06/08/04 — WCDS' Exum to run for Mount Olive

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WCDS' Exum to run for Mount Olive

By David Williams
Published in Sports on June 8, 2004 1:55 PM

Kristoffer Exum was a distance runner from a very early age. He used to run behind his dad as he bicycled from their LaGrange home to his grandmother's house, some two and a half miles away.

But Exum never considered himself a runner. He was a basketball player.

"I never even thought about trying to run," he said.

At Wayne Country Day School, Exum and his basketball teammates had to run cross country this past fall for new coach Jewel Marlowe, as part of a conditioning regimen. The first day saw the team take on a three-mile run.

Exum posted a 19:32 timing for the distance, an average of 6:44 per mile -- on his first try.

"I didn't know I would be good at it," Exum said. "It was a surprise to everybody. I didn't know it was good until Coach Marlowe started talking to me about it."

Marlowe knew right then, even if her student did not -- Exum was a distance runner.

Mount Olive College certainly thought so, signing Exum to a grant-in aid to run for the Trojans this fall.

Exum, the son of Elvin and Deborah Exum of LaGrange, will study Physical Health and Education with the goal of becoming a physical education teacher or a physical therapist. He is the first Wayne Country Day student to receive a scholarship for running cross-country.

He received letters of interest from Methodist College and from Barton College, but he liked the opportunity to go to college so close to home.

"Kris will bring a lot of energy to the program as far as motivation," said Mount Olive cross country coach Jennifer Lancaster. "He will definitely be a runner we will be able to help improve. he's a good student and a good athletem and we hope he'll be happy at Mount Olive."

The Trojans lost a lot of runners from the team last season, and Exum said he expect to be throw into the fire quickly. He is a little nervous about running the 10,000 meter distances that colleges run.

"I feel I can do it, because we did that kind of stuff in practice," Exum said. "It didn't seem that hard."

Exum went on to post a remarkable first -- and last -- season as a prep runner. Practicing on a jogging trail at Seymour Johnson Air Force base and running home meets at Wayne Community College, Exum posted a personal best of 18:59 for 5,000 meters this season after opening the year with a 22:31 at Rosewood.

He was 15th in the state meet, running 19:37 on the tough McAlpine Greenway course in Charlotte. He was two places away from all-state designation. In a meet involving area independent schools, Exum finished second.

His 18:59 time for the 5K is a school record.

"Kris has so much room to improve because he's only been running for one season," said Marlowe. "He'll keep training, and his times will get even lower."

Still, Exum considers himself a basketball player that runs, rather than a runner who plays basketball. He has spoken with the basketball staff at Mount Olive about possibly walking on for the basketball Trojans.

"I've played basketball longer," he said.

But his cross-country times bear out the obvious -- he's a runner.

Marlowe said that Exum's work ethic will see him through in college.

"He always gave 100 percent, even when the others stopped pushing themselves," Marlowe said. "He's a hard worker and he does not complain."