Sports Person of the Week
Eschinger Found His Love for Running
McKendry Eschinger enjoyed a great career on both the track and the trails as a runner at Guilford High School. (Photo courtesy of McKendry Eschinger )
McKendry Eschinger’s running career was one that almost never began. McKendry played soccer for Guilford during his freshman year of high school, but as a sophomore, some of his friends encouraged him to join the boys’ indoor track team, and it was a decision that he did not regret. Now a senior, McKendry went on to have great careers with Guilford’s cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track squads.
“It was one of the best choices of my life,” says McKendry. “The community around track and running in general is a very rewarding one. I’ve made friends for life from our school team and those I’ve competed against.”
Despite arriving a little late on the running scene, McKendry still saw a tremendous amount of success throughout his time competing for the Indians. Last spring, McKendry and his colleagues on Guilford’s 4x800 relay team came in sixth place at the Class MM State Championship. During the 2019-’20 winter season, he finished second in the 1,600 for the indoor track team at the SCC East Sectional Championship. This past fall, McKendry paced his way to All-SCC Second Team recognition by finishing in 24th place when the boys’ cross country squad earned runner-up honors at the SCC Championship.
McKendry had big expectations heading into his senior season of outdoor track. McKendry was looking to win the 800 and place high in the 1,600 at the SCC Championship, in addition to posting top finishes at the state meet, while working alongside a dedication collection of teammates.
“Whenever there was a harder workout for us, the days were always better. Although we were all nervous and anxious, by the time the workout started, we were in the zone, pumping and encouraging one another to push and work harder,” McKendry says. “That feeling of a team in an otherwise individual sport brought many great memories, and I expected us to have a lot of those moments had we had a season this year.”
George Cooksey, the head coach of the boys’ outdoor track team, has great praise for McKendry. Cooksey calls McKendry one of the fiercest competitors in the program and says that he always rose to the occasion whenever his name was called.
“He thrives on pressure, especially in the relay events. In fact, his relay splits exceeded the quality of his open splits,” Cooksey says of McKendry. “He’s become a great relay runner, one who is dependable and passionate. He is also a leader whose performances have inspired his teammates. His passion and vocal encouragement have made a huge difference for the team and everyone on it.”
The positive feelings are mutual for McKendry, who has learned a lot of valuable lessons about both running and life as a result of working with Cooksey.
“Coach Cooksey has been a great coach for me in and out of the sport. He has taught me many things about the sport and life,” says McKendry. “One of my fondest memories of how great of a coach he’s been to me is when I had injured myself my sophomore year. He sent me many inspiring and comforting words and even gifted me a book that I’ve read at least 15 times by now. He has always pushed me to be not only the best athlete, but the best man I could be, and I could not thank him more for that.”
The book that McKendry is referring to is Slaying the Dragon: How the Turn Your Small Steps Into Great Feats by Michael Johnson, a four-time a U.S. Olympic gold medalist sprinter. Reading the book was meaningful to McKendry as he dealt with the difficulties of his injury.
“Coach Cooksey sent me this book, despite being fully involved in the season, making me feel appreciated, although I wasn’t competing with the team,” McKendry says. “Every time I read the book, I remember the lessons my coach has taught me and the appreciation I felt.”
After recovering from his injury, McKendry worked hard to find his stride once he got back in action. McKendry continued to push himself both physically and mentally throughout the rest of his high school career.
“It is a patient game to improve yourself for a season of track. It takes weeks, even months, to get to the right fitness, as well as peaking in fitness just in time for the state meets,” McKendry says. “Coach Cooksey is a big advocate on strength and has us do many hill repeats to work on form and strength. I also work on meditation and other ways to help my mindset positively, as I believe 90 percent of running is a mental strength.”
Although he’s run his final mile at Guilford, McKendry is looking forward to what’s on the horizon after he graduates from high school. McKendry loves running so much that he’s going to continue doing so at the collegiate level.
“Next year, I’m going to be attending Lebanon Valley College [in Pennsylvania], where I will be running for their cross country and track and field teams,” says McKendry. “I’m also going to be majoring in communication sciences and disorders.”