LANSING | It happened three years ago, but Kenny Karrson can vividly recall his first time trying to run a cross country distance.
It was the summer before his freshman year at T.F. South, and he and some varsity Rebels were doing a workout at Schultz Park.
"I was just trying to stay with those guys for the three miles," Karrson said. "We ran around what we call 'a football loop,' and, boy, was I exhausted afterward."
Karrson had never done a true distance run until then. He wanted to compete in a sport upon entering high school, and he and his parents discussed the idea of giving cross country and track a try.
"It's been great for me as far as getting a chance to meet other people, and not just my teammates," Karrson said. "I am a pretty quiet person, and I not only have had a chance to compete in two sports but to make friends with other kids on the team."
Karrson still remembers the time he recorded in his first race as a freshman: 26 minutes, 58 seconds. Since that debut, Karrson, the Rebels' co-captain this season, has taken nearly nine minutes off his time. He ran a personal-best 18:10 at last Saturday's South Suburban Blue Conference meet.
Rebels coach Fred Seibel said Karrson has improved every year and is an example of hard work paying off.
"Kenny comes to all the practices, does his workouts and does what he is told," Seibel said. "He has gotten better, because he has put in the time and effort to make himself better.
"We want to get him under 18 (minutes) Saturday."
Karrson said he is looking forward to the Class 3A Bloom Twp. Regional at Crete-Monee High School. Although South will not be able to field a full varsity team, Karrson is excited about the challenge of trying to qualify for sectionals as an individual.
"It will be a tough meet, no doubt about that," he said. "I like the idea of running with good competition, because that is how you get better. You try to stay with the pack and you just try to run your best."
As one of South's captains, Karrson said he has a responsibility to the younger kids.
"It is showing them how to run a course, how to get out on the course but not too fast," Karrson said. "That is my job, just like the older kids used to show me how to do things on the course."
Like most runners, Karrson has not been injury-free. He had to undergo surgery on both feet this past winter to correct a problem, and Karrson said he wondered how that would affect his running.
"I was lying in bed on Christmas Eve listening to jazz music, and my feet really hurt," Karrson said. "I thought about if I would miss some track, because I really didn't want to."
Karrson did miss some practice time prior to the start of the indoor season, but he was able to compete in both the mile and two-mile races during the spring.
"Cross country has been a great experience, because I have really enjoyed running, the camaraderie and the discipline you have to have," Karrson said. "You have to be in condition before the season, and you have to put yourself in the position to get better. You also have to have that discipline to get home and get your schoolwork done.
"It's been a great four years."