TAMPA — Jordan Schilit needed a subject to draw for a project in his advanced placement art class at Jesuit, so he picked himself. In a concentration essay submitted to his instructor, the standout cross country performer described his mission:
"I will depict my life as a runner — both the triumphs and the sorrows that have developed my character. I will illustrate the vigor and difficulty of distance running as well as the excitement gained from when you succeed. My motivation for this idea came from the first-hand experiences of the wide-ranges of emotions that a runner can go through. I may have achieved many significant accomplishments with high school running, but the hunger for an individual and team state championship has motivated me to achieve more than I could have ever imagined."
Schilit hopes his skills as an artist can do justice to his talents as a runner. Drawings, he believes, often tell a story better than words.
"Sometimes you have emotions you can't describe," Schilit said. "But you can show them with your artwork."
As both an artist and a runner, the senior has come a long way since his freshman year.
That fall, Schilit enrolled in an art class because he was required to. He started with simple sketchbook drawings but ultimately was selected for an honors class and later his current course, reserved for the most talented of the lot.
Schilit also began running as a freshman but initially wasn't good enough to make the varsity roster. Last fall, he placed 12th at the Class 2A state meet. Today, he's one of the region's best distance runners, has a personal best of 15 minutes, 47 seconds and almost certainly will run in college.
Between art and running, Schilit finds parallels.
"You have to be patient with artwork and drawing," Schilit said. "And in cross country, it's not something that just comes to you. (Not making the team as a ninth-grader) taught me that nothing comes easy."
On a highly regarded squad that includes Connor Revord, who is among the state's top performers, Schilit often gets overlooked. But, as Plant's Mike Boza, who coached Schilit two years at Jesuit, put it, "He'd be the No. 1 runner on most teams" in Florida.
"He's running with a lot of confidence, knowing he's in the hunt," Boza said. "He's not afraid to run out front in every race. And he tries to win."