof came to be victorious.
Kelli Quick: Not only did you win the 3,000-meter title at the Midwestern Conference Championships this past weekend at Grinnell, but you also won the 5,000-meter title, in which you beat your closest opponent by more than 30 seconds! With such great accomplishments, I must ask, how did you achieve this success? Are these new records? How did you prepare for these meets?
Joe Kortenhof: The success that I have achieved this year is really a culmination of all the work that I have put in over the past eight years as a runner since my freshman year in high school. Over those eight years I have run nearly every day (with a few breaks here and there) and dedicated myself to becoming the best runner that I can be. I am so happy that I was able to win the [5,000-meter and 3,000-meter] this weekend at Grinnell and be rewarded for all that work I have put in over the years. In one week of training, I generally run between 65 and 75 miles. On Mondays and Wednesdays, we do easy recovery runs and lift in the weight room. Tuesdays and Thursdays are hard workout days that generally consist of intervals on the track or tempo runs. On Fridays we do an easy recovery run and relax before competing on Saturday. The day after a meet on Sunday we do a long run that is usually between 12 and 15 miles.
KQ: Being a senior on the team now, how have you grown? What did you achieve your freshman year compared to what you do now? Did you think you’d get this far?
JK: Coming into Lawrence my freshman year, I was lucky enough to find an instant friend in Josh Janusiak who graduated last year. Over the three years that we spent together at Lawrence, we were training partners and constantly pushed each other to be the best that we could be every day. Having him there beside me was instrumental in my growth as a runner, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. With his help I have been able to come into my senior year strong and achieve things like competing in the NCAA National Cross-Country Championships and winning three individual conference titles that seemed like distant fantasies my freshman year.
KQ: What legacy do you want to leave behind? What do you want to be known for and if you could give freshmen any advice what would it be?
JK: Above anything else, I want to set the precedent that if you work hard and commit yourself fully to any task, you will eventually find success.
KQ: Have you always trained in the long-distance category? If so, why? If not, why did you switch? Do you prefer long or short distance and why?
JK: Since my freshman year of high school, I have always considered myself a long-distance runner. As the distance gets longer, I get better at it. It has always been that way for me. I value distance running because it allows me to push my body to its extremes in a way that I have not found anywhere else. I also find distance running to be a relaxing and cleansing activity. I love going out for long runs on the weekend and enjoying the ability of my body and also the beauty of the world around me.
KQ: Looking forward, what do you hope to accomplish in your last season of track and field here at Lawrence?
JK: My goal for the rest of the indoor season is to qualify for Nationals in the 5k. I will be racing down at Warburg College in Iowa this Saturday to try and do so. As for the outdoor season, I would love to win the 5k and 10k at Conference and qualify for Nationals in one or both of those events.
Questions for Coach Fast:
KQ: I was wondering if you could talk about senior Joe Kortenhof a bit. He had a great performance at the Midwestern Conference Champions this past weekend at Grinnell. In your opinion, what do you think led to his success?
Coach Fast: Joe has a fantastic work ethic and has a level of dedication to his craft that when you see what he’s achieving, it isn’t surprising. He has logged over 10,000 miles in his college career and each one of them was a necessary step to get him closer to his performance at this meet. When you have a performance like he did this weekend, it’s a culmination of four years of hard work, dedication and mental toughness each and every day.
KQ: How has Kortenhof grown as an athlete during his time here at Lawrence over the past four years?
CF: Joe has had a number of setbacks in his time at LU: pulled hamstring as a first-year, battle with anemia, punctured lung before the start of his senior cross country season, the realization that he was overtraining himself at certain points in his career. All of these negative experiences have helped him learn and mature as an athlete to the point where he could be competitive on the national level. Joe has had to change quite a bit as a person and as a runner over his career to achieve at the level he is right now. It’s a compliment to him, as most aren’t able or willing to change or push themselves that much over four years. I’m thankful to say though that we have had a lot of people make similar positive changes in their career here, and while all of them aren’t achieving on the level Joe is, they reach their potential and achieve things they never thought they could, which is our goal as a program, to help every student athlete on our teams get to that point.
KQ: Switching back to the MCC overall, how do you think the team performed? Were there any surprising results? If not, what went according to plan?
CF: This really was a great meet for both teams. All of our relay teams really did a great job. On the women’s side our relays (4×4, DMR and 4×2) scored 90% of our points and on the men’s side the relays (4×4, SMR, DMR, 4×2) scored one-third of our points. The relay groups were running well going into conference but they really showed up in a big way when we needed them the most. Our men’s 4×4, which consisted of Will Nichols, Ethan Simmons, Tyler Antoine and Mik Patel finishing third and getting All-Conference honors was great and easily one of the best and most fun races to watch of my coaching career. I’m very proud of those guys. None of our relay performances were surprising though. This group was ready. Sara Klemme also had a great performance in the shot put, getting a mark over 11 meters for the first time since having major shoulder surgery this summer, a huge milestone for her.
KQ: What are you looking forward to the most about spring season?
CF: Joe still has a great opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championships this next weekend in the 5k and we have a motivated group who will be hunting for some new PRs and season’s best marks at the Pointer Last Chance meet at UWSP next weekend. When I think about the spring though, I’m excited for the potential our squad has shown during the indoor season and how we will transition that to outdoors. We will finish our season very healthy as a squad and that definitely will benefit us for starting outdoors. This group has just been so much fun to coach and be around, and I’m most looking forward to being able to have the whole team practicing at one area, our outdoor track.