On Wednesday, Loyola junior Matt Jablonski was doing his thing on the soccer field, playing center midfield for the Dons in their Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinal against McDonogh. Center midfield is one of the most demanding positions in soccer, requiring endless energy with the need to get forward and back. Today, Jablonski turns in his soccer cleats for running shoes as a standout on the Dons' cross country team, which will compete in the MIAA championships. Jablonski will tell you playing two sports in one season is a grind, but it's a challenge at which he excels. Along with soccer and cross country in the fall, Jablonski, who maintains a "B" average, also competes in indoor and outdoor track, earning varsity letters in all four sports since his freshman year.
Question: : What kind of grind is it toward the end of the fall season competing in both soccer and cross country?
Answer: : Toward the end of the season there's always playoffs and championships, so the pressure is always on. So I just try to stay composed, stay focused and make sure I do my best in both and support my teammates the best I can.
Q: : How do you juggle both sports over the course of the season?
A: : I just take it day by day. I really can't think too far ahead or else the overall picture will become overwhelming.
Q: : When you're coming off a rough, physical soccer game, how do you deal with that as far as running the next day?
A: : It can be really tough. I've had to play games on Fridays and then come back and try to run Saturday morning, which is really tough. Your legs are really tired. So I just try to do everything I can to get ready - eat right, stretch - that's about all you can do.
Q: : How tough is that mentally?
A: : Mentally, you have to be tough. If you have a bad race and you know it's because of soccer, you just got to know that, "Oh, if I didn't have soccer that day, I could have done better." So you just have to tell yourself that and vice versa with cross country.
Q: : When you're in a race and going through a tough stretch, how do you overcome that to finish successfully?
A: : I just try to stay composed even though I may be hurting a little more than the guys next to me, but I know toward the end I'll somehow just find the strength to do it.
Q: : What's the best advice you've ever received?
A: : I guess the saying "Pain is temporary, but glory lasts forever."
Q: : Who is your role model?
A: : My dad. He's always been there - all my cross country meets, track meets and soccer games - and plus he has a lot of experience in the endurance area. He's a seven-time Ironman finisher and a three-time Hawaii Ironman finisher.
Q: : What have you learned most from him?
A: : I always see how hard he works when he trains, and I try to follow that mentality of his and work as hard as I can.
Q: : What's your favorite thing your mom makes for dinner?
A: : Probably her baked ziti. It's really good and great before a race for the carbohydrates and stuff like that. I eat a lot of pasta before a race.
Q: : What was the best day of your life?
A: : Probably when I ran my personal-best 4:18 mile last spring [in the MIAA outdoor track championships]. My previous best was 4:24, so I dropped off a lot of time. I thought it was a mistake; I just didn't believe it and was totally shocked.