Oct. 2, 2013
By Rich Hidy `16
Off to a speedy start in 2013, junior Jake Kildoo has established himself as one of the top runners on the Irish men's cross country team. The squad finished second in the season-opening Crusader Open and took home the hardware in the National Catholic Championships Sept. 20.
Kildoo always remains on course and has taken his many achievements in stride. He not only ran for Team USA in the NACAC Cross Country Championships in Trinidad in 2012, but also finished second out of 260 runners in the 5M at the National Catholic Championships in the second race of the year.
Kildoo says individual accolades don't excite him at this point in his Notre Dame career. He is more interested in team goals and raising the Irish cross-country program to a higher echelon on a national scale.
"Last year was disappointing for us as a team," he says. "Team goals are most important in cross country because the sport isn't really individually oriented. We have good leadership and are well experienced this year, so we can put a strong dent both in the ACC and NCAA meets."
Kildoo isn't a typical Notre Dame student. As an athlete for a Division I cross country program, Kildoo participates in lifting sessions twice a week, does pushups and core exercises and, of course, racks up the miles in two-a-day distance running sessions of 30 minutes in the morning and 75 minutes in the evening.
Running is truly a lifestyle choice that requires intense focus. Cross country runners must stay motivated on a daily basis in order to continually improve those vital stopwatch figures.
"When the weather is really nice, it's very easy to run," Kildoo explains. "As it gets colder, morning runs--sometimes six days per week--are difficult. You have to realize the work pays off in the future and you're doing it for your teammates."
Rituals are a part of the pregame atmosphere for many athletes across all sports. However, Kildoo sees rituals as mind games that can affect the runner's goals in a race. It takes an ultimate focus on the race at hand in order to perform at an elite collegiate level.
"It's good to have a routine, but not a ritual," Kildoo says. "A routine helps the body feel consistent so there's nothing shocking before the race. Rituals are psychological, and things can go wrong by using them."
Kildoo plans to continue running after his Notre Dame career. What he will lose in scheduled competition, he will gain in self-motivation.
"I plan on keeping running a permanent part of my life," the Grove City, Pa., native says. "I like the self-improvement aspect of the sport. There are times that I ran, and last year I would have thought there was no way I could run that well, which is really gratifying."
The untraveled road was more appealing to Kildoo when it came to his major choice--the junior is a double major in philosophy and Arabic. He says he always knew he wanted to study philosophy because he likes thinking about the deeper questions in life. Although he developed an interest in languages from previously studying Latin and Spanish, Kildoo didn't discover his passion for Arabic until sophomore year when he took Islamic Christian Theology.
"Knowing how to speak Arabic is what I want to focus on in life," Kildoo says. "I learned the Arab culture from a Western perspective, and I found that Islam is very misunderstood and misinterpreted. I am up for the challenge of learning the language even though it's one of the toughest to grasp."
After graduation, Kildoo says he plans to attend graduate school and eventually teach the Arabic language.
Despite his course load, Kildoo stays grounded while juggling academics and athletics. He is disciplined in his time management and focuses on creating a healthy divide between his daily life as a student and athlete.
"It's harder to create that balance at first than when you have been doing it for a few years," Kildoo says. "I don't know if I could use all my free time to concentrate solely on school work."
Kildoo has found not only academics to be manageable, but also the pressure of entering a new conference with five teams in the top 30, including the 22nd-ranked Irish.
"The ACC is an unknown, but we're anxious to do our best against these new opponents," Kildoo explains. "We have high expectations to win the ACC this year, but it should be a very competitive distance running league."
The team is working hard to build upon a third-place finish at last year's Big-EAST championship and an NCAA finish of 28th last year. Kildoo not only has the remainder of the season to occupy his energy, but he is also preparing for next summer's study abroad program in Amman, Jordan, where he will continue to study the Arabic language in the heart of the culture.
But Kildoo won't forget to get his running while in a foreign land.
"I will need to get up pretty early to get my running in while I'm in Jordan," Kildoo laughs. "Just like a lot of things, if you put your mind to it and want to do it badly enough, you'll find a way."