Joining the cross country team was not something Lanai High & Elementary School senior Jacob Janikowski always dreamed of doing. Rather, it came about by chance after running a six-and-a-half-minute mile during his eighth grade P.E. class. “The [LHES] athletic trainer just happened to be substituting for our class that day and she told me I should join the cross country team next year because my time was really good,” recalled Jacob. “So the next school year, I just showed up at the first practice and ended up being the fastest guy there to my surprise, so I stuck with it.”
Although naturally talented, winning isn’t everything to Jacob, who says being with the team and attending the events are what he enjoys most about running. This was most apparent when Jacob competed at the HHSAA State Cross Country Championships on Kauai at the end of October. “Even when I try to be my best, I always end up comparing myself to others and just feel so down,” said Jacob. “When I finally qualified for states, I just let it all go, I set a goal to ‘have fun.’ It was my first time ever in Kauai and my last run on the team, so I just wanted to make the most out of the trip.”
After starting the race, Jacob noticed a fellow runner grab the back of his leg, while hobbling on the other leg. Jacob jogged over to the runner and asked if he wanted to stop or finish the race. The runner said he wanted to keep going. “He seemed disappointed in himself, and it reminded me of how I was feeling just weeks before,” said Jacob. The two runners took the rest of the course slowly, with Jacob helping to encourage his competitor-turned-companion throughout the race.
They eventually finished the race together, with Jacob placing last. “The fact that I wasn’t focused on placing high helped [me assist someone else] since it gave me no reason not to stay back there,” Jacob recounted. “I really believed that the stars aligned in order for us to cross paths.”
Running comes naturally to Jacob, and so does helping others. During the pandemic, Jacob rallied his classmates and others in the community to build over 20 desks made from 100% recycled material for students who didn’t have a dedicated place to do schoolwork at home. Earlier this year, he also organized a youth skate event for National Go Skateboarding Day by gathering donations from local businesses and working with the Parks and Recreation department to bring out skate ramps from storage. Obsessed with skateboarding himself, he thought the event could get other kids excited for the future skatepark coming to Lanai next year. “As there are few resources or activities for youth here compared to other islands, I try to push for additions in our community,” said Jacob.
When asked where his generous spirit comes from, he says, “I don’t know about generosity, I just try to be kind and treat others in a way I want to be treated.” The future looks bright for this community-minded athlete as he finishes his last year at LHES.