Motivation is the key to success for Montreat cross country
Jason Lewkowicz is a top-notch builder. But he doesn’t use bricks and mortar in his trade. Instead he builds people and in turn successful cross country programs. Now in his third season as the head cross country coach at Montreat College, Lewkowicz is beginning to see the fruits of his labor. After an incredibly successful stint at three previous institutions he’s settled in to a place he hopes to call home for a long time.
At Montreat his men’s team is ready to break through. They are flirting with several firsts for a program that has seen both success and hardship over the last year. For the first time in school history the Cavaliers are poised to make a serious run at the AAC conference championship and make their first ever trip to the NAIA National Cross Country Meet.
When he speaks of what’s important for Montreat Cross Country winning is on his list but it’s not at the top of that list. “We want to use the gift of running to honor Christ,” says Lewkowicz. “We want to pursue excellence for the glory of God. To use that platform to show people a different way of competing.”
“I love working with young people,” he continues. “I feel called to a ministry and coaching is the vehicle that God has given me to do that. I have a heart for helping young men to grow into men of character. We’re using running as a means to accomplish something greater.”
Montreat’s top runner is Brien Lancaster. The Wilmington, NC native is a fifth-year senior for the Cavaliers. Last season Lancaster finished 2nd in the AAC Conference Meet which was good enough to qualify for the NAIA National Meet as an individual runner. He took advantage of the opportunity by finishing 67th out of 331 runners. This season he’s hoping for more not just for himself but also for his team.
“At the end of last year, our men’s team met and came up with what our goals were going to be for this year,” said Lancaster. “That highlighted our training for the summer. Everyone locked in. People that normally would struggle wanting to train chose to hammer down which shows good character. It’s good to know I can really trust my teammates.”
Lancaster is a business major that boasts a 4.0 GPA and plans to pursue a MBA after graduation. His intellectual side tells him that there is more to being a successful runner than just conquering the physical. “Running is as physical as it can get” he said. “What’s nice about cross county is that it really helps to have a team you can trust. When running and training I think about the team and that gives me the motivation to push through physical barriers. My team is my greatest motivator.”
As the Cavaliers approach the culmination of their season there is an extra piece of motivation that drives them. Assistant coach Britten Olinger, who recently suffered a spinal chord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down, is still a major part of the program. He’s at practice almost every day, working with the jumpers on the track team and serving as the programs recruiting coordinator.
“What we consider difficult from a training or racing standpoint is really not as hard compared to what Britten’s been through” said Lewkowicz. “It’s radically changed my outlook. It helps me value each day and each opportunity. There are days where we may be dragging our feet and thinking about him is a quick way to refocus and shift our priorities. We not only honor the Lord with our attitude and effort but we honor Britten as well.”