LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - A Central High School sophomore who runs on the varsity track and cross county teams is now qualified to compete internationally.
But it's not for his talent in running shoes.
With each step, Paul Schmitt gains momentum on the track with his team.
"I train really, really hard for track and cross country," Schmitt, a Central sophomore said.
With every sprint, Schmitt looks to improve. That's why he traded in his running shoes for snowshoes this winter, and practiced running the trails at Goose Island.
"My first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a lot harder than just running,' you know. You got six pounds of snowshoes on your feet, and it's just a lot harder than a cross country race," Schmitt said. "It's something that's really unique."
"You got resistance in the form of snow, the weather's an adversity, so when you have all those extra elements added in, it just makes you a better runner," said Neils Anderson, Central's track and field head coach.
Anderson said it was the perfect cross-training exercise for one of his star runners.
Fellow coach Keith Christenson agreed.
"(Schmitt's) the guy who never questions a workout. If you say the workout is 10 miles, his only question is gonna be 'What route to we need to do,'" Christenson said.
That motivation led Schmitt to qualify for the National Snowshoe Championships in Bend, Oregon this March.
"It's probably the hardest race I've ever run, hands down," Schmitt said. "I got up the mountain, it's probably, like, 4,500 feet in the air -- there's no air up there. But I'm like, ‘I'm gonna push through, I'm gonna do the best I can. Whatever happens, happens.'"
Coming in with a time of 33 minutes and one second, Schmitt secured himself the bronze and spot in the World Snowshoe Championships in Sweden.
"It's pretty incredible to have a kid that's this young, this motivated," Anderson said. "And to have just (stepped) into snowshoeing almost accidentally…"
But don't expect Schmitt to give up his running shoes just yet.
"I'm kinda a speed freak. I like the speed," Schmitt said.
Which is good, because he seems to be one step ahead.
The World Snowshoe Championships will take place in February 2014. For now, Schmitt is focusing on making state with his Central track team.
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