Most people dread running. Something about middle school P.E. teachers cruelly dubbing a mile-and-a-half trudge across school property a “fun run” just ruins it for most.
Rex Shields, on the other hand, lives to run.
Shields, a 6-foot-1 senior captain of the BYU men’s cross-country team, regularly runs up to 90 miles a week. That equals 60 of those despicable "fun runs" – every week.
“I’ve learned throughout life, and especially on my mission, that working hard produces results,” Shields said. “If you’re dedicated to something, you’ll put forth the effort and you’ll see the results.”
Shields knows what he’s talking about. His hard work paid off last year as he finished 22nd at the NCAA Cross Country Championship, earning him All-American honors.
It was a little league football coach who first recognized Shields’ running ability. After seeing him repeatedly outpace the other kids, the coach urged Shields’ father, Greg, to get his son into track.
“The coach mentioned to my dad how fast I was and told him he should put me in track meets,” Shields said. “I started running and did well, so I started to really enjoy it.”
Sometimes on weekends, Greg Shields would take his son to Kiwanis Park in Provo for youth cross-country races. It was during those races that Shields first became acquainted with his current teammate and friend Jared Rohatinsky.
“He used to beat me all the time,” Shields recalls. “It’s kind of funny because now we’re on the same team and we’re such good friends.”
Rohatinsky said he remembers Shields better from their time competing against each other in high school than from those early days at Kiwanis Park. According to Rohatinsky, Shields was an intense competitor who was more focused on putting forth his best effort than becoming chummy with his rivals.
“He wasn’t rude or standoffish, he was just very focused on competing well,” Rohatinsky said.
According to Rohatinsky, Shields’ intensity must run in his blood. Last year, the two teammates went to Spanish Fork to go shooting at a rifle range. They met up with Shields’ cousin to drive out to the range together. When Rohatinsky climbed into the cousin’s car and introduced himself, Shields’ cousin spun around in his seat with his mouth wide open.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” he said. “I wanted to break your little legs when you guys were in high school.”
Rohatinsky laughs when he thinks back on the experience.
“Apparently Rex’s family and friends shared his intensity when we were rivals in high school,” he said. “When I compare our relationship then to the friendship we have now it makes me laugh.”
It was during those years of high school rivalry that Shields came into his own as a runner. As a freshman and sophomore runner for the Springville Red Devils, Shields displayed potential, but his junior season was when he really began to shine.
“When the success started coming, he started to love running more,” said Jeff Wales, Shields’ high school coach. “He turned into a student of running and got excited about strategy and learning how to win.”
Wales recalls the moment in Shields’ junior year when he began to evolve as an athlete. According to Wales, after winning the junior boys race at the Foot Locker Cross Country West Regional Championships, Shields became a new runner.
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