Kutztown grad Sam Horwath leads Ithaca College cross country team

Photo courtesy of Ithaca College Sam Horwath, a Kutztown High grad, was named the captain of the 2013 Ithaca College men's cross country team.
Sam Horwath

When Kutztown High grad Sam Horwath came to Ithaca College three years ago, he was a middle distance runner for the indoor and outdoor track team. As a freshman, he ran in only five races on the cross country team. But he has come a long way in those last three years.

He arrived at Ithaca College as a middle distance/800 meter runner, said Jim Nichols, the Ithaca College cross country and track and field head coach. Sam has developed into a solid distance runner and a consistent scorer - top five - on our cross country team. He has developed and continued to grow season to season, year to year and is well respected by his team and our coaching staff.

On Nov 2, Horwath, who was named the team captain early in the season, finished in 18th place at the 2013 Empire 8 Cross Country Championships, helping his team win its fourth straight league title.

My cross country career has gone really well at Ithaca College, said Horwath. Here at I.C., the coaching staff challenged me and helped me grow as a runner. They helped me make goals and then helped me to meet those goals. I am thankful that I ended up at IC and proud to call myself an Ithaca College Bomber. Looking back, I know I made the right choice to go to Ithaca.

Earlier this season, Horwath finished in 30th place at the New York State Collegiate Track Conference Cross Country Championships. It was a laudable achievement, but Horwath was hoping to do better.

When I came into the finish, I had no idea what place I was in, said Horwath. When I found out what place I was in, I was kind of disappointed because the top 21 are All-Conference, and the 21st spot was less than 10 seconds away from me.

I was pleased with my race though, since it was cold, windy and muddy, and the course is one of the more challenging ones, and is historically slow. It was even snowing in the beginning of the race. Needless to say, the conditions werent exactly ideal. I was honestly more excited about the fact that I ran a 4:55 last mile in the race than where I finished place-wise.

Horwath was a soccer player in middle school, but his heart wasnt in it. His brother ran cross country so he decided he might as well give it a try.

It was one of the best decisions I made, said Horwath. Coach Hardenbrook was still in the area and didnt move away yet. He was my first cross country coach and taught me the ins and outs of the sport. What keeps me in the sport is that it is so challenging, yet at the same time it is so rewarding.

While in high school, Horwath was part of a Kutztown squad that qualified for the state championships as a team. The Cougars were 12-3 and won Division 2 of the Berks League.

But making the transition from high school to college cross country was a challenge for him. Not only was he going up against tougher competition, but he had a longer distance to get used to.

Freshman year there is definitely a learning curve, he said. Going from a 5k to an 8k race is a big jump. I remember freshman year going through 5k and thinking to myself that there are still another 3,000 meters to go in the race. It was certainly a mental battle in the beginning, but through the years, I adjusted and became a lot more comfortable with racing an 8k.

He improved enough to finish in 13th place at the Empire 8 Championship run last year, and was consistently able to be among the top finishers in any race in ran.

A turning point for him came in his freshman season, but it wasnt something that occurred on the course. It can be the little things that make an athlete feel more comfortable on a new team.

One of my earliest memories happened my freshman year, he recalled. It was early in the semester so I didnt really know everyone too well. Everyday, the whole team goes to lunch together. On my birthday, my teammates managed to get the entire dining hall to sing happy birthday to me. I didnt tell them, they all just knew.

His cross country career is coming to a close, but he still has at least one more race to go. It will be the Mount Morris, New York for the NCAA Atlantic Region Championships. Horwath is hoping he can help his team to qualify for the national championships. His teammates and coaches know he will do everything he can to make sure that happens.

Horwath is a computer science major Ithaca College and hopes to get a job dealing with some sort of web or mobile app development.

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