Three years ago, Cove senior Jack Silveira considered distance running “evil.”

Now, he’s going to college for it.

Silveira will be running cross country and track and field for Eastern Oregon University after signing his letter of intent to join the Mountaineers Feb. 4.

“I got the chance to look at a lot of different campuses and meet the teams. What stuck out to me was the coaching staff and the culture (at Eastern),” Silveira said. “Seeing how hungry (the athletes) are to get better was good to see. Coach (Ben) Welch, I could talk for an hour about his accolades, but he’s someone I trust to get me to where I want to get and get me there healthy.”

And where does Silveira hope to be?

“The ultimate goal is to bring a national championship back to Eastern Oregon,” he said. “I think they’ve got something special brewing there, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Silveira chose EOU after considering an uncommon breadth of schools, from the NAIA level — including EOU and College of Idaho — all the way to the NCAA Division I level — Portland State and Utah State. He also checked out D-II Western Oregon.

“I had a wide range, which was awesome,” he said. “To have any opportunity was great. EOU was just the right place.”

Silveira said the decision was based on what would be a good fit, even though his competitive side wanted to look at one of the D-I programs — Utah State was his second pick.

“I wanted to go to D-I just to prove myself,” he said. “Ultimately I had to look at what the big goal is and make the right decision, not one based solely on my pride.”

Silveira has been involved in track since middle school, but said he took the sport to stay in shape for football. At the time, he was largely a sprinter, and said running “the 400 was even pushing it for me.”

“Distance (running) was an evil thing,” he said.

But track teammates Tim Stevens and Alex Graffunder were among those who kept insisting that Silveira consider being a distance runner and join the Union/Cove cross country team.

Coincidentally, it was Silveira who in seventh grade convinced Stevens to join Cove’s track team. Now, the roles were reversed.

“He took that and ran with it, no pun intended,” Silveira said. “He really put his heart and soul into (track, and) he brought me into (cross country).”

Silveira did run a 1,500 during his freshman year, which made it possible to envision distance running.

“I got a little bit of a taste,” he said.

He went out for football as a sophomore as the quarterback for the Leopards, but finally made the switch to cross country his junior year.

It was a tough move, he said, because football had been his love from a young age, and he was a key piece of the Cove football team.

Not to mention he also had to learn how to be a distance runner.

“The learning curve on getting yourself to compete for that long is huge,” he said. He added, though, that he “had the resources to learn. Tim, Alex, all my coaches — (DJ) Fox, (Steve) Sheehy. They’re all resources to learn what it takes to run at that level. I got to be a student of the game.”

He has since logged the mileage to propel himself into one of the top Class 2A/1A runners. He took fifth overall — and second on the team — during last fall’s state cross country championships. He was also second in both the 800 and 3,000 during the 1A state track championships last spring.

And he’s gone from dreading a 400 to now running roughly 60 miles a week, training frequently with Stevens.

“We do the same weekly mileage and daily mileage,” he said. “We’re typically together four to five days a week.”

Which events he’ll run at EOU isn’t set, but his focus isn’t on the Mountaineers just yet.

He hopes to get his health level back to 100 percent — he’s working through a calf injury — to see what the Leopards track team can accomplish in the spring.

After all, before striving for the ultimate goal of a title in college, he’d like to help lift the Leopards as high as possible.

“The big goal we talk about is we want to see what we can do at state,” he said.