By Jaret Carpenter

There’s a quote by Ernest Hemmingway that says:

“[…] but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

Now that my cross country career at Purdue has come to an end, I truly understand the importance of this quote.

Knowing that I won’t get to wear a Purdue uniform at another cross country event is bittersweet. Fortunately, I got to finish my career on a high note.

Not only did I earn the Big Ten Cross Country Runner of the Year award, I also finished 10th at the NCAAs. And, I was able to help my team to a record-breaking 11th-place finish at the National Championships as well. This also happened to be Purdue’s highest finish since 1945 (when only 12 teams were competing).

Leaving my mark in Purdue’s history books is incredible, but far more important is the journey of I how I got there…

Running Isn’t For Everyone

As a kid, I played pretty much every sport in the book – baseball, basketball, football, you name it.

As different as these sports were, they all had one thing in common – conditioning. And for some odd reason, I had a knack for it.

I would argue that for nine out of 10 athletes, conditioning is their least favorite part. But, not for me. Pacer tests, suicides and sprints were all the bread to my butter when it came to athletics.

In middle school, word got around pretty quickly about my passion for running. So, our cross country coach went out of his way to recruit me.

I figured, what the heck, why not?

I joined the team and instantly became a competitive racer.

In cross country, there is so much raw competition. And I absolutely love that. Whenever you go run, times always indicate if you’re improving and developing in the right direction. This instant feedback isn’t something many other sports can provide.

Feeling that progression can make or break your love for a sport. This idea has always pushed me to keep going until I hit my full potential.

Joining The Boilermakers

One massive stride towards fulfilling my potential came in the form of joining the Boilermakers.

Ever since my sophomore year of high school, I knew I’d run in college. At that point, I didn’t care as much about which school I’d represent, I just wanted to run.

I have a ton of family ties to Purdue. My dad, my grandpa and almost everyone else on my dad’s side has some sort of connection to the school.

So, when Purdue’s former head coach contacted me, I was immediately excited about it. Right from the start, we built a strong relationship.

I had the utmost respect for the way he ran the program. He was very straight forward about what he’d expect from both me and the program in the future.

And then, once I met my teammates, I was sold. We were just all on the same page, it seemed.

Defining Success

I’m not going to lie though, it took me a while before I really bought into the team culture.

My mentality was always about placing in a race or running a particular time. But, I didn’t see myself improve as much as I should’ve. I was determined to make a name for myself. I figured if I just focused on myself, I could help Purdue compete at a high level.

Really though, it was the exact opposite. I needed to give my all to the team and strictly focus on how I could help. When I became fully engaged in the idea that I’m running for something bigger than myself, things completely changed.

Running for my team was one thing. Learning how to embrace the journey and not just focus on the end goal was a completely different one.

You see, at the end of my sophomore year, I ended up being the only one not qualifying for the national meet from our region. I made it my freshman year, but I missed it by a second in my sophomore year.

One second.

This was in a 10k, so roughly a 30-minute race, and I was literally one second away from qualifying. It was heart-breaking. I put in all this hard work and just couldn’t pull it off that day.

I was so focused on Nationals that I lost track of what was right in front of me – the journey of getting there.

It definitely took some time to understand that and find joy in that chapter of cross country as well, but once I did, man, nothing could stop me.

The Joy Of The Journey

I began to focus more on the drills and the training rather than the accolades. I understood that if you take care of the right things, awards and victories will follow.

The accomplishments of my past season are great and it humbles me to be among some of the best runners in the nation. But, believe it or not, I enjoyed the journey of getting there so much more.

Now, it’s time to get ready for one more year of outdoor track and field.

Go Boilermakers!

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