This is the story of Ron Swiercinsky, a Champion athlete from Belleville, KS. I know you will enjoy reading about his journey to becoming a great champion and how “Finding A Champion Within” is possible for anyone out there, though it takes tremendous will and effort to achieve. Read on to learn how you can find that Champion that lies within you as well.
Ron Swiercinsky was born and raised in the small town of Belleville, Kansas, along with two older sisters and two younger brothers. The son of a farmer rancher, Ron attended a country school outside of Belleville. When his family moved into town, Ron had to learn to make new friends because the kids who grew up in town at first dismissed him as a “country kid” (their label for anyone who grew up outside of town) and naturally, different from them. Because the town kids didn’t know him like they knew each other, Ron always felt that he had to prove himself.
Ron soon learned that sports seemed to come more easily to him than most other kids. He enjoyed the fact the he was more of a natural athlete, so sports became his way to make friends and socialize at school. He had started playing sports in the fifth grade, joining the local summer baseball league. At that time, kids from the area didn’t really have much else to do, and summer league baseball was a time when the other kids his age could get together with friends. Baseball was the only sport offered during the summer time. Ron figured out at an early age that he liked to compete against other people.
Having started with baseball, Ron’s interests in sports soon grew. In junior high he started playing football, basketball and running track. From junior high on, he was a three sport athlete. He enjoyed team sports, but his favorite sport of all was track. Not only was it easier for him, but it was also a sport where he had sole responsibility for winning or losing. And Ron liked to win, so he always worked hard to be better at every event he competed in.
Ron’s school had great basketball teams and he was All-League his sophomore, junior and senior years in high school. But basketball glory would be elusive. Ron says, “We were a good team, but we couldn’t win the important games. We were a high scoring team, even without the three point line back then. We had a good record and a good group of players, but we just couldn’t pull off the win we needed to go on and win the State Championship. Not only did we have a great starting five, but we had a second five players on the bench that probably would have started on any other team. My junior year we went 22-1, losing our last game to go to state to Frankfort. My senior year, we were ranked top in the state once again, finishing 20-3, but we didn’t win the games we needed to win to go all the way.”
As a football player, Ron Swiercinsky was also chosen for the All-Star “Shrine Bowl” game, where the best players in the state are chosen to play from all sizes and classes of schools. Ron was a member of the East squad and he enjoyed the experience immensely, including the two weeks the top players spent preparing for the game, and the competition they had.
He also enjoyed getting to know some of his All-Star teammates. One of the squad members was Gary Spani from Manhattan high in Manhattan, KS. Gary went on to play football for Kansas State University. He was a starting linebacker as a true freshman and all 4 years of his college career. Gary Spani won many awards as a member of the KSU team, from the BIG 8 Conference and he also earned national recognition. Gary Spani was the first player from Kansas State University inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was taken in the NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, again playing at linebacker. Gary was a dominant player and made the Pro Bowl team many times over his long career. After retiring from the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs, Gary went to work for the K.C. organization. His number was retired to the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of fame. Gary is still working for the Kansas City Chiefs to present. When Legendary Head Coach Bill Snyder started the Ring of Fame at “Bill Snyder Family Stadium,” one of the first names that went up was Ron’s East Squad Shrine Bowl teammate Gary Spani.
Ron says that he’s always wondered how he would have done if he had gone out for football in college, but he never did. He reminds any young athletes out there who are among the best in their sport that they should at least try continuing at the next level, putting out all the effort they can to be the very best they can. Then at least they know they tried and gave their very best.
Ron says that finding success in high school sports really didn’t help him to do better in the classroom. School wasn’t easy for him, and he certainly didn’t enjoy it. However, he did what he needed to do in the classroom to participate in sports.
While most of his high school career was injury free, Ron did have to overcome a severe pulled hamstring his junior year. Ron spent many afternoons in the whirlpool resting it, and learned the importance of stretching before competing. He would finish his high school career in Belleville, KS as a 4-time 2A State Track Champion. He then attended Cloud County Community College and ran track there, but was not on scholarship.
Putting in the Work
When Ron headed for the State track meet, his mindset was that he was there to win. He wasn’t there to make friends, but he was there to get his job done. He did his pre-race warm up, visualizing his run from coming out of the blocks, to taking the first short steps to the first hurdle, and working on his form. He ran the race and ran through the finish line. He visualized his run from the time he got off the bus, till the time he actually ran the race. Ron felt confident in his ability before the race was run. Ron had put the time in all season long, doing his very best to prepare. Like the NIKE saying, he knew he had to “Just do it!” This was his mindset, long before the catchy slogan existed, and it paid off for him at the State Track & Field meet.
These are some of Ron Swiercinsky’s accomplishments:
- Hall of Fame: Class 2A State Indoor 60 yd High Hurdles Champion-7.7 seconds
- Class 2A State Indoor 70 yd Low Hurdles Champion (Tied state record of 8.0 seconds)
- Class 2A State Outdoor Low and High Hurdles Champion
- Class 2A State Outdoor 220 yd Champion
- League Track Meet 1974 Low 180 yd- 19.85 seconds (League record)
- High Hurdles 14.75 seconds
Ron’s excellence came a time when the guidelines on training and nutrition hadn’t been fully figured out. Back then, he and his teammates weren’t big into weights or summer training programs, as the link between different training regimens wasn’t well understood. Also, there was no focus on nutrition’s role in helping athletes achieve their very best performance at that time. But he always tried his best to get better, and freely shared training tips with anyone that asked him.
When it came to competing in sports, Ron respected his competitors, knowing that any one of them could win. He could slip, hit a hurdle, or they could. Anyone could win; Ron knew he had to run his race to the very best of his ability to prove that he was better.
Sometimes, when he didn’t think he had done well, his Dad would tell him what he did well and how he could do it just a little bit better. This is what built his confidence and self-esteem. He was always encouraged by others, too, but Ron knew that the responsibility was his. He had to believe he could go and compete and find a way to win.
I asked Ron what he would share with young athletes and others for achieving a goal or dream in life. He responded, “If you want to do something, then go and do it, and give it 100%. Just because you didn’t grow up doing something, like riding a horse and roping, doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve greatness.” Ron learned to ride and rope in his 30’s and made it to the Team Roping Championships. He was motivated to try something new, and it was a challenge for him. He adds that the natural athletic ability he was born with helped him to find success. But armed with a winning attitude, he didn’t like to lose! “If you start, you need to finish. Don’t be a quitter. Whatever the outcome is, you have to give it your all, and then more!”
I asked him what he could say to those competing in State Championships at this moment…
Whatever you want to achieve in life, take a lesson from Ron Swiercinsky, who has found success in life and in sports of all kinds; “You have to work and prepare and give your very best mentally and physically in your all your preparations from start to finish, but in the end, when it comes time… you just do it!”
Ron Swiercinsky and his wife Stevie (Stephanie) still live north of Belleville, Kansas, on a farm. They have two daughters, Ashley and Bailey.
I admire Ron for working so hard to attain all of his accomplishments in high school and his continued success in life to the present. I’m also impressed by the fact that he wants to help young people achieve their their ultimate goals and “Find a Champion Within!”