Meet Hilton Head High cross country runner Jack Felix

Jack Felix pushes himself to run the extra mile, forces himself to train the extra hour and does whatever else he can to become a better cross country runner.

It's likely the reason he is the top-ranked high school cross country runner in South Carolina.

But Felix doesn't view any of it as work. He considers it all enjoyable.

In his career at Hilton Head High, there has been a lot to enjoy. Felix helped the Seahawks boys team earn a Class 3-A state championship last season.

As the team guns for a repeat, The Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette sat down with Felix to discuss his season goals, what it takes to become a good runner and how an athlete could actually enjoy running.

Question: What is it like seeing yourself ranked No. 1 in the state?

Answer: I've been second and third in the state the last two years, so I guess it would be good to try to complete the medal collection and get first this year. It's my senior year, so I might as well finish off a good rest of the season and try to do it.

Q: How much do you think about winning that individual state title?

A: For training, it's pretty much all I think about. I'm out here to do my best, and it's pretty good motivation knowing that you're trying to win the state meet and the guy ranked second in the state, Jack Manesiotis, is training right next to you, doing the exact same workouts as you. So you're doing the exact same things to try to go for that one spot.

Q: That's an odd situation -- you and Jack are teammates trying to help each other win the team state title, yet you are technically opponents for the individual state title. How do you guys handle that?

A: We both already agreed that neither of us is just going to give it to the other one. We're both going all out the whole time. Either way it turns out, it doesn't really matter because it's the same score for the team, and we're going for the team championship first and foremost.

Q: With the team now also ranked No. 1, how is that different than last year, when you were under the radar a little bit?

A: It's definitely makes a difference because we already know that everyone is going after us. We're the fastest team in the state. We know we have to stay strong. All the guys are really motivated. We have the strongest group of guys we've ever had in school history.

Q: Last year, a stress fracture hindered your training. How has that affected you this year?

A: It affected me last year in that I got very minimal training. I managed to run 15:59 last year, basically on zero miles. And then it carried through to track season because I never let it heal. But then after track season, I took seven weeks off. It totally healed. I've had about four months of solid training now, which is the most I've ever had.

Q: Can you feel a difference?

A: Now that I've had the constant miles and consistent workouts, I've been getting stronger and stronger progressively. I can feel myself getting much better. I'm doing all the small things that are going to keep me healthy.

Q: You also began swimming this year -- why?

A: The swimming helps me aerobically. Running, you can breathe the entire time. Swimming, it's takes away that aspect and makes it so hard. My sisters are great at it, and they just whip my butt every time I go swimming. It's devastating to see me swim against them, but it makes me stronger.

Q: How can you actually enjoy running? Isn't running supposed to be punishment in sports?

A: Running is actually very fun. I enjoy it a lot. I enjoy pushing myself and running as hard as I can. That's actually a lot of fun to me. But I'm not very good at other sports anyway. It's all I got.

Q: What makes a good cross country runner?

A: A good cross country runner is obviously someone who is fast. You have to have a natural gift of running. But then also you have to be smart about it. You can't just gun it from the start. It's a very tactical thing -- when to take the lead, when to push the pace, when to surge, when to hold back and go slower. It's a lot of mental stuff, too. You have to be able to push yourself beyond comfort and be willing to be in pain for awhile.

Q: Do you see yourself running in college?

A: I've been talking to a lot of college coaches actually. I hope to get some official visits soon. I've been talking to Syracuse, Georgia, Wofford, The Citadel, Coastal Carolina. I'm looking for a larger Division I program. I want to be on a team where I'm not the fastest, so I can be pushed to be my best.