Blazing trails: Although quiet in demeanor, Cornett has excelled as cross-country runner for Titans
Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 12, 2023
By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier
CLEMMONS — Shane Cornett may be quiet with his personality, but he makes plenty of noise with his legs.
Cornett, a junior, is one of the top runners on the boys cross-country team at West Forsyth. But he discovered by accident in sixth grade that he could be a good runner.
“I’m actually the first in my family to start running,” he said. “And I guess I found I had a natural talent, which helped a lot, and realized I had good talent sophomore year.”
Cornett lived a number of years in Mebane, which is about an hour east of Clemmons in Alamance County. Cornett, his father, Christopher Cornett Sr., his stepmother, Caroline, and three siblings — Christopher Jr, who just graduated from West Forsyth this past June after playing baseball and golf; James, who is a freshman on the boys cross-country team at West Forsyth; and half-sister Grace, who is now five — moved to Clemmons when Shane was in eighth grade, which was during COVID-19.
“I didn’t really have a sport going into middle school and wanted to try something new,” Shane said. “So, it just stuck with me for a while and really like (running) now.”
Cornett ran in middle school in sixth and seventh grade in Mebane, but when he moved to Clemmons, he could not run because of COVID-19.
“It was definitely hard,” he said. “I had to miss my eighth-grade year with all my friends I grew up with. And it was a big transition for me. So, after about ninth grade, I really met some people and found my home here.”
Although there were some stumbling blocks along the way since he started at West Forsyth, Cornett has definitely found his path.
“Athletics, really cross-country team, has motivated me a lot and all the friendships there,” he said. “I didn’t really have too many friends my first two years here. It was hard, especially during COVID, to make some new friends and find new people.”
Those new paths have spread and have allowed Cornett to flourish. He’s even used those new relationships to help him develop as a runner as he prepares for the upcoming Central Piedmont 4-A meet, NCHSAA Midwest 4-A Regional and NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship, which will all be held at Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville.
“Cross-country has led me to meet many people, and even in different schools,” he said. “I will meet everyone out in meets and out in Kernersville, where we hold all the meets.”
That speaks volumes about an athlete who, by his own accounts, didn’t really run his eighth-grade year because of COVID-19. Then, he became a student at West Forsyth.
“In ninth grade I pretty much ran by myself, so I didn’t really know anyone,” he said. “And it was fun to run and to be in shape and join the high-school team.”
While being a newbie at West Forsyth, he picked up some good habits from some of the older runners on the cross-country team.
“A lot of the seniors my freshman year motivated me, and the upperclassmen helped me to really find and enjoy the sport,” Cornett said. “Not just the running, but also the people within it.”
The sport of cross-country was all new to Cornett.
“I really had no clue what I was getting into,” he said. “I just came to run and do whatever the coach told me. I definitely worked through it slower and (was) still figuring it out until my 10th-grade year. I really got into it, learned everything there was to running, and found every strategy there is to get faster.”
His coach at West Forsyth, Nathan Newsome, also noticed that.
“He’s pretty mellow,” Newsome said. “Last year, when he started, he started emerging, and it was looking like he was going to be really good. He doesn’t say much at all.”
According to Newsome, he listens to Cornett because he generally knows it’s important if Cornett is going to say something. And Cornett also became a better runner.
“I don’t remember so much about freshman year, and that was weird anyway because it was COVID, you know, the whole shooting match,” Newsome said. “But last year, I remember he — all of a sudden, his times started dropping. And they start figuring it out. You know, usually, if they’re talented, then they just kind of figure out how to race.
“The best I can tell after doing this for so long is that all of the runners experience discomfort. And some, I use the analogy, like pushing down the gas on the accelerator in the car. You know, I push it down a little bit and it’s uncomfortable. So, it’s logical if I push it down all the way, it’s going to be a whole lot more uncomfortable. And what they figure out is it’s not really like that unless you just sprint and do something insanely stupid and run the first mile or half-mile like all out or something, then you just kind of get lactic, and you lock up, and you can’t continue.”
As runners grow and mature, they know how to push the limits of what they can do.
“There’s a range of, ‘Oh, I can tolerate this,’” Newsome said. “And with those new runners, the talented ones, especially, it’s about them figuring out how much they can push and how they can be brave enough to push through it and see where they’re at.”
At just 5-foot-5, Cornett has learned that there’s a balancing act with how you train and run. According to Cornett, his best time as a freshman for the Titans was 19:01, and it was 17:12 last year as a sophomore, and he just ran 16:59 at the adidas XC Invitational.
“I really started taking it seriously by sophomore season,” he said.
This past weekend at the Wendy’s Invite at McAlpine Park in Charlotte, Gunnar Douglass of West Forsyth finished 67th at 17:01.14, and Cornett finished 68th at 17:03.87. However, Cornett’s best time this season was 16:59.9 on Sept. 16 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
“I think I’m ready to start wrapping up my season and dropping my biggest time soon, and maybe I’ll make states, which would be a very good thing for me,” Cornett said.
Cornett and all the other runners are rounding into shape and pushing themselves harder as the regionals approach on Oct. 28, and the state championship is scheduled for Nov. 4.
“When they get older, they become a bit more savvy how the training works,” Newsome said. “In my opinion, they all run better when it gets cooler—just the physiology of it. Usually, later in the season, when you get those colder days, you know, regionals, you might have to wear gloves. And they usually run fast by default during that.
“The only thing that I wish is, Ivey Redmon is not a really fast course, and our conference, regional and state championship are all there.”
Cornett feels that he has a chance to fare well in the upcoming big events.
“Ivey Redmon is a familiar course, and we ran it so many times now we should have the smart strategy to run it and really just drop the best times of the season,” he said.
No matter what happens with how Cornett the Titans finish this season, he will be back next season for this senior year. He also runs indoor track in the winter, as well as outdoor track in the spring.
“I hope for his sake, to help with his confidence, I hope that he has some performances that he feels like he’s satisfied with somewhat transitioning into track,” Newsome said. “I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
All of the success that Cornett has had and hopes to have at West Forsyth until he’s scheduled to graduate in June 2025, much of it came from the move from Mebane to Clemmons.
“I’ve thought about that a lot, actually,” Cornett said. “If I would’ve never moved, Eastern Alamance High School would be the high school that I would go to. Their cross-country team does not have the same development, and coaches and abilities (as) here at West Forsyth. So, I don’t think I really would’ve reached my full potential if I would’ve stayed.”