Janusiak ready for one final run at NCAA Championships

Lawrence track and field action Josh Janusiak
Lawrence's Josh Janusiak is set to compete in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Division III Championships.

Josh Janusiak came to the first day of Lawrence University cross country practice in August 2015 without any clear targets in mind.

"I didn't have a lot of specific goals coming in," Janusiak said. "Just to be a well-rounded person and see how good I could get."

Turns out the answer to that was so good he will go down in Lawrence history as perhaps its greatest distance runner. The senior from South Milwaukee, Wis., wraps up his Lawrence career on Thursday when he competes in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Division III Championships at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.

"I kind of was hoping the athletic experience would be complementary to being a freer adult individual on the whole, and I feel like that happened," said Janusiak. "This was a great place to pursue my athletic career and my schoolwork."

Janusiak was an All-American in the 10,000 meters a year ago and followed that up by earning All-America honors in cross country this past fall. Sandwiched between those two achievements, the philosophy and Spanish double major was named an Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Lawrence track and field and cross country coach Jason Fast believed feats like this were possible for Janusiak when he saw him running for South Milwaukee High School.

"Seeing the kind of dominant runner he was in high school, he always was a great competitor. Knowing that he had that level of competitiveness, I knew he had a very high ceiling," Fast said.

It was during the Midwest Conference's indoor championships in Janusiak's rookie track season of 2016 that the rest of the conference found out what was to come.

"Going in (to the 5,000) he was ranked in the top 10 and came up and finished second overall with a big PR, and he finished feeling lke he could do more," Fast said.

More is exactly what he's done. Over the past three years, Janusiak has became the first Lawrence cross country runner (and the sixth in conference history) to win the MWC Championships title three consecutive times. In track and field, he won the conference title in 5,000 meters indoors for three straight years and took the league title outdoors in the 10,000 for the past three years. He is now a five-time national qualifier (cross country in 2017 and 2018, indoor track in 2019 and outdoor track in 2018 and 2019).

Janusiak also owns the Lawrence records in the 3,000 and 5,000 indoors and the 5,000 and 10,000 outdoors. He also has the Lawrence and Midwest Conference records for the fastest 8,000-meter cross country time of 23:55.7.

"The big thing Josh does well is he takes everything one day at a time," Fast said. "Any task you have to do in life, if you look at it as a whole, it's harder to accomplish. If you focus on today, and what you have to do to be great today, that's much easier. That's what we preach as a team. It's great to have that example of Josh on the squad."

The year-round training regimen of a great distance runner meshes well with Janusiak's personality, and it shows in the results.

"I see running as doing something I love every day," Janusiak said. "I see all the mental benefits I get from it. Competing in any aspect of your life in something you like is healthy. I see races as another opportunity  to perform you best in something you love, and it keeps me going."

Another key to maintaining that commitment to excellence has been the partnership with teammate Joe Kortenhof, himself a multiple all-conference performer in cross country and track.

"Having Joe come in after my freshman year was a huge blessing," Janusiak said. "It would have been a lot harder to stay focused during the winter without him."

With Fast setting the training and Kortenhof by his side, Janusiak has pushed himself to great achievements. The theme for each season has always been to run with the elites at the NCAA Championships.

"My sights were always set on competing at the national meets and that's been very fulfilling," Janusiak said. "I'm excited to do it one more time."

Fast is just as eager to watch his star one more time, and Janusiak enters the 10,000 ranked 16th with a time of 30:28.80.

"Josh really wants to go out as an All-American," Fast said. "It's never just getting to nationals, it's being competitive at the national level. He's going to put himself right in there, and he has a good chance. I don't care where he's ranked. He'll be ready to compete, and there will be a lot of people who aren't. Now it's just a matter of doing what he's capable of."

Fast is also likely to be a little wistful as he sees Janusiak circle the track for the final time.

"Coaching Josh has been amazing," Fast said. "It's something that as a coach I've dreamed of since I took the position. It's been a long time coming but it's been worth the wait.
I said at our banquet this weekend ... my next challenge is to find someone or a couple of people that can break his records.

"I consider myself lucky to have had such a great part in it and to have had the greatest seat in the house for his whole career."