Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year: Teddy King-Pollet, Northampton

Northampton’s Teddy King-Pollet, center, leads the pack during a race against Amherst earlier this season. King-Pollet was selected as the Gazette’s Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year.

Northampton’s Teddy King-Pollet, center, leads the pack during a race against Amherst earlier this season. King-Pollet was selected as the Gazette’s Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By HANNAH BEVIS

For the Gazette

Published: 01-09-2024 4:27 PM

When Teddy King-Pollet first started running, he didn’t even know how long a 5K race was. It took just four years for him to become one of the fastest runners in western Mass., and it was thanks in part to his Bat Mitzvah tutor, former Harvard cross country captain Elianna Shwayder. At the time, King-Pollet was playing basketball, but Shwayder could see some potential in him and told him that she thought he would like running.

She was exactly right.

As a senior, King-Pollet was constantly at the front of the pack in nearly every race he ran. He broke the 16-minute barrier at the Western Mass. meet, placing third overall in a tough field with a time of 15:55. He placed ninth overall in the 2B Divisional Qualifier (16:17.8) and finished 24th at the Division 2 state meet.

Those accomplishments helped King-Pollet be selected as the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year.

“It was my first season where I didn't get sick or injured or both, like I did last winter. My goal is to stay consistent and to be steady, not to be up and down,” King-Pollet said on his goals for the 2023-24 season. 

King-Pollet had talent and skill, but he also had a friend and mentor in Riley Cole, one of Northampton’s best runners in recent memory and the 2021 Gazette Cross Country Athlete of the Year. King-Pollet and Cole are still friends to this day, but King-Pollet remembers a specific conversation with Cole that gave him motivation to up his running game to the next level. If Shwayder got him on the path to running, it was Cole who told him he could be great at it.

As a sophomore, King-Pollet ran to a 14th place finish at the 2B Divisional meet, which earned him medalist honors. He was stunned at what he’d just accomplished.

“I couldn't believe I medaled. And after the race, my running role model Riley Cole pulled me aside — he'd won the race by like 30-40 seconds — and he said to me, ‘Teddy, if you want, you can be really good at this. You can be way better than you are now,’” King-Pollet said. “And my eyes were full and I just said OK, I'm gonna try.’ And since then I just fell in love with it.”

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Cole was right, too. King-Pollet took Cole’s words and ran with them, literally, becoming his team’s fastest runners and filling Cole’s shoes after he graduated. His coaches, Eric Pfalzgraf and Linda Rowbotham, helped him reach new heights with his training. He’s not done yet — he’s still got indoor and outdoor track seasons, and his cross-country career will continue next year at Swarthmore College. 

King-Pollet is still looking to improve his times. But more than anything, he wants to keep putting in the work and finding joy in his running. 

“I love that there is nothing holding you back. It is all about how hard you're willing to work, how much time you're willing to give,” King-Pollet said. “I think my favorite thing about running is that it's self-determined and self-driven. And you can take it as far as you want to, everyone, no matter what level you're at… everyone can find joy and love in it. ”