When he was younger, Calvert Hall senior Chris Swisko played a lot of different sports, but after trying cross country as a freshman, he discovered his long legs and thin 6-foot-2 frame were perfectly suited to distance running. Last week, he finished sixth at Liberty's Run from the Lions' Den as the then-No. 1 Cardinals finished second. His goals for the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association championships are to break 16 minutes, finish in the top three and help the Cardinals to a team title. Swisko, 17, also runs the 3,200 and 1,600 meters in track. He has a 3.02 grade-point average, is interested in a career in environmental science and is a member of the school's Avant-Garde club, which delves into the history and culture of the Baltimore area.
How did you get interested in running?
My freshman year, I did it to get in shape for lacrosse. My parents knew about it because my brother ran cross country.
Why did you stick with it?
The camaraderie with the teammates and just the joy of running, really.
What do you enjoy about it?
Feeling the accomplishment. Being done, that's really the best feeling for me, just getting it over.
When did you get serious about it?
I'd say when I started actually doing well in races.
Do you remember the first time you won a race?
I won't forget my freshman year. ... It was the mile for championships, MIAA outdoor. I was a freshman on JV, and it came down to a sprint between first and second and I beat out the person by .02 of a second.
How much running did you do over the summer?
I ran about 580 miles. I'd wake up, go to work and then run after. Usually about eight to 10 miles. Some days, I would run twice. I would run at 5 in the morning and 7 at night.
What has been your best race this season?
I feel John Carroll was my best race because my old friends from my old school went there. I went to St. Joan of Arc, and a lot of my friends went to John Carroll, so having them there and having the team there, it was kind of a big day for me. I got first.
Do you have pretty good competition within your own team?
On any given day, anyone can be either in front of me or behind me, so Kenny Motsay is looking very strong and then Sean Caskey and our whole varsity. They all seem to be improving, like Nick Rowe and Dan Swain, pretty much our whole top five.
When you start a race, do you like going out fast and running ahead?
Yes. I don't like being stuck in the pack. I like knowing I don't have to worry about being caught or being boxed in. I like being out there, and if someone else wants to take over the race, I'll just let them do it unless I feel that it's too slow.
Have you been able to outkick others at the finish?
Yes I have. I outkicked Kenny Motsay [last week at the Run from the Lions' Den]. He wasn't happy about it, but it had to be done.
Do you have a favorite course?
I'd have to say my favorite course I've run would be ... (pause s) ... I really hate them all so much (laughs). I guess I have to say our course just because it's ours and I'm comfortable on it.
Do you like running hills?
No, I do not. I dislike hills. Downhills, I enjoy, but uphill, I'm not a fan of.
Did you have a run-in with a hill recently at Park?
Park has one of the steepest and longest hills that I've ever run, and I kept slipping every time up it because we do it three times. The third time, I didn't slip at all, so that was good, but as soon as I got to the top, my legs just gave way and I fell directly on my face. Then I got up and took like five more steps and tripped over a rock and fell again.
Were you injured?
I twisted my ankle, and I've got several cuts and bruises. I really messed up my arm. I couldn't move it. I got it X-rayed, but it didn't show any damage. It was just swollen.
What would you say is the greatest mental challenge in distance running?
Getting your body to agree with your mind. Your mind may be saying go and your body may be starting to freeze up, but you're like, 'I know I can do this,' just trying to push through the pain.
Do you want to run in college?
Yes. I really enjoyed Mount St. Mary's, surprisingly, even though they have all those hills (laughs). Then I'm also thinking about UMBC and Salisbury. But I'm still open. There might be others out there.