Former Steamboat runner leads his college cross-country team
October 9, 2011
Steamboat Springs — The key has been how much he's run, but not the way most might think.
Steamboat Springs High School alumnus John Cutter is in his junior season at the University of San Diego and logging his best times for the Toreros cross-country team.
Sure, the years of training have paid off and a hard summer of running on the trails above his hometown of Steamboat Springs has helped. But Cutter said learning how to run — often by doing it the wrong way — has helped him as much as anything.
"I've changed it up to where I don't work harder; I work smarter," Cutter said, channeling a Dilbert comic strip but going further to press his point home.
"The last few years, I couldn't go an entire season without getting hurt," he said. "Right now, I haven't been injured in over seven months just because I'm listening to my body and training it how it needs rather than following word for word what I've been told to do."
Sometimes, that means running slower the day after a hard workout or barely even running at all.
It's helped pay off big. Cutter rode his string of good health to the top of his team's roster, and he's even eyeing the school record in the 8-kilometer race.
"It takes experience to learn when you really need to take it easy," he said.
He's slowly climbed his way up, filing in as the team's sixth or seventh best runner as a freshman. He was third or fourth last year, and this year, with one of the program's top athletes out with an injury, he's emerged as the leader. He registered a personal best in the 8K of 25 minutes, 33 seconds last month in a meet hosted by University of California-Riverside. He wasn't as fast a week later, logging a 26:02 at the Stanford Invitational, but he said he'd love to try to break the 25-minute mark by the end of the season.
He'll get his next chance Saturday in a meet in Sunnyvale, Calif. He'll get one more crack at it in the regular season before the team turns its focus to the postseason, first with the West Coast Conference Championships on Oct. 29 and then with the NCAA Western Regional on Nov. 12 in Palo Alto, Calif.
"Right now, we're hoping for a top-5 finish as a team at the conference championships," he said.
His squad finished last in that eight-team battle when he was a freshman and climbed up to sixth last year. This year, the competition will improve — Brigham Young University joined the conference — but the team is hoping for its best finish in Cutter's time at USD.
Looking ahead, Cutter is unsure what to expect from his senior season. He's set to spend the spring semester studying abroad, a situation that could make training tough, but is ready for whatever opportunities come his way.
"Coming in to college, I was really hoping to get all-American honors," he said. "That's really difficult in Division I, but it would still be ideal. It's hard to say how it will go, but I will be looking to improve on however I end up this season, to capitalize on that and make the team better."
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com