Photograph courtesy of ETSU Athletics

Photograph courtesy of ETSU Athletics

James Garst can run. There’s not a soul that watched him finish a race for Daniel Boone High School’s cross country team that would say otherwise.

Garst has taken a step up to run at the collegiate level. While he’s adjusted well, placing third on ETSU’s team during the last race, things didn’t start out as smoothly.

“The biggest difference this year has probably been my underestimation of the competition,” Garst said. “The way it was at Boone, everything just came to us so easily. So when I got here at first, I wasn’t ready for this level of competition.”

“The first few weeks here were extremely difficult,” Garst added. “You just have to grind and grind, and keep working harder and harder.”

Working hard is something Garst has done for years. That much is apparent in his ability to step out of high school and into college as a scorer for ETSU’s team, but coach George Watts believes Garst can continue to excel and improve.

“He’s a long distance guy, but at the same time, we’ve got to work on his speed a little bit,” Watts said. “They worked on that to some extent last year at Boone, but he’s continuing to adjust here, and he’s been getting better in practice and in races.”

Garst attributes most of his success to Daniel Boone and his high school coaches.

“At Boone, they pretty much taught us at a college level,” Garst said. “They broke it down to the small things.”

“A lot of places for practice, you’ll just go out and run and see how you improve from there,” Garst added. “We did every small thing you might not do until you get into college, like ice baths twice a week, stretching every single day, just a bunch of little things that not everyone might get to experience at a high school level.”

Garst’s humility is shown in how he deals with his teammates and coaches, not to mention his successes during his first collegiate level season.  

While that type of success might go to the head of a more egotistical individual, Garst has kept it level.

“James is pretty low-­key; if his success has gone to his head, he’s been hiding it well,” Watts said.  “Being a freshman is hard sometimes, but I could see him being a leader or a team captain in another year or two.”

At Boone, Garst was second on his cross country team to Adam Barnard. This friendly rivalry is part of what helped Garst improve as much as he did while in high school.

“Adam and I were always really competitive, and even though I never beat him, we pushed each other in races,” Garst said, “It was always really great to have that one person to chase after.”That has changed pretty dramatically since high school.  

Before, in most races, Barnard would be the only person in front of Garst. Garst’s one job was trying to pass Barnard and get first.  Now, he has to contend with every runner in the race.

No matter where he’s running or who he’s running for, Garst is looking ahead. He knows the objective.

“My job is to catch the guy in front of me,” Garst said.