Every year there are hundreds or even thousands of NCAA XC and track runners who finish out their 4th year of the sport despite having no scholarship and not making the championships team.
Most cross country teams carry 16 to 20 members, so roughly half of them don't make the championships team. I'd say an average team has one senior who fails to make the travel squad, and yet they finish out their year racing as hard as they can. Why not write an article about them? What they did is even more meaningful, since they didn't even have a payoff their senior year.
My suspicion is that if you were to interview this kid, you'd find it was more about eliminating bad habits than making some radical change. You'd probably find that he actually trained this summer, whereas in past years he had an internship or partied in his hometown or something like that. Or this year he had much easier classes in the fall, so had more energy than previous years.
I had a teammate in college who didn't even make the team his freshman and sophomore years. His Junior and Senior years he barely made the team and never travelled. He stuck with it anyway. After he graduated, he continued to run and train as hard as he could. Fast forward to 5 years out of college, he's still running and still PRing. He's not about to win any championships, but if you want a story about perserverance and commitment to the sport when the only payoff is personal satisfaction, there are many men/women like him.
Shoot, Jamin kind of fits into that category too, now that I think about it. Mid pack guy in college, continues to run and improve despite no elite level aspirations.