UW's Swarthout Looks Back With No Regrets
It was a long process of elimination, but Washington senior Jordan Swarthout found his sport. It took trying all of the standard sports that a boy plays as a kid, like soccer and tee-ball. But they weren't for him.
"As a kid, I tried just about every sport, and quickly found out that my hand-eye coordination wasn't quite up to snuff," Swarthout said. "I'd rather draw circles in the dirt than run the bases."
By the end of his elementary school days, Swarthout had discovered the track club, and found that it was one of his favorite activities. But he hadn't quite learned of his true potential as a runner.
"It was probably my eighth grade year. I ran the middle school record in 5:05 for the mile on the dot about three times and never broke it," he said. "That's when I knew [running] was what I was going to concentrate on for the rest of my athletic career."
He continued his development as a runner, and began to recognize that he had a chance to do some great things.
"I got into high school and discovered, 'Hey, I'm actually pretty good at this running thing.' I haven't looked back since," he said.
When Swarthout looked towards his collegiate career, his college choice was a perfect match for him.
"I met the guys on the team, and sat down with Coach Metcalf," Swarthout said. "His usual recruiting spiel is to sit us down in the crew house right on the water, and it was a beautiful, fall October day looking out over Lake Washington. He said, 'Why would you not want to come to school here?' And I agreed with him."
But the attraction of the athletics program and the beautiful surroundings weren't the only factors affecting Swarthout's decision. WIth a sincere interest in international studies, he was also looking for success outside of sports.
"It was as much about the academic programs as the running," he said. "I was looking at the international studies school, and found out that 'Hey, this right in my backyard and I didn't even know about it.'"
Swarthout has gone on to a successful career at Washington both on and off the course. His interest in international studies has given him the opportunity to go abroad.
Two summers ago, he ventured off to Russia for an intensive language study course, and he lived with a host family where he was completely immersed in the language and culture of Russia. Swarthout and his fellow students were only allowed to speak Russian for the entire summer, and it wasn't easy.
"We were very quiet for the first couple of weeks," he said with a laugh. "It was basically like a year's worth of study."
He made it through the summer quite successfully, and returned to Russia this summer for another experience.
"I spent this last summer working in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow," he said. "It was a chance to test-drive the career of my dreams."
Unlike many college students, Swarthout seems to have a long-term vision for his life.
"I've known I want to work for the state department or go into some sort of work that will take me overseas once I graduate," Swarthout said. "So these experiences were important for that."
Swarthout has combined hard work in his cross country and academic careers, and believes the things he has learned from his athletic career will contribute to his success after graduation.
"In the process of applying for fellowships and jobs, I think examples from running will come up a lot," he said. "I can point to the dedication I put into the sport, the hard work, just a lot of the defining characteristics that I bring into a job in the real world."
For now, Swarthout is focused on the 2010 season, the Pac-10 Championships and making another appearance at the NCAA Championships. He speaks highly of his team and his coaches, and is confident in what the team will be able to accomplish.
"This year, the team atmosphere is one of the best I've experienced through all five years at UW," he said. "It's great running with these guys."
It's apparent that Swarthout made the right decision in pursuing the sport of running, and he says he can look back at that career with no regrets.
"I think looking back on my career, I've gotten a lot out of it. And hopefully I've given a lot to the program as well," he said. "It's been a great five years."