GEORGETOWN – For Cody Swick, this cross-country season has been all about continuing his team's reputation as a strong competitor.
The Georgetown-Ridge Farm/ Chrisman boys' squad has qualified for the sectional meet every year the co-op has existed. The streak was extended last week when the Buffaloes placed fourth at the regional to advance to the Class 1A sectional meet, which is Saturday morning at Paxton-Buckley-Loda.
Swick, the team's lone senior and the only representative from G-RF, is enjoying his turn at the helm of a consistently talented cross-country program.
Last season, Swick was more of a middle-of-the-pack runner, often competing in the fourth, fifth or sixth positions. This year, he has risen to occupy the No. 1 spot on his team. He led the Buffaloes at the regional with a 3-mile time of 18 minutes, 6 seconds, placing 11th overall.
"It feels good to be up there (with the top runners), knowing that I'm a leader of the team," Swick said. "There is a pretty big difference (between last season and this season)," he said. "I'm used to running back with the huge packs at the big meets. When you get to some of the smaller meets and you're the No. 1, No. 2 runner, you're kind of out there alone.
"You've kind of got to run with yourself, rather than running with some of the guys from other schools that you know how to compete with. You have to do your own pace and set your mind-set that you're not going to slow down just because you're in the lead."
Running with the leaders presents a different set of obstacles.
"I think it is more challenging (than running at a lower position on the team)," Swick said. "But it's also a lot more fun. Usually when you're in the front, you feel just kind of free and you can just look in front of you and nobody's there and you have a good feeling in you."
The good feelings that Swick gets from running don't stop when the race ends.
Swick said, "I feel a lot better when I run. I do a lot better in school when I'm in cross-country and in track. I get a little mad in the wintertime because I can't run as much. I get a better night's sleep and I just perform better during the day (when running consistently). I can clear my mind while I'm running. It's just really relaxing and nice."
Besides loving his sport, Swick also has assumed a leadership role on a youthful team where four freshman teammates followed him to the finish line at regionals. He's helping to mold the freshmen for future seasons.
"I feel like this year we've had a real rebuilding year," Swick said. "We have a lot of freshmen, and we lost our top three or four (runners) from last year. So, my mind-set this year is just try to get the freshmen in shape and get them used to the 3-mile course so they can come out next year and have a really great team.
"I'm just hoping that I can do my best (at sectionals). I don't really plan on advancing out, but if I do it'd be awesome," Swick said.
He seems, in a way, more concerned with the future of the Buffaloes' running program than with his own individual performance at what could be his last high school meet.
"I just attribute a lot (of the team's success) to Coach (Tom Kulbartz)," Swick said. "He just has such a great running program. I think he's one of the best coaches around. I hope he'll keep coaching for a long time and produce a lot of great runners."
As for Swick?
"If the college I go to wants for me to run for them, I'd be happy to run for them," he said.