BY JEFF FALK
It has become his signature style, his own unique look. Not many could pull off a Mohawk hair cut, but Jesse Cruise does it nicely.
Yet what’s intriguing about the whole thing is that Cruise is far from a style-over-substance guy.
So does ‘The Hawk’ cause the Cedar Crest middle distance man to go faster? Maybe a little bit. Subconsciously. Indirectly.
“I’d say that it probably doesn’t make me run faster,” said Cruise. “It’s all mental. I feel faster when I get my Mohawk. Where my hair is short I can feel the air rushing through it. I know when I get it, it’s time to start running faster.
“The Mohawk is who I am,” added Cruise. “It’s what I’m known for. If I didn’t get it people would ask me about it.”
“I heard (Kansas City Chiefs’ head coach) Andy Reed say one time, ‘I want players to have personalities,'” said Cedar Crest head coach Rob Bare. “I’ve always told (assistant) Coach (Brandon) Risser that we want our kids to buy into our program, and also have a personality. It’s (the Mowhawk) part of Jesse’s personality. It’s part of his trademark. Everybody knows who he is.”
A Mohawk is created by shaving both the left and right sides of the head and leaving the remaining hair in the middle longer. It actually originated from the Iroquois tribe of native Americans.
For Cruise, it is self-expression. An indication of his individuality. A sign of his uniqueness.
But because of his running talents and personality, Cruise’ Mohawk has become synonymous with excellence, fast times and determination.
“The reason I first got it was because my brother did, and I thought it was cool,” said Cruise. “It’s my favorite hairstyle. I like the way I look with it and people tell me I look good with it.
“I’d say I’m a pretty individual person,” added Cruise. “I’m unique in different ways. I believe it’s important to have God at the center of my life. That drives some of the things I do. It also gives me some confidence.”
“From what I understand, the Mohawk has been going on since at least the second grade,” said Bare. “It’s something he’s always done. Personally, it’s not the right hairstyle for me. I’m not going to look too good in a Mohawk.”
Cruise doesn’t sports his Mohawk all the time. In what has become his tradition, he only gets the hairstyle near the end of the school year, for track and field season.
But it is a tradition which Cruise has remained loyal to over the past decade.
“The first time I did it was way back in the second grade,” said Cruise. “Every single year I’ve been getting it at the end of the school year. In middle school, it kind of became a track thing. At one point, I questioned continuing it in high school. I never do it for cross country, always for track. It’s just tradition. In cross country, my hair’s not really long enough yet.”
“Jesse is one of those guys, when he puts his mind to it, he can do anything,” said Bare. “He’s also one of those kids who will do anything for the team.”
A week ago at the Lebanon County Track and Field Championships at Lebanon High School, Cruise displayed that versatility and commitment, and they produced the meet’s Outstanding Male Athlete award and Cedar Crest’s 20th straight team title.
As the T&F postseason progresses and the meets get bigger and bigger, Cruise will be forced to focus more and more on his personal endeavors – namely the 1,600-meter run, the 800-meter run, the 3200-meter relay and the 1600-meter relay. As long as his hair is in place, he seems poised to do great things in those events.
“This season so far, our team is doing good,” said Cruise. “Four hundred-wise, my speed is getting better. I’m getting a lot of experience running at the front. For the mile (1600), I haven’t gotten the time I’d like yet.
“I’d say my main two goals for the rest of the season would be the school records in the mile and 800,” Cruise continued. “So far, I haven’t been able to get close at all. I’d say in the impending weeks, those would be my main two goals. I hope I would be peaking at states, if I can get there. That’s what the training has in mind.”
“He’s one of those few kids who can take his game to the next level,” said Bare. “When the stakes get high and kids like Jesse have a goal, things get pretty exciting. Anytime he can keep his focus, great things are going to happen for him.”
Despite the presence of his Mohawk, Cruise seems far removed from the scrawny freshman who broke on to the local running scene as the younger brother of Jarrod and Jordan Cruise. By following in their footsteps and learning from their examples, Jesse has grown as a runner and a person.
“I’d say in the moment, I didn’t realize how special it was,” said Cruise of competing with his older brothers on the Falcons’ 3200-meter relay team at states three years ago. “It seems like not that long ago. In hindsight, it was special running with my brothers.
“Coming in my freshman year, I was a little immature,” Cruise added. “I was kind of the younger guy. When I was a sophomore I was one of the top runners on the team. In my junior and senior years I’ve seen myself maturing in different ways. You have to be respectful and you have to worry about the things people are going to remember you by.”
“If you look at Jarrod and Jordan, you’re not going to find better older brothers,” said Bare. “I’ve seen a tremendous growth in Jesse, just his maturity. I’m going to be proud of his athletic accomplishments, but I’m going to be even more proud of the person and student-athlete he has become.”
Just as Cruise was led by his brothers, now he nurtures, mentors and coaxes the younger members of the Falcon team. It is an acquired skill that will serve him well moving forward.
“I think I’ve definitely matured as a leader by being a captain in cross country and in track,” said Cruise, who plans to major in pre-med at Penn State. “The younger guys can follow my example from time to time. It was important for me to get to know those guys first, to be a good leader. I’m setting up friendships so they can feel comfortable asking questions.
“I definitely want to run in college,” concluded Cruise. “I have expressed a little bit of interest to the coaches. I plan on trying out for the cross country team and the track team. I’m going to continue to train.”
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