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Klaiber ready to end successful cross country career

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Klaiber ready to end successful cross country career

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

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Jon Klaiber has made the most of his last year competing in cross country, finishing either first or second among the team’s runners in every race this season.

Head coach Mike Nelson described Klaiber as “the hardest worker on the team.” Now Klaiber’s hard work is paying off.

“His success is due to the accumulative effect of constant training and the work he puts in,” Nelson said.

Nelson attributed Klaiber’s work ethic to sheer repetition. Klaiber also changed his race tactics, leading to a significant improvement as a competitor.

“I’ve improved the way of my race tactics, which comes from an increased level of confidence,” Klaiber said. “This year in particular, I’ve had more confidence going out at or near the front of the race and running alongside more competitive runners.”

This strategy has quickly paid dividends in race results.

“In years past I would often find myself in the middle of the pack and trying to move up as the race progresses,” Klaiber said. “I’ve been fortunate to have been able to train at a high level of consistency and have made continuous improvements.”

As Klaiber’s results have elevated him into the top tier of the program, Nelson said Klaiber has also become a much better leader.

“He has definitely elevated himself as a leader, and his teammates look up to him,” Nelson said.

“He’s a role model for every guy on the team,” senior teammate Henry Mierzwa said. “He is the voice of reason, he encourages everyone to do their absolute best every race and holds everyone to a very high standard.”

After racing in the BIG EAST Championships this week, Klaiber has two potential races left in his cross country career: the NCAA Great Lakes Regional and the NCAA Championships, if he qualifies at the Great Lakes Regional Nov. 9. With the end of his cross country career looming, he said it has naturally motivated him to perform better.

“This year is certainly a special year,” Klaiber said. “I’m taking extra time to cherish the truly special experience it is to be a student-athlete.”

Nelson doesn’t dwell on the end of Klaiber’s career.

“I don’t ever talk about it being his last race,” Nelson said. “He and the other seniors already know that it’s gotten to that point and will put out their best effort.”

Klaiber and Nelson have built a strong relationship together over the last four years, and Klaiber said that is a big part of his success.

“Since the (first) time I stepped on campus, coach Nelson has been there to support me,” Klaiber added. “He knows the types of responses I need in various situations and is always there to provide that support.”

Nelson is not the only one to have a positive relationship with Klaiber.

“I would not be where I am today without my teammates being there along the way,” Klaiber said. “The relationships I have built with guys like Ryan Burd, Daniel Pederson, Henry Mierzwa and more have helped us all grow together, and it’s easier to perform when you’re toeing the line with people who you share such great rapport with.”

Henry Mierzwa said their relationship is strong. Klaiber and his teammate Mierzwa have gone through four years of ups and downs together.

“This kid is amazing,” Mierzwa said. “I’ve seen him grow from a quiet runner to one of the most social people on the team. It’s truly been an honor running with him and I couldn’t be happier that I had the opportunity to lead this team with him.”

Before the BIG EAST Championships, Klaiber said he would put the team’s results first, but a top-20 finish was what he was striving for — and that is exactly what he achieved. He finished 14th, his best finish at the BIG EAST Championships. He was 31st last season.

Pederson, a senior, finished ninth. Klaiber and Pederson led the way to the Marquette men’s team finishing fourth, its best finish at the BIG EAST Championships. Mierzwa said to achieve both the individual and team feats in this last season is something meaningful, and Klaiber and his senior teammates will take it to heart.

Meanwhile, Nelson said he is embracing the opportunity to coach Klaiber for at least one more meet.

“Jon’s a perfect example of what a Division I runner should be,” Nelson said. “That’s why I got in this business, to work with athletes like Jon.”

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