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Back in the game

John Bernard isn’t a typical cross country runner. But in a way he is.

Bernard doesn’t like running.

But at the end of a race, he loves the ‘runner’s high’ – the sense of accomplishment a runner feels after completing a long run.

On the other hand, he describes himself as a typical runner on the men’s team: skinny and a little awkward with women.

‘We’re all sort of the same breed. It’s like we all come from the same gene pool,’ Bernard said of himself and his teammates. ‘It’s a weird connection.’

Bernard enjoyed his teammates as much as anything during his time on the team. The senior is the only runner who won’t be returning next season.?

‘The team is great to work with,’ he said. ‘No one on the team was negative. And I liked how easy it was to relate to one another.’

Bernard didn’t intend to run cross country in college originally.

Despite a very successful career in high school, Bernard wasn’t interested in running cross country in college as a result of an incident during his senior season at the state championship meet.

Bernard was shoved into a large, metal light pole by an opponent and was unable to finish the race. Bernard admitted that he and the opponent were trash-talking up until that point in the race.

He said the incident was his first negative experience in six years of running cross country. It turned him off to cross country and made him end up not responding to recruiting letters from college coaches.

Two weeks into college, he saw the men’s team running together. He said that made him miss being part of a team and running competitively, so he decided to schedule an appointment with coach Cami Wells to inquire about running for BG.

Since the team was small, and because Wells liked his times from high school, she told him a tryout wasn’t necessary.

The team had already run in one race. So Bernard was redshirted for the rest of the 2006 season to allow him time to adjust to the demands of academics and athletics, train on his own, and return to the type of shape he was in while in high school.

Bernard had his best season in 2007 in his first season with the team. His time of 27:37 at the Falcon Invite remained his best 8K time of his career.

He suffered a big setback last season when the training staff determined that he was bowlegged, which placed a lot of pressure on his knees.

Last season he ran constantly to improve his place on team, but the additional training eventually set him back. In fact, Bernard was unsure whether he’d be able to return this season because of his knees. But he credits the training staff for his return this season.

In 2009 he recorded a 5K personal best at the Toledo dual meet with a time of 16:59. But none of his 8K times would ever be nearly as low as 2007.

‘I didn’t feel held back. But I’m a firm believer that you build on the past, and I had less to build on,’ Bernard said. ‘I don’t like to make excuses. I did what I could this year, and I’m happy with it.’

In his final race for BG, he finished eighth on the team and 63rd overall with a time of 30:11 at the MAC Championships.

Bernard was afforded the advantages of being a part of a smaller team environment at BG than in high school.

‘It’s a rare opportunity to have a lot of attention focused on you as a runner at Bowling Green,’ he said.

The individual attention becomes even more advantageous because of Wells. Bernard said. She is a phenomenal coach.

Wells said Bernard provided more for the team than his performance in meets.

‘He has been a tremendous leader on the team and has improved a tremendous amount from the beginning of his career until now,’ she said. ‘He really brought the team together and taught his teammates how to be a team.

‘John is a very entertaining person, so we’ll miss that.’

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