Josh Rohatinsky finishes first at the 2004 Autumn Classic. Rohatinsky looks to lead the Cougars back to a top-five finish at nationals. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
He stands a towering five feet eight inches tall and weighs a whopping 120 pounds. But there is nothing small about cross country All-American Josh Rohatinsky.
In fact, a friend of his, who coaches cross country for Wisconsin, told Josh that when he told his team Josh's weight they were afraid of running against him.
Men's cross country head coach, Ed Eyestone, said Josh's size is just right for cross country.
"He's actually got the perfect build for distance running," Eyestone said. "You want to have a light frame and a big engine and that's exactly what Josh has been endowed with."
When Josh was just 10 years old, his dad took him to a track meet. Josh decided he would like to compete. He entered and got set to run the 1500m. It was his first race ever. Shortly thereafter, it became his first win ever, and he has been on a running rampage ever since.
"He won the 1500m very handily," Josh's father Ray Rohatinsky said. "I had not recognized anything in him as a runner, but when that happened I decided we better pursue this thing. That's where it started off."
Being a Runner
Josh said he started because of his dad, who has always had an influence on his running.
"He (Ray) kind of got me and some of my siblings into it," Josh said. "He took us around to USATF and little kid meets. My sister, little brother and myself all did well without really trying, and so it was just something we stuck with. It just kind of came naturally."
Josh continued having success with his running while attending Provo High School. He was cross country region champion all four years of high school. He won seven individual state titles in track. He also competed in the Footlocker Cross Country National Championships three years, taking 27th, fifth and fourth, respectively. In addition, he won the Footlocker Cross Country Western Regional meet two years in a row.
Josh said running has helped him develop a toughness he feels can only be built in the sport of running.
"I think running, and not to be prideful about my own sport, is one of the toughest sports," he said. "You don't have any breaks or timeouts, you are out there from the time the gun goes off until the time you cross the line. You are by yourself. There is no luck. It's just pure guts and mental toughness."
He said mental toughness is what makes a good runner. He has become the runner he is through hard work and experience.
"Mental toughness really just comes with experience," he said. "You just have to get out there, and no matter what level you are at, practice being tough. When the time comes that you hurt, you just have to learn how to push through. Sometimes it helps out when I hurt the worst to speed up."
Another quality possessed by great runners is a competitive drive to win. Both Ray and Coach Eyestone say Josh has a great deal of that.
"In anything he has pursued, he has had a tough mental attitude," Ray said. "If he has a desire or goal in mind, nothing will keep him away from it."
"He's the nicest guy in the world if you're not racing against him," Eyestone said.
A Running Family
The Rohatinsky name isn't new to the running community. It started with Ray, who ran for BYU. He said having his kids run at his alma mater makes him feel old, but he enjoys having children who like to run.
Tara Rohatinsky Northcutt, Josh's sister, followed in her father's footsteps and pursued a collegiate running career at BYU. In her stint as a Cougar, she was honored as a cross country All-American three times. She earned the same honor four times as a member of the track team.
Josh has a younger brother, Jared, who is currently a senior at Provo High School. He has been added to the list of Rohatinsky runners. Last season, Jared won the cross country 4-A Utah State title.
Josh said even though his family is big into running, he has never felt pressured into doing it. He just runs for himself.
"I don't have any pressure," he said. "I do it because I enjoy doing it. I've always said--I do it for me. It's nice to do it for other people, my dad loves to see me run, but if I ever get to the point where I don't enjoy it, I'm just not going to do it."
Running For BYU
After a successful running career at Provo High School, Josh was faced with the decision of what school to attend and continue his running career. One would think because of his family's situation and tradition at BYU, the decision would be easy. That wasn't the case.
Along with BYU, Stanford and Oregon both recruited Josh. He took trips to each of the campuses, hoping one would stick out and make his decision a little easier.
"I didn't know where I wanted to go," Josh said. "Obviously my family wanted me to come here (BYU). I went and looked at a couple colleges. One thing that really put me over the top was Coach Eyestone."
Josh said running for Coach Eyestone is great because he knows his coach will always lead him in the right direction.
"It's nice to run for someone you have confidence in," Josh said. "He's (Coach Eyestone) been where we all want to be. He's been to the Olympics twice and he had a successful career in college."
Although the decision of which college to attend was difficult, Josh said he has been happy with his choice.
"I love running for BYU," he said. "It's different from any other school and I love it."
An All-American Season
In 2004, Josh had a phenomenal season. He started by winning three consecutive events: the Alumni Invitational, the BYU Autumn Classic and the Notre Dame Invitational. He was honored as the Mountain West Conference (MWC) Runner of the Week after his performance at the Notre Dame Invitational and placed third in the MWC Championship, earning All-MWC honors.
The season ended with Josh earning his first All-America honor after placing 22nd out of 243 runners in the NCAA Championship in Terre Haute, Ind. In doing so, he led the Cougars to a fifth-place finish, the highest since the 1993 team placed second.
The 2005 Season
This season started similar to last for Josh. He won the Alumni Invitational for the second consecutive year, beating his previous time by four seconds.
Josh is confident he will continue to have a good season and said he has to be if he wants to improve on last year's performance at nationals.
"After earning All-American you just have to expect it to happen again, and not only that, but expect to improve," he said. "I look back at all the training and hard work I put in last season and say, 'That is what I did to get All-American, now what do I have to do to move up?'"
Will He Run Forever?
Josh he is inspired by success, and it is because of success, up until this point, that may inspire him to take it even further. Josh said he would like to continue his running career after college, but he doesn't know for sure what the future holds.
"I want to make running a big part of my life. A lot of what I do depends on these last two seasons at BYU. One of my goals is to run professionally. I want to run in the Olympic trials in 2008 and 2012 and if I do well enough, go to the Olympics."
Regardless of what Josh decides to do he has proven to be a lot bigger than he looks, and according to those closest to him, he will succeed.
But until then, Josh will be the big guy leading the pack of cross country Cougars.