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For Patriots’ Konig, winning is more important than time

Eric Sucar
Manalapan’s Chris Donahue competes in the 400-meter dash during the Shore Conference Track & Field Championships held at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River on January 27.

By Tim Morris

Jake Konig is one runner who is unconcerned about time.

“I’m a racer, a competitor,” the Freehold Township High School senior said. “I want to win over anything else.”

Konig has been doing plenty of winning this indoor track and field season. He’s undefeated in the 3,000 and 3,200 meters. He has won four 3,200-meter championships, including his first NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV and overall Group IV titles to go along with Monmouth County and Shore Conference wins. On Feb. 27, he looks to finish his season off with a Meet of Champions (MOC) title at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River.

All of Konig’s wins have followed a pattern. He sticks with the leaders and then unleashes a devastating kick in the final 400 meters. It’s reminiscent of British Olympic champion Steve Ovett in his prime.

“I’m a kicker,” Konig said. “I hang in there until there’s a quarter-mile to go.”

Konig’s last laps have been sizzling — all in 60 seconds or under. In his state sectional triumph, he left the field in the dust with a closing 200 meters in 25 seconds.

“Speed kills,” he said.

However, as a competitor, Konig doesn’t  just sit back and kick. Runners have tried to break him by pushing the pace early, only to find Konig willing to mix it up with them then breaking them with his kick. So much for the theory of taking the kick out of kicker with a hard pace. Konig enjoys the competition and is ready to run any way his competitors choose.

Just ask his competitors at the Feb. 19 Group IV championships. They set a torrid pace and couldn’t shake the Patriots’ standout. He won his first state title in a personal best of 9:15.49. But, as he pointed out, it’s not the time that counts — the winning does.

Konig’s success this season has not come out of nowhere. He was third in the Group IV 3,200 last indoor season and ran 9:20.26 outdoors at the MOC. It’s been the byproduct of a long-term approach taken by Patriots head coach Todd Briggs.

“It’s been consistency over the last four years with coach Briggs,” Konig said of his great indoor season. “It’s been a lot of hard work and dedication.”

Konig pointed out that his training program emphasizes quality over quantity.

For all his success, it’s ironic that Konig’s first cross-country season will be next fall at the University of Connecticut. He spend his falls at Freehold Township playing goalie on the soccer team. It did have its rewards — a Central Jersey Group IV title this past fall.

“I was more of a soccer player at first,” he said. “I did track to stay in shape for soccer.”

It became obvious by his sophomore year when he ran a time of 9:40.89 and qualified for the Group IV outdoor championships that his track talents exceeded his soccer skills, and it became his focus.

“I would practice with the soccer team from 3-5:30 p.m. and then get my running shoes and run 6 miles,” he said of his fall buildup.

Those after-practice runs paid off quickly, as Konig won his first race of the season in December 2015 in a personal best of 9:01.85 at the Demarist Invitational.

Konig is also a grounded individual. He has been volunteering with Students Helping Honduras. He’s made five trips to the Central American country since his sophomore year, helping to build schools there. The organization is currently trying to raise $25,000 to help build schools.

“It’s amazing down there,” he said. “There’s poverty, but the people are amazing, so beautiful.”

It was Konig’s older brother, Jesse, who first steered him toward Students Helping Honduras. He’s stayed with it and this summer will make the eight-day trip with 70 fellow students.

Konig pointed out that he doesn’t put his training on hold. He finds time to get his workouts in. He’ll need them this summer because he will train for his first cross-country season.

“I’ll be prepared,” he said.

At the University of Connecticut, Konig hopes to do some traveling as well — to Eugene, Oregon, which hosts the NCAA Track and Field Championships.

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