By Mike Blackerby
If you’re 6-foot-5, conventional wisdom says it makes a lot more sense to play basketball than run cross country.
Catholic High School’s Jake Renfree thought so too, at the time.
Renfree, the 5Star Preps boys cross country runner of the year, spends a lot of time reflecting on how he gave up his passion for basketball in favor of an uncertain path in running.
It’s a decision that changed the course of his life.
“I went from running three days a week in the eighth grade, kind of like a hobby, and going more from being a basketball guy to this (cross country) is what I do now,” explained Renfree.
“If not for one or two races my junior year where I ran as fast as I did, I wouldn’t have had the confidence and momentum I have now,” he continued.
“If that wasn’t the case, I’d still be playing basketball. It (running) is my life now. My trajectory is completely different. I think about that a lot.”
Renfree, a Notre Dame signee, continued his upward flight in the sport this season coming off a breakout year in 2017.
He won everything in sight this cross country season, earning medalist honors in the KIL, region and state championship meets.
Renfree also qualified for the Dec. 8 Foot Locker Nationals for the second year in a row.
He was fifth in a field of 40 at last year’s nationals, which features many of the elite runners in the country. This time around, he claimed second place and was named a First Team All-American.
Renfree’s 15:38.7 clocking a year ago was one of the surprise performances at nationals. Few had him even advancing out of the South regional.
He said it was just another validation that he made the right decision to concentrate on running instead of basketball.
“Last year’s Foot Locker, when I qualified, was where I said ‘now I’m on an elite level,” said Renfree.
“I was going all out for that race. It was the first time I reached down and unlocked something I’ve never done before.”