Cross-country star focuses on strategy


Mercury News

Kevin Schneider has been a model student at Fremont High: He compiled a weighted grade point average of 4.3 and aced the SAT test twice, including a perfect score on the math section on his second try.

His father holds a Ph.D. from Stanford, and his mother has degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Utah, so Schneider learned early on to be inquisitive in everything he does.

That mindset helped Schneider become one of the Central Coast Section's top cross-country runners. As a junior he won the CCS Division I title, and Saturday he is expected to battle Matthew Petrillo (Los Gatos) for the Division II crown in a duel at Crystal Springs.

``I like to run because it's a sport where you can track your progress more concretely than you do in other sports,'' the Fremont senior said. ``You can measure excellence with a stopwatch and see if your hard work is paying off.''

At 6 feet 1 and 140 pounds, Schneider has a runner's body. He lacks the speed of runners who rely on finishing kicks to win races, and he isn't especially fast at the start of a race. But his long stride and ability to run hills usually wear his opponents out.

Coach Kristine Nethers realizes she is working with a unique student-athlete.

``I have the privilege of teaching Kevin and being his coach,'' said Nethers, who teaches advanced-placement U.S. History. ``Sometimes it's a bit intimidating having him in class. He has an attention to detail that puts him head and shoulders above his peers. He wants to know the reason why for everything, and sometimes I don't have the answer.''

Nethers said Schneider's analytical nature and competitive drive helped him become a strong runner.

``He is dedicated to every aspect of the sport,'' Nethers said. ``From eating well to getting his rest to knowing the course he is going to run and researching the strategy of his opponents.''

Schneider isn't sure if he will continue to run competitively in college, but he says he will always be a dedicated runner. His wish list of schools includes Stanford, Cal, UCLA and UC-San Diego. He is interested in studying engineering, math or science.

On Nov. 1, Schneider found himself in an unusual position in the De Anza Athletic League finals held at the tough 2.95-mile Crystal Springs course. It was his first time running head-to-head against Petrillo, the talented junior from Los Gatos.

``He blew by me after the first mile, and I didn't see him for a while after that,'' said Schneider, who came back to run a personal best time of 15 minutes, 31.8 seconds, five seconds behind Petrillo.

Schneider said his favorite things about racing are the adrenaline rush he feels when a crowd is gathered at the starting line and the mind games involved when competing against a top opponent.

``I like to come into every race with a strategy,'' Schneider said. ``But you have to be able to change your race plan on the fly.''

Saturday at the CCS meet, Schneider will get another chance to test himself, and he hopes the lessons learned in his loss to Petrillo will lead him to a victory.

``I'm planning to press my advantage on the hills,'' Schneider said. ``In the last race, I was closer to him than I expected at the end. So I'm thinking I'll try to stick with him when he makes that break.''