Clarksville, Ark.-At the urging of high school basketball teammates, Jeremy Provence began running cross country his senior year, and now only a few years later he has established himself among the elite college runners in the American Southwest Conference.
Provence, from the remote community of Winfry Valley in Crawford County, ran in only a few races at Mountainburg High School. But the 5-foot-6, 135-pound senior at the University of the Ozarks will lead the Eagles into the NCAA III Regional this weekend as one of the top collegiate runners in the South. Provence is attempting to become the first Ozarks runner since 1996 to qualify for the national race.
“To qualify for nationals would be awesome,” said Provence. “That would be difficult to put in words. My goal is always to go out and run faster than the last race. This weekend I would like to be 15 seconds faster than what I ran at the conference championships.”
Head Coach Brian Hull believes Provence has a good chance to move on to nationals.
“He stands a pretty good chance to qualify for nationals,” said Hull. “It would be a great way for him to go out as a senior.”
Provence had an up-and-down previous three years, but has been a different runner this season. Hull believes the answer was simple. He worked hard in the offseason.
“I think his work ethic is what sets him apart,” said Hull. “He wants to work harder and harder no matter what he does the previous race. He wants to get better. He doesn’t want to leave anything out there.”
Provence realized in the spring of his junior year that he would have only one more chance to run at the college level. He was determined to improve.
“I knew in the spring I only had one more year to run so this summer I worked hard,” said Provence. “I am not a natural born runner. I don’t have the build other than I am thin. I have worked as hard as I could. Running is part of me now. I love it.”
Provence has established himself as a force among ASC runners his senior season. He finished second overall at the 8K ASC Championships October 29 with a time of 25:54.19, the fastest time in school history. He has been Ozarks top finisher in four of their races this year and won individual titles at the Ozarks Invitational and the NCAA III Arkansas Championships.
Known for his strenuous workouts, Provence isn’t satisfied with just training. He pushes himself to pain.
“I call it good pain,” he said. “It’s not an injury pain, but rather a different kind of pain. It’s just pushing myself to get better. A race wouldn’t be a race unless you went through pain and you have to go through pain to get better. I have a tendency to push myself.”
Over the summer, Provence would run the mountainous terrain around his home, including those days after working long hours. Provence was also conscience of his eating habits.
“During the summer, I counted and watched what I ate,” said Provence. “I made sure I ate healthy. I never drink cokes or alcohol and I drink decaffeinated tea. I monitor my weight, too.”
The physical education major has also done well in the classroom. Provence, who will continue his education in either exercise science or physical therapy, has been a member of the ASC All-Academic Team for three years. No doubt Provence learned the value of hard work from his younger years.
“I’ve helped my father with farm work since the time I was able,” he said. “I have helped with his saw mill business. It is hard work. He has always told me you don’t get anything unless you work for it. That’s what I grew up believing.”