Jaybe Shufelberger is pictured winning the Rim Rock XC Classic Gold Division race, a race featuring some of the toughest competition from the multi-state area, in a time of 17:59.70. After completing an undefeated regular season, Shufelberger would go on to be Centennial League Champion, 6A State runner-up, and the only Kansan to qualify for NXN this season, in a state best time of 17:31.10. Shufelberger was the only Kansan to dip into the 17's this season. Photo by our very own Alycia Jiskra. See more photos from her full Rim Rock XC Classic album here!
Before we get started, I'd like you to give me a short bit or paragraph on what is important to you in your life and what you focus on and what you do for a living, including running, and what means the most to you. And then we can get rolling with the rest of the questions!
What is important to me in my life, is my family, friends, religion, and running. My family is one of the most important things in my life, because they are so supportive of everything that I do, especially with running. Me and my family are all very close, and we all depend on each other so much, and we can have fun and joke around with each other. They constantly reassure me that I can accomplish my goals, and that I can aspire to do great things. My family also supports me by taking me to races out of state, so I can get that experience, and just making sure I have everything I need to be the best runner and person I can be. I always have to have at least one of my family members at my race, I don't know what I'd do without them there. Just knowing they are there watching me, and cheering me on the whole way. Another very important thing in my life, is my friends. They are just as supportive as my family. I don't know what I would do without them. Races can get pretty stressful, and my best friend always gives me little pep talks to get me ready and focused for the race. My friends are also so important, because they always know how to get out and have fun. I am generally a pretty reserved person, but my friends know how to bring it out of me, and make me have fun. Next I would say that religion is really important to me as well. Having someone to believe in, and know that you always have someone there for you, even when you are all alone, is just an indescribable feeling. It helps me when I am going through tough times, I am super nervous about something, or literally anything else. A lot of times during a race I will just pray, and it helps me get through the race, and keep a positive mindset. Lastly, running is a very important factor in my life. I started running in middle school and I was never the best, until I got to high school when I started to realize just how much I loved it. I love running, because it is just so amazing to see how much you can truly accomplish, and how much you can actually push your body. Running is also a stress reliever for me. After a long day at school or something else, a run always calms me down, and helps me work through problems, because I can really think things through then.
We've all seen how this season has gone so far from our own eyes and from other's words, but we want to hear the true story and hear it from you. What has brought you to where you are, capping off an undefeated regular season with a second place finish at the 6A State Championship and being the only Kansan to qualify for NXN this season?
What has brought me to where I am, is the love and support from my family, friends, coaches, and teammates. I could not have had the season I've had, and am still having if it was not for them. I cannot thank them enough for all they do to support me and my goals.They all support me so much. I couldn't even tell you which one of them would be my biggest supporter, because they all support me through everything. They push me to do better, especially when I hear them cheering for me during a race. Coming into the season, I did not expect to have the season and success I had. My personal goals coming into the season were to run mid to low 18's and place in the top 5 or 10 at State (I can't remember exactly which one I said). However, after my first race of the season, I realized just how much I had improved from last year. I realized the potential this season truly had for me. And then after my race at Rim Rock, I did not expect to run that time, let alone win the race, and it just smashed my goal time for the season. That made me reassess my goals for the season. My new goal was to run 17:30s, win all of the championship races, and then win state. I was able to accomplish all of those goals, except winning state. State was a very tough race for me, I do not have too great of a mentality during the race, especially when I had gotten so far behind the leaders. It was super frustrating. However, I pushed through, and once I got on that sky line, and I heard everyone cheering for me, I was able to make a comeback and place second. Although it was not what I had wished for, it was still better than I had expected for at the beginning of the season, and I was still proud that I was able to push through even though it was a very tough race mentally and physically for me. I think not winning the state meet, and just having an overall not very good race, helped drive me to push myself harder at NXR Heartland. I knew qualifying for NXN was a realistic goal, but I did not worry too much about it, I just focused on running the best that I could, and running a race that I would be proud of. I think that personally helped me, because it made leading up to the race less stressful.
(Watch Shufelberger win the Rim Rock Gold Varsity Division Race here!)
Let's talk about that impressive finish at NXR Heartland. What was your plan going into that race? What did it take to come out with a fifth place finish, qualifying to Nike Cross Nationals?
Going into the NXR Heartland race, I did not have too much of a plan, because all season my race strategy had been to just go out, get a lead and set the pace for the race. So for this race, my only real plan was to just go out, give the race my all, and just keep up with the person next to me, and reach the person ahead of me if I could. To come out of that race, taking fifth and qualifying for nationals, was an amazing feeling. That race really took everything in me, however, I felt amazing after the race. I have never felt so good after a race. I felt very strong at the end and after the race was over. I have never been so proud and felt so accomplished after a race.
The time you ran at the Nike Heartland Regional was over a minute and a half faster than any time you ran in the 2017 season. What played a role in such a great improvement over your cross country career, from where you started leading to where you are now?
Last year at NXR Heartland I ran a 19:11 and this year I ran a 17:31. There were a couple things that played a big role in my improvement from last year to this year, was not being injured, training partners, and my coaches. I would say the first big factor that helped me have such a big improvement was not being injured. Last year, during summer training before the 2017 cross country season, I developed a stress fracture. Meaning, I was not able to build a good base before the season, which I think affected my season a great deal. So, being injury free this year, and being able to train throughout the whole summer and actually build a base really helped me to train harder this season. I would say my training partners also played a big role in my success because training on your own can be difficult. I trained all of the summer season on my own, and it sometimes makes runs very boring and miserable, when you don't have others going through it with you and pushing you. So, I would say that running with the guys, helped push me to do better everyday, and sometimes it even helped me be more competitive, because we all are very close and lightly joke about being faster than each other. My coaches also played a big role in my improvement from last year to this year, especially my head coach (Matt Swedlund). They played a big role in my improvement, because they coached me and supported me throughout the whole season. I would say that my head coach really played a big role in my improvement, because he is the one who plans all of my workouts. He knows what is best for me, and he has helped me achieve my goals. He knows I can achieve things that I didn't even think I could achieve. Which helps me set higher goals, and accomplish greater things. He reassures me that I can accomplish these unimaginable things, and even when I doubt myself, he always knows no matter what anyone thinks. Which is why I think he is to credit for my improvement this season.
Alright, yeah. but even after cross country, senior year isn't over for you yet. You still have a senior track season left yet as well. What will your training look like through the winter season before heading into your final HS track season?
Although the season has ended, I am still training, because of NXN, so I will be training full force, until December 1st. I am also racing at the Footlocker Midwest Regionals, which is the weekend before NXN. I was signed up for this race, before I found out I was going to NXN, because I did not know if I would make it to NXN. I decided to still race at Footlocker Midwest Regionals, because going to nationals is such an amazing experience, and if I can make it the Footlocker Nationals as well, it would just give me more experience. Which I feel you can never get enough experience. Especially going into college next year, races will be more competitive, so racing against the top athletes in the nation can only help prepare me. After NXN or Footlocker Nationals, I will take two weeks off, because this has been a much longer season than I am used to and I think rest is crucial to preventing injury, so you do not burn yourself out. After my two weeks of rest, I will start building up my mileage again, to prepare for the track season. I don't have too much of a plan for it right now, because it is still a little away. But I know that I will just gradually increase mileage, like I did over summer training, and do a few strides and a little speed work when we get closer to the season starting.
Do you have any plans for after high school, or any ideas of where you might want to run afterwards?
After high school, I will be continuing my cross country and track career at Kansas State University. I signed with them on November 14th, and I can't wait to be part of their team. They have had some great success, and I can't wait to contribute to that.
If you could give advice to younger and prospective runners from all around the state, what would you have to say?
One piece of advice I would give to younger runners, and prospective runners is to keep at it, and don't give up when it gets hard. Running is hard, there is not doubt about that, but those hard days come with great rewards. You can accomplish anything you want, as long as you put your mind to it, and you truly work for what you want. You can't expect to do the bare minimum, and have great rewards. You have to put the time, work, and effort in to get those great rewards. It will be difficult at times, but it will be worth it, I promise.
You've had a big impact on Kansas high school cross country this year. Looking back on it, whats something that has played a big role in that? What is something that helped you get to where you are today?
Having a big impact on Kansas high school cross country, is never something I expected I would be able to do. I still find that unreal. Again, I would say that the love and support from my family, friends, coaches, and teammates has helped me to be able to accomplish the things I have this year. However, I would also say that my dedication to the sport and my aspirations has helped me accomplish the things I have this season. I am very self-critical. No matter even if I had an amazing race, there is always something I can improve on. I will enjoy the success for a little bit, but then it is back to business. I have had to work so hard to be the runner I am today. If someone would have told me as a freshman that I would accomplish the things I have, I would have laughed at them, because I was nowhere near the level I was as a freshman. I have put the time, work and effort to be the runner I am today, and I know for a fact that if I had not done those things I would not have accomplished the things I have today.
And now for some actually serious questions... What is your favorite course you have ever ran on and why? ....Least favorite?
My favorite course I have ran on is Rim Rock Farm. I love that course, partially because it is where I broke 18 for the first time. But also because I love how much the course pushes you to your limits. The hills on that course are brutal, they are difficult to get up, especially the last one before you go into the finish. However, I think they make for an interesting race, it shows how much guts you have, how much you can push yourself, and how strong your mentality is. I don't think I have a least favorite course. I enjoy all the courses we run at for different and similar reasons. I also don't have terrible memories from a particular meet, that would make me dread racing it
What is your favorite Disney movie?
My favorite Disney movie would be either Cinderella or Tangled. They are my favorite princesses.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
If I could have any superpower, it would be speed, like the flash.
Favorite motivational quote?
My favorite motivational quote is "If you have the courage to fail, then you have the courage to succeed," Shalane Flanagan. This is my favorite quote, because I take it as, there are going to be times you fail. Failing is inevitable, but it's what you do with that failure that really shows who you are. When you fail, you need to learn from it. Then you use that failure and what you learned from it to succeed.
Favorite song(to run to, of course)?
My favorite song would be Wildfire by John Mayer.
And lastly.... Do you have anything else to say to anyone reading this article?
Lastly, I would like to just say to everyone reading this article thank you for supporting me, and taking the time to read this article because I know I said a lot.
Thank you Jaybe, we are all looking forward to seeing you represent Kansas at NXN and to seeing you transition your success this season onto the track! Good luck!
Check out this interview with Jaybe Shufelberger after finishing in fifth at the Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Regional!