When Jarred Brewster goes to the mall, he doesn't have to bum a ride.
He'd just as soon run.
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In his case, twenty-something miles round trip from his home in Nicholasville to Fayette Mall in Lexington.
Rather than shopping, his intent to reach the mall this summer was "just for the heck of it. People call me crazy, but I enjoy it."
Brewster is the No. 2 runner on the West Jessamine boys' cross country team, behind fellow senior Will Stratford. Brewster is the No. 1 reason why the Colts are much stronger this season than anyone might have expected a year ago.
Seventh on his team last year, Brewster might well finish among the top seven in the state in 2008. West placed fifth in last year's Class 2A State Meet, with Stratford eighth and Brewster in 98th place.
"Somehow last spring, something clicked and (Brewster) decided he was going to run," said Randy Crist, West's assistant coach to David St. Louis (who is Crist's assistant coach at Asbury College). "He's a great competitor and now he's got the base to go with it. This summer he ran just a huge number of miles for a high school kid. Sometimes running 16 and 17 (miles) a pop, and a lot of days running 10."
Brewster's dedication has had a ripple effect.
Stratford, coming back from a summer ankle injury that sidelined him for a month, has someone to push him on a daily basis.
Long training runs, which the team runs as a unit, are spirited.
Aspirations and work ethic have spiraled upward.
"He's definitely improved the whole squad," Stratford said. "And not just (physically), but just the mentality that we have a strong second runner, it's going to make our team so much better. It lets our third, fourth and fifth runners know how much more important they are now, because we actually have a shot at the top three in State."
With Stratford absent from last weekend's E.G. Plummer Invitational at Danville because of a college entrance exam, Brewster broke away in mid-race and won easily.
His explanation for how he rose from seventh on the team is simple: "I enjoy running a lot."
Over the summer, he averaged about 50 miles a week. As his mileage rose, so did his confidence.
He's aiming for a top 10 finish in the Class 2A State Meet. Crist thinks top five is possible.
"I want to be top three and I think Brewster should be top 10, and that could be an understatement," Stratford said. "Who knows? Maybe top eight or even top five. I'm excited because the team scores when you have two runners in the top 10 — which I'm pretty confident we will — that just adds so much (improvement) to the team score."
Brewster's personal best for 5,000 meters on a high school course is last week's 17:48. However, he twice ran road races more than 40 seconds faster last summer. This weekend, West Jessamine and Asbury will travel to Cedarville, Ohio, for a high school/college meet.
Brewster will be on the bus, but he probably wouldn't mind running the last few miles.
"To me, the journey's part of it," he said, "and this is kind of the reason I like running ... going somewhere."