Silas Winders is joining his brothers at USI.
Silas Winders comes from a family of very productive runners that have put their mark, in exponential fashion, on the running landscape of Tennessee. If you're a senior runner, you know the name. If you're an incoming freshman to the sport, be happy the name Winders isn't going to be among your competition for very much longer in high school. On the boy's side anyways. Silas is the youngest of three boys. And entering his senior year is also standing out as among the best runners in the state right now. He has demonstrated his talent with his sub 2 minute 800, 4:12 mile, 8:57 (3200) and a 14:29 in the cross country distance. Add state championships and tons of wins in various races to that list of accomplishments as well. But posting fast times doesn't necessarily define a great distance runner. It takes a lot more than just that.
Some of you may remember the 2017 state cross country meet where Silas was runner up to his brother Titus by about 13 or so seconds. As a sophomore, that was impressive. As a fan of the sport, it was nothing less than astounding to see brothers race together like that! Titus and Silas coming in one and two at the state championships, pretty cool racing. At the time, Silas wasn't exactly the favorite to do that.
A lot of you might not remember the same meet in 2018 where Silas just didn't have it. About three quarters of a minute slower than the previous year. Most athletes would take that as, well, a failure. Silas certainly didn't like what happened, but a failure, that seemingly never occurred to him. It was a learning experience and nothing more. For a little while, that cheerful smiling athlete was a bit subdued. That was uncharacteristic of this athlete. A few minutes after finishing that race, he knew he needed to set his goal for the next year, his senior year. He had to forget the race, or at least push it to the back of his mind for now. It took a few minutes for that smile of his to return, slowly though, it did finally return. And that meant that the plan was set in motion for the next race. That's how you develop into a great distance runner.
Now it's January and Silas decides on signing with University of Southern Indiana. He joins his brothers as a Screaming Eagle and takes the next step in his running career. His plan at USI is to study computer science. College training and a rigorous computer science curriculum seems like it'll be quite the challenge, but this 4.0 student takes things in stride and that, no doubt, will help him succeed. I think a rule he's grown up with - let your grades slide and you don't get to run - is something else that'll help him succeed as well. You have to want to do the work, all of it, including the discipline to make it happen. Another characteristic of a great runner.
Of course, there's still more racing to be done in his senior year.
Talking with Silas recently, he has some ambitious goals for track and wants to drop his already solid times even more. He also has a keen understanding as to how to achieve those goals. Sometimes it's having that understanding, that things have to all come together on a specific day, good competition helping you along, and the right training, all comes into play to achieve those goals. He's just a little reluctant talking about those goals, but clearly he understands what it takes to reach them. I really think that someday, he will find himself in a coaching role. And he'll be very good at that!
Silas will be the first one to tell you too that he has to work hard to stay on top of his game. He'll also be the first one to tell you how watchful he is of his competition. That in itself is a sign of a top distance runner. Ally, Allen, Williams, Britt, Anderson. He'll list off his competition but will literally be the first to defend them in any discussion. Just as with any competitive athlete, he respects his competition because he knows it's what makes him better.
It might not be that top athletes enjoy running on tougher courses, but at least they learn how to embrace them. Silas said that the Dickson course (where they run the mid-state championships) is one of his favorite courses in the state. Ok, I've never run that course but I've photographed it from a lot of different spots so tracked all over it to some degree. After watching last year's mid-state championship, I was so happy to get into the car for the ride home - my legs were worn out just from walking around the place!! That is a tough venue. And the isolation along the course makes it even tougher. Balboa Park is another one that he somewhat reluctantly has an affection for. Well, ok, it's not exactly his favorite but he respects the venue for sure. You have to want to challenge yourself in tough situations, on tough courses. Silas certainly does.
And lastly, the ability to bounce back and take what could have been an incapacitating race and turn it into a motivation for the next... something that isn't very easy at all but is in the DNA of great runners. So, do you remember this year's cross country race. I do. It was one of the most exciting State races I've seen in quite some time. A different result for Silas than last season. It was a close race. In the process of setting his fastest mark there, he won it and threw that monkey off his back for good! After all, it was his plan all along and a plan he had every intention of seeing it through to the end. As soon as he reached the finish line, you can tell he understood the magnitude of what he'd accomplished... and most importantly, that smile was back the second he crossed the finish line!
Running fast times, understanding how to set and accomplish goals, ability to shrug off bad days, being an ambassador for the sport and what you represent, and most importantly, just down right enjoying the sport itself! Those together are what makes up a great distance runner. We're not saying goodbye just yet, so good luck with the track season. We all know USI is getting a very strong athlete and one that knows how to be great!
See you on the track,