Why Choose WU? Athlete spotlight series

Senior Cross Country runner details his love for the sport and Waynesburg experience

By: Erin Onderko

For the Yellow Jacket

Cross Country runners are very special athletes.

They put more stress and strain on their bodies in one season than some of us will in an entire year because of how intense their training and meets are. However, to some people, running just comes naturally to them.

This is the case for senior runner, Nathan “Nate” Jecelin.

Jecelin was a multi-sport athlete when he was young, playing baseball and soccer during his elementary years in Baltimore, Maryland. It wasn’t until a teacher saw him play and invited him to a Cross Country tryout, where he decided to give it a chance.

“Before I started running, I did a lot of soccer and baseball. I was always a naturally fast runner when I was younger. I knew that and my parents knew that,” Jecelin said. “In middle school, I was on the soccer team, and the gym teacher saw me play, saw how fast I was and saw that I wasn’t really tired during games. She invited me to try out cross country, and it took off from there because I really liked it and was good at it from the start.”

After that, Jecelin continued to run and fell in love with it. During high school he was a letter winner and team captain. He was also contacted by Waynesburg coach Chris Hardie, who recruited Jecelin to come run for the Yellow Jackets.

“Chris Hardie sent a recruiting letter to my high school, and he kept in contact with me,” Jecelin said. “I was interested in the school when I saw it online, and that’s pretty much how I started out at Waynesburg.”

Jecelin has loved his time on the team, and says that they have been like a family since day one. With so many memorable moments during his time as a Yellow Jacket, he had a moment to think about what accomplishment he is most proud of during his time with the team. After some consideration, he decided that when the team placed third overall last year at the PAC championship tops his list. That day they tied one of the highest placements of a Waynesburg men’s cross country team since 2014.

Jecelin was honored as an all-PAC second team member last year, and placed second on the team at the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Championships.

Working with Hardie has been a great experience for Jecelin, as he began to form a bond with the coach while still in High School.

“He kept in contact with me and came to see me run at some of my Cross Country meets, so I got to meet with him and talk with him in person to learn more about the school,” Jecelin said. “Working with Hardie has been really easy and a lot of fun. Ever since he gained interest in me, and I contacted him in high school he would always follow up with emails and phone calls all the way up until I came to school here at Waynesburg. From there he would still check in with us, plus we would do group activities together like games or having pizza with him. He’s a great coach overall.”

Hardie has also enjoyed working with Jecelin.

“We’ve had a lot of fun. I knew what he was all about through the recruiting process with him, having met him and his mother,” Hardie said. “He’s someone that checks off all the boxes we look for. He’s got a really good personality, he’s a hard worker, talented, and does well academically. It has been a real pleasure for me to be able to work with him.”

Hardie also mentioned that he was sick on the day Jecelin came to visit campus while in high school and worried he had missed his chance to convince him to come to Waynesburg, but is very thankful they stayed in touch and he has had the opportunity to work with Jecelin as a Yellow Jacket.

Both Hardie and Jecelin mentioned how different things have been this year with the season being pushed back due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but stressed that it makes the team working together to encourage one another even more important.

“We don’t know what the future holds for our season. It’s important for us to keep our heads up, keep positive, and do what we did last year,” said Jecelin. “It’s definitely been really hard on the team as a whole because we can’t practice together. Covid threw a wrench in everything and while we can’t do that, we’re still working through it as much as we can, taking little steps at a time and slowly coming back together as a team.”

Hardie explained how difficult things have been due to the coronavirus, but said that the team is doing their best to prepare regardless.

“There was a lot of frustration in the early part of the year when things got cancelled or postponed, as a distance runner you train all summer just to get ready to come to training camp. Being unable to work together was tough,” Hardie said. “Motivation also took a hit for a time. We’ve tried to redirect everyone’s focus to being ready regardless of when the start date is and be aggressive in our workouts so that we are ready whenever that time comes.”