Monday, August 18, 2014

2014 Richmond Spiders Preseason Training Camp

 Check out our photo album
Our women's team at the Cascades Waterfall...
Checkout the entire photo album HERE

Our men's team at the Cascades Waterfall...
Checkout the entire photo album HERE
A great start to the 2014 Richmond Spiders Cross Country season...We will update this photo album throughout the week... Go Spiders!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Richmond Track & Field, Cross Country Teams Announce Incoming 2014 Class

Courtney Thompson won the New Jersey MOC 3200M in 10:22.87
while Kaelyn Heinicke ran 4:52.80 and 2:12.29 in the 1600M/800M
at the PIAA State Championships this year. 
A few thoughts as we move forward to a new year...In many ways, during this past year Lori and our staff set about to rebuild and redefine the University of Richmond program we've been honored to lead for the past 13 years. As most everyone knows, heading into one of the best recruiting years of our coaching careers, in late September 2012, a decision to eliminate the men's track & field team smashed our recruiting efforts for both the men and women's programs.  Top athletes simply heard too many negative recruiting stories from others who circulated rumors that the women's team would be next.  Of course those people spreading those rumors knew then and now that under title IX law there's likely not a women's program in the nation that is under threat of elimination, however it only takes a seed, in many cases, for recruits to quickly jump to a different school.

Although we lost all the men in last years recruited class of 2013, along with several extraordinary women...we did gain a few free thinking, strong willed women who we believe have exceptional leadership qualities and talent.  They think for themselves and make their own decisions based on fact, instead of simply taking on face value the comments from those unrelated to this program.  They chose the University of Richmond based on the traditions our alumni set in years past along with our belief that we will prevail and our teams expectations of success will continue to thrive in the wake of a decision we had no control over...They chose Richmond because we have the best professors and an academic tradition that includes 12 consecutive years of team recognition by our national coaches association for academic excellence (maintaining above a 3.0 cumulative team GPA)...They chose Richmond because we are different than other NCAA DI institutions and we embrace how we are different instead of trying to become something else. Our faculty recognize this and also embrace who we are as an institution of higher learning...They chose Richmond because it is simply...Richmond!

As we worked to redefine ourselves, instead of running away to a different institution, we opened doors and created new opportunities, like the Collegiate Running Association. A vision of mine for many years, with the work of Jon Molz, three hard working UR alumni (Andrew Blanchard, Matthew Blanchard and Matthew Hannay) and our men's team it became a reality in November 2013 (More on the Collegiate Running Association in my next post.). Let me quickly state there a many distance runners out there at the collegiate level who want and need opportunities outside of the traditional sports of cross country, indoor and outdoor track offered by the NCAA.  The introduction of established national championship events in road racing, mountain and trail running provides an avenue of development for college students across the nation, not just here at Richmond.  The fact that they can earn prize money in CRA events is an added bonus.

We are excited about this years class joining our team.  They share many of the same qualities I described above regarding the last years incoming class. The excitement of who will step up, step forward and embrace the training while achieving both athletic and academic success keeps both Lori and I enthralled with this sport here at the University of Richmond. Each a canvas waiting to become a painting with each journey one to its own. What does the future bring? As Henry Rollins said, "pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness".

This team, UR faculty, current parents, parents of our graduates and several loyal alumni (all well within the boundaries of NCAA legislation) can be given much of the credit for bringing a strong group of 15 athletes (11 women/4 men) to Richmond this year. We are thankful for everyone's efforts!

Here's a list of our incoming freshmen:

Richmond Track & Field, Cross Country Teams Announce Incoming 2014 Class

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND, Va. - The University of Richmond men’s and women's cross country and women's track & field teams will welcome a class of 15 student-athletes to campus this fall to continue their academic and athletic careers. 

"Once again, we are pleased to welcome a talented group of athletes to our program," commented Richmond women's cross country and track and field head coach Lori Taylor. "These student-athletes cover mostly the middle distance and distance event areas within our track and field and cross country teams along with a great triple jumper in Liz Montague. We expect many of these athletes to impact our team immediately. There is no question talent is one of the key factors in success at the NCAA level, but it will also require leadership combined with hard work and dedication on the part of these women and men in order for our teams to achieve the goals we have set. The weeks, months and years to come will determine where this class will end up and what they can accomplish. The mark they leave here at Richmond and beyond is yet to be determined, and our staff looks forward to guiding them as we continue to build upon the momentum our alumni established."
This past season, the Spider men's and women's cross country squads continued their long-standing tradition of academic excellence by achieving Division I All-Academic status for the 12th-consecutive year. The women's program paced by 2011 Atlantic 10 Conference Cross Country Champion and Academic All-Conference honoree Jill Prentice, placed runner-up in the Atlantic 10 Conference Cross Country Championships, while the men placed eighth. 

"Our goal is to produce a winning team each and every year," added Richmond men's cross country head coach Steve Taylor. "This includes women’s track and field and men’s and women’s cross country All-Americans, in addition to achieving the ultimate success in the classroom. We excitedly look to the future as both of our men's and women's teams set the goal of achieving their 13th-consecutive NCAA All-Academic Team honors. Each year, our teams look to the A-10 Conference Championships and NCAA Championships as their benchmark. As a program, every year we find a remarkable group of recruits who realize all the benefits of attending the University of Richmond to further their academic and athletic careers. We are pleased and excited by the achievements of this year's incoming class and look for them to continue the advancement of our program in achieving our goals along with helping attract future men and women to our program."

Along with the team performances, the women placed three on the All-Conference list (Jill Prentice-2nd, Tara Hanley-5th and Marissa Ruskan-7th).  Based on her seventh-place finish Ruskan was crowned the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year.  She followed this achievement with by leading the Spiders at the NCAA Southeast Region Championships and earning NCAA All-Region honors and USTFCCCA All-Academic Team individual honors. 
The Spiders made news on the world stage as sophomore Jordan Chavez placed second at the U.S. Junior (under 20) Mountain Running Team.  Chavez went on to lead the U.S. junior team members with his seventh-place finish at the 29th World Mountain Running Championships in Krynica Zdroj, Poland and will represent the Team USA this summer in the 2014 NACAC Mountain Running Championships in Carrera La Chupinaya in Ajijic, Jalisco.

The Richmond women's track & field team is also coming off a year in which they continued their previous record of success. Not only did they achieve high marks in the classroom, the Spiders earned Division I All-Academic status for the 12th-consecutive year.

On the track & field side of competition, the team was led by the quartet of Mary AllenDeborah FajuyigbeAmber Young, and Janel Francis who broke the program record in the 4x200M with a time of 1:38.87 at the Penn Relays, marking the second time this team set a new record in the 4x200m relay during the 2014 season. Deborah Fajuyigbe had a great year placing second in the 200M (24.43) during the Atlantic 10 Outdoor Championships and third at the Atlantic 10 Indoor Championships. Janel Francis had a breakthrough year placing in both the long jump and triple jump at the conference championships.  The sophomore’s third-place finish in the long jump of 5.70M was a season best.

The Spider men transitioned into their first season without an NCAA track & field team following the University’s sports restructuring in 2012.  Spider cross country men student-athletes still have the opportunity to compete during the spring track season, however are not eligible for Atlantic 10 Conference or NCAA Championships in track & field.

Their highlights include sophomore Matthew McKenna’s Olympic Development 10,000M performance in the prestigious Penn Relays where he finished second. The men’s team also competed in the newly formed Collegiate Running Association’s National Road 10K Championships held within the third largest 10K race in the nation, the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K.  This race attracted over 35,000 runners including 3,600 college students who raced for prize money specifically reserved for college students for the first time in history. The Spider men placed four athletes in the top 10 of this national championship event including McKenna’s fifth place finish.  Rounding out the top 10 for the team was Adam Owens in seventh, Patrick Love in ninth and Ryan Lee in 10th.

Stay updated on all the latest Richmond Track & Field and Cross Country news on and by accessing Spider Athletics' mobile apps on your Smartphone or tablet. More in-depth coverage can be found by following Head Coach Steve Taylor on Twitter and by reading his blog. The Spiders also have their own Facebookpage and have launched their own YouTube Channel as well.

Class of 2014 Recruits


Shelby Cain
Haddonfield, N.J. • Haddonfield Memorial
2014 NJSIAA Group 1 Indoor Track & Field Champion in the 3200M … Placed 2nd in the 1600M (5:02.21) … Ran 10:48.78 in the 3200M at the 2014 NJSIAA Meet of Champions to place fifth.
Major wins include:• 1600m @ 2014 NJSIAA Sectional Championships - South Gr. 1&2
• 1600m @ 2013 NJSIAA Sectionals - South - Groups 2 & 3
• 1600m @ 2013 Camden County Championships
• 1600m @ 2013 SJTCA Meet #5
• 1600m @ 2011 Camden County Championships
• 3200m @ 2014 NJSIAA Group Championships
• 3200m @ 2014 NJSIAA Sectional Championships - South Gr. 1&2
• 3200m @ 2013 NJSIAA Sectionals - South - Groups 2 & 3
• 3200m @ 2013 NJSIAA Sectional Championships -SJ Gr. 1&2
• 3200m @ 2012 NJSIAA Sectional Championships - South: 1, 2 & NP So. B
• 3200m @ 2011 NJSIAA Sectional Championships - SJ 1, 2 & NP So. B
• 2011 Colonial Conf. All Star Cross Country Meet
Personal Best Marks:
1600m – 5:02.21
3200m – 10:48.78
5k XC – 17:59.00

Courtney Campbell
Bronxville, N.Y. * Bronxville
Won the 2014 Section 1 Class C Indoor Championship in the 600M running 1:37.80 … Placed ninth in the 2013 NYSPHSAA-NY State Championships in the 800M with a time of 2:14.09 … Won the 2012 Section1 Class C Championship in the 1500M (4:45.40).
Major wins include:• 1500m @ 2013 Fulton Invitation
• 1500m @ 2012 Section 1 Class C Champs
• 3000m @ 2012 Fulton Invitational
• 2013 Section 1 Championships
• 600m @ 2014 Section 1 Class AA/C Champs
• 600m @ 2013 Westchester County Champs
• 800m @ 2014 Section 1 State Qualifier
• 800m @ 2014 Section 1 Class C Championships
• 800m @ 2013 Section 1 State Qualifier
• 800m @ 2012 Section 1 State Qualifier
• 800m @ 2012 Tri-Valley Invitational
Personal Best Marks:
600m- 1:37.80
800m- 2:14.09
1500m- 4:45.40
3000m- 10:18.20
5000m- 18:33.60

Amanda Corbosiero
Roseland, N.J. • Mt. St. Dominic Academy
One of the top runners in New Jersey … Won the 2014 NJ Metro Indoor Invitational 800M (2:16.90) … Placed seventh at the 2013 NJSIAA Outdoor Meet of Champions in the 1600M (4:54.18) … 2014 NJSIAA Non-Public A Group Champion in the 1600M (5:00.14) … Placed 13th at the NJSIAA Cross Country Meet of Champions running 18:50.00 on the Holmdel course … Won the 2011 Essex County Cross Country Championship in 17:44.30.
Personal Best Marks:
800m – 2:16.90
1600m – 4:54.18
5k XC – 17:44.30

Kaelyn Heinicke
Ivyland, Pa. • Council Rock North
At the 2014 PIAA Outdoor Championships, ran the 1600M prelim to win her section in 4:57.55, 800M prelim to win her section in 2:13.53 ... Returned the following day in Finals to place fifth in the 1600M (4:52.80) (72/75/74/70) and third in the 800M (2:12.29) … In cross country, ran 18:20.00 to earn PIAA All-District 1 with her eighth-place finish.
Major wins include:• 1600m @ 2014 SOL National Conference Championships
• 1600m @ 2014 Lady Skins Invitational
• 800m @ 2014 SOL National Conference Championships
• 800m @ 2014 Helman Memorial Invitational
• 800m @ 2014 DVGTCA Indoor Meet #6
• 800m @ 2014 DVGTCA Indoor Meet #4
• Mile @ 2014 Poreda Invitational
• Mile @ 2014 DVGTCA Indoor Meet #2
Personal Best Marks:
800m – 2:12.29
One Mile – 4:52.80
5k XC – 18.20.00

Stephanie Hughes
Feasterville, Pa. • Villa Marie Joseph
At the 2014 PIAA Outdoor Championships, ran the 4X800 prelim and final, 800M prelim and final and 4x400 final ...She ran 2:18.19 in the open 800M final to place sixth … Also placed sixth in the 2013 PIAA Outdoor Championships running 2:17.18 in the final.
Personal Best Marks:
800m – 2:17.18

Liz Montague
Marlton, N.J. • Cherokee
Claimed the 2014 NJSIAA South Sectional crown in the triple jump … Placed second in the triple jump in the 2014 NJSIAA Group 2, 4 &NPA Championship (39’01.5”) and third in the 2014 NJSIAA Meet of Champions triple jump (39’05.5”) … Placed second in the 100H in the 2013 Burlington County Open running 14.78.
Major wins include:• TJ @ 2014 NJSIAA Sectionals - South - Groups 1, 4, NP South B
• TJ @ 2014 Burlington County Open
• TJ @ 2014 Lenape District Cup
• TJ @ 2014 22nd Annual West Deptford Girls Relays
• TJ @ 2014 Hall of Fame Relays
• TJ @ 2014 New Balance Games
• TJ @ 2014 Track Universe Invitational
• TJ @ 2013 East Coast Relays
• TJ @ 2013 Olympic Conference Championships
• TJ @ 2013 Lenape District Cup
• TJ @ 2012 2012 Burlington County Open
• TJ @ 2012 2012 Hall of Fame Relays
• 100H @ 2013 Lenape District Cup
• 100H @ 2012 Lenape District Cup Championships
Personal Best Marks:
Triple Jump- 39’05.5”
Long Jump-  17’00”
100H-  14.78

Haley Preschutti
Collegeville, Pa. • Spring-FordPlaced seventh in the 2014 PIAA District 1 800M final (2:18.90) … Ran 2:16.23 in the finals of the 800M at the 2013 PIAA District 1 Championships … In the fall played soccer for Spring-Ford High School.
Personal Best Marks:
800m – 2:16.23

Kylie Regan
Atkinson, N.H. • Central Catholic
A consistent 2:17 performer in the 800M running 2:17.56 in the 2013 Massachusetts (MIAA) All-State Outdoor Championship … Placed second in the 2012 Massachusetts (MIAA) Eastern Division 2 Outdoor Championship running 2:17.08 … In the fall played soccer for Central Catholic High School.
Personal Best Marks:
800m – 2:17.08

Erin Schafer
Flanders, N.J. • Mount Olive
Ran 19:49.20 in the 2013 Morris County Cross Country Championships … Placed 18th in the 2013 NJSIAA Cross Country North I Sectionals before competing in the 2013 NJSIAA Group Championships and the 2013 NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
Personal Best Marks:
5K XC – 19:49.20

Courtney Thompson
Freehold, N.J. • St. John Vianney
One of the top ranked distance runners in New Jersey as a senior … Claimed the 2014 NJSIAA Outdoor Meet of Champions title in the 3200M running one of the fastest times in the nation (10:22.87) … Won multiple NJSIAA Group Championship titles during the cross country, indoor and outdoor seasons … Placed second in the one mile at the 2014 New Balance Indoor Games in NYC.
Major wins include:• 3200m @ 2014 NJSIAA State Meet Of Champions (10:22.87)
• 3200m @ 2014 NJSIAA Groups - 2, 4 & NP A
• 3200m @ 2014 NJSIAA Sectionals - Non-Public - North A&B South A
• 3200m @ 2014 NJSIAA Group Championships
• 3200m @ 2013 NJSIAA Groups - 2, 3 & NP A
• 3200m @ 2013 NJSIAA Sectionals - Non Publics - North B South A & B
• 3200m @ 2013 NJSIAA Group Championships
• 3200m @ 2013 Shore Conference Championships
• 2013 NJSIAA Group Cross Country Championships
• 2012 Monmouth County Cross Country Championships
• 800m @ 2011 Shore Conference Championships
Personal Best Marks:
One Mile – 5:01.41
3200m – 10:22.87
5k XC – 17:36.08

Sasha Tory
London, England • St. George’s School (R.I.)
Major wins include:• 1500m @ 2013 Nepsta Division III Championship Meet
• 1500m @ 2013 ISTL Championships
• 3000m @ 2013 Mount Pleasant
• 3000m @ 2013 Nepsta Division III Championship Meet
• 3000m @ 2013 ISTL Championships
Personal Best Marks:
1500m – 4:47.05
5k XC – 18:13.00

Jack Chintala
Oxon Hill, Md. • Poway (Calif.)
Won the 1600M in the 2014 Del Norte Duel in 4:34.29 and the 3200M in the Valley Center Invitational with a mark of 9:51.07 … At the Dana Hills 3 Mile Cross Country Invitational, he ran 15:30.50 to place 15th.
Personal Best Marks:
3200M- 9:51.07
1600M- 4:34.29
3 Mile XC- 15:30.50

Johnny Hogue
Cairo, W.Va. • Ritchie County
Over 50 wins while a member of the Ritchie County High School team and multiple All-State, All-Region and All-Conference honors … Placed in the top six at the WV State Cross Country Championships all four years (6th, 3rd, 3rd, and 5th, respectively) … 2013 LKC Champion in the 1600M (4:29.69) and United Way Invitational 3200M Champion (9:44.70).
Personal Best Marks:
3200M- 9:44.70
1600M- 4:29.69

Ryan Lerda
Bridgeville, Pa. • South Fayette
Placed third in the 2014 TSTCA Indoor Track & Field Championship in the Mile (4:29.13) and 10th in the 3,200 Meter Run at PIAA District 7 AAA Championships (9:45.07).
Personal Best Marks:
3200M- 9:45.07
One Mile- 4:29.13

Alex Lucking
Greer, S.C. • Eastside
Earned 2013 SCHSL All-State honors in cross country placing in the top 10 … Placed second in the 3200M (9:40.16) at the 2014 SCHSL State Championship … Ran 9:39.18 at the 2014 Taco Bell Classic … Ran 4:28.29 in the 2014 Greenville County Championship 1600M to place second.
Personal Best Marks:
3200M- 9:39.18
1600M- 4:28.29

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chapter 11: The Brian G. Story

Newspaper clipping from 1977
and one of my first track meets.
For those who have followed along know I've posted several excerpts from a project I continue to work on....basically a series of stories surrounding experiences while growing up in a small town. I've only posted a handful of the 100+ chapters and have a long way to go before finishing.  Here are links to the first few:

Chapter 5:  How the Running Taylor Family of WV Began

Chapter 8: The Paden City Fun Run

Chapter 30: The 50 Yard Line Park

Chapter 71: My Introduction to Lori McKee (25 Years Together...Our Silver Anniversary)

Reflecting on Ryan Jobes...and the Band of Brothers he formed

...And here is the latest:
Chapter 11: The Brian G. Story

“One day you could be as good as my Brian.”

In my early years, like most young kids I was learning and finding myself.  The older I got of course I grew out of playing with my toy Tonka trucks in the dirt in front of our house.  I was no longer a child but forming the outline for a young man.  The aggressiveness that you learn as a member of a large family that included five boys who worked hard for everything was becoming a little more obvious.  There were the occasional fist fights and more often my temper would show itself.  I believe all a normal part of growing up in the West Virginia hills along the Ohio River.  The things that meant nothing to me as a child were becoming more and more interesting and more and more important as I started to mature--if that is possible--in junior high school.  Fishing, hunting, motocross riding, ropes swings and mud slides into Middle Island Creek and the Ohio River and the neighbor girls started to become a little more of the focus and began to look a lot different. 

All the surroundings and events of a small town contribute to a person’s growth.  Some of those were good and some not good…most were enjoyable experiences for me and yet some were horrific, as I mentioned in Chapter 10:  Willow Island (April 27, 1978).  The darkest time in our county's history when we lost 51 members of our community including family, neighbors and friends.

This chapter or story is more of a personal look into a driving force throughout my high school running and a glimpse into how small things can and do leave a lasting impression.  Things that may have been well intended but under the circumstances or within the moment were taken out of context or heard in a different manner than intended...

The Program

In the spring of 1979 I was in 8th grade.  I had been following my brothers and cousin’s high school running careers watching them for several years win state track titles and along with Paul Reed, Scott Jemison, Gene Smith and others help St. Marys High School in St. Marys, WV win multiple state track & field team titles. There was no formal junior high program at the time in our county and I badly wanted the opportunity to race.  We had the occasional road race, however the only meet that we middle school track nuts would have the opportunity to compete in was a junior high meet at Parkersburg High School in Parkersburg, WV.

I was tagging along with my brothers running road races and by now my cousins had joined in our family running craze.  My Uncle Art and Aunt Carol Taylor’s family had joined in…Nearly all of their sons and daughters (Jenny, Dave, Brenda, Rob, Jim, Sue, Tammie and Tresa) were regularly running road races…My Uncle Harold and Aunt Wilta Taylor’s four children (Dale, Kevin, Larry and Glenda) were also racers.  Then there was Uncle Frank and Aunt Shirley Taylor’s children (Brian-shot putter who we lost in the 1978 Willow Island disaster, Mark and Greg- hurdlers and Wade)… There were a lot of Taylor’s in the sport of track & field at this point...Actually, there were a lot of Taylor's period at this point.

Middle School Physical Education

Ginseng-We combed the WV hills
for this gold as youngsters.
We really had no formal training program outside of the high school level.  One of our junior high school physical education teachers had us running a little during class but that was all I was doing as far as training.  I had won some AAU races in the preceding years and felt I was doing enough.  We had no formal workout schedule and yet my brothers were always pushing me to go run, but I generally declined.  In 8th grade I was interested in other things like learning the woods and how to make some money to buy another motocross bike.  I found that avenue through ginseng.  Back before there was an actual season, my brothers and I hunted the mountain gold on Saturday’s during the summers.  As a side note, I made $400 myself, digging ginseng, in the summer of 1977 raising enough money to buy a racing bike: a Suzuki RM 80.  Wow, what a motocross bike!

Our middle school did not have a track, just a loop we ran around trees on the south side of the school property.  The trees were not more than four inches in diameter and were planted in the spring/summer of 1975 the year the Pleasants County Middle School was built.  The loop around these trees wasn’t flat but it was flatter than most places.  We were actually not sure how long it was, but we were pretty sure the loop was really close to 440 yards.  Dissecting the loop at about the half way point was a sidewalk.  We always used it as the marker to start our kick on the final lap of running during physical education class...  We would run down the right side of the row of trees and grab the last tree with our left hand swinging around it and return up the ever so slight uphill other side of the trees. We alternated between running during the PE class and a game called speedball.  Speedball was a combination of soccer and football.  It’s a very fast moving game and we loved it.  Given the choice between running and speedball…we always chose speedball.

The Meeting

All I wanted to do at this point was ride my Suzuki RM 80, fish…hunt and play…not train for races.  My brothers were on me a lot about training…or my lack thereof.  A couple of my brothers were nice about it…and a couple tried to motivate me by telling me I was going to get beat if I didn’t train.  The pressure-cooker that I felt I was in mounted and eventually the comments got really old and I started to resist and rebel.  Finally I had enough and got quite mad…not that Taylor’s have a temper (LOL)…and stormed out of the house as the push to run more and to train increased.  

I didn’t know it happened until many years later, but my parents and brothers got together that evening when I was not there and made the decision to drop it.  They would no longer push me or try to force me to run or train.  They concluded that if I loved the sport and had passion for it that I would figure it out.  They concluded that if I was competitive that I would soon learn that distance running takes hard work.  Thankfully they had this meeting and let me “do my thing”.  It was clear I wasn’t training the way I needed to in order to win races and this would soon become one of the best things that could have happened to me at this age.

The Man-Brian G.

As the spring progressed we began to hear about a junior high school track & field meet to be held at Parkersburg High School (PHS).  I entered the Mile, the longest race they offered and couldn’t wait.  The big day finally arrived and my nerves were on edge.  In the weeks leading up to the meet I went to our middle school library and asked Mr. Derwin Yoak, our librarian, if the Parkersburg News & Sentinel Newspaper had arrived.  Back than if it wasn’t in the newspaper then it didn’t happen.  There was no internet for results to be posted.  I was looking for the Wood County junior high track & field meet results.  The neighboring county to us had a complete junior high track & field season.  As I looked at results and the weeks passed I noticed a 9th grader by the name of Brian G.  He was winning all the junior high Mile and 880 races and remained undefeated at that level.  He also competed for the PHS “Big Reds” as a 9th grader and was still eligible for junior high competition.

Parkersburg High School
I was in 8th grade when I walked into the PHS stadium on that Wednesday (April 18th) afternoon in 1979.  The weather was perfect.  Cool and sunny…no wind to speak of.  I’d been there countless times watching my brothers and cousins compete.  It wasn’t home but it practically felt like it.  I had seen a couple photos of Brian G. in the newspaper.  He was a strong looking athlete that appeared to me like he needed a shave, even if he was in 9th grade. As I walked in I searched the stands for him.  I wanted to see my competition and size him up.

The Meet

As the meet progressed it was time to begin my warm-up.  My 4 older brothers (Mike, Cliff, Matt and Vernon) were there, each giving me advice on how to warm-up, when to make a move in the race and what “he” would likely do.  Not that I was overlooking everyone else but based on results I’d seen, my focus was almost entirely on Brian G…

I headed out of the stadium to warm-up and as I headed through the PHS campus I noticed everything.  I kept thinking about how big the PHS school was compared to St. Marys.  I was jealous that they had a pizza place on the edge of their campus.  Heck, St. Marys did not even have a fast food restaurant at that time in our entire town.  If we wanted fast food like Wendy’s or McDonald’s we had to drive 25 miles to Parkersburg or 20 miles to Marietta, Ohio.  

As I rounded the front of their campus there were large grass fields.  The distinct smell of fresh cut April grass lingered in the air; a smell that to this day is an immediate reminder of track season.  This area is also where they threw the discus…but no worries there was plenty of additional room for warm-up.  As I continued my warm-up around these fields the 2nd time I saw ~him~.  There he was warming up in his all red PHS Big Reds sweats.  I remember thinking he was a lot bigger than me. I weighed in at 93 pounds in 8th grade.  

As I sized him up from my wrestling background I figured he was about 5’08” and 140 pounds.  As I got closer to him we looked each other in the eyes as we passed.  He had curly black hair…high cheek bones and looked smooth running.  I said, “Hi” as we passed and he just looked at me and never even acknowledged that I was there outside of looking at me as I approached him.  No acknowledgment in the slightest, he just kept running on by without a word.  “Oh, that’s the way it’s going to be”, I thought.  I was immediately mad because I spoke to him and he did not in return.  In an odd way it was like I showed a weakness and he showed strength in return.  In our family we were brought up to speak when spoken to and to say “hello” to everyone.  It’s funny how his actions would motivate me in the years to come.  As this lack of exchange took place I felt the nerves a little more in the pit of my stomach. As I went into the stadium it hit me, “did he actually have facial hair…a slight beard?”

I didn’t have spikes, just regular running shoes handed down to me by one of my brothers.  They were about 1 1/2 sizes too big.  As I tightened the laces, people around me were talking about Brian G.  I remember a large group of 6-7 girls standing along the fence around the track waiting to see him.  They were giddy about him and I was amazed this guy could have a group of girls there to see him. It actually impressed me on one hand and made me jealous on the other.  Heck, I couldn’t even get one girl interested in me let alone a whole group.  As I walked onto the track I knew this was it…It was show time.

The Race

The starter called us over to give us instructions then we lined up on the cinder track to run the Mile.  Four laps I thought….I wished it was 8 laps instead.  The longer the better; this would be more like a sprint.   The third lap would be a key my brothers told me.  I looked down at the black cinder track and the chalk used to mark the lane lines was powder dry. So dry that it filled your nostrils like the smell of a dirty chalkboard eraser.   When I stepped on the line a puff of white dust covered the end of my shoe.  The starter called us to our mark; I took a deep breath and slowly exhaled as he fired the pistol. The moment of truth was upon us…or at least upon me.

I went out hard and Brian casually settled on my shoulder.  He and I separated from the other runners within the first half a lap.  We came through the 1st lap and he remained on my shoulder.  I continued to push the pace and he just sat on my shoulder.  He didn’t offer to help with the pace as we finished the 2nd lap.  On the third lap I tried harder to get away from him but he remained quietly tucked onto my shoulder and didn’t seem to be hurting.  He was smooth and as I labored for oxygen, he seemed to be effortless. As we came around to start the final lap the starter fired the gun signifying one lap to go…he continued to sit on my shoulder.  Down the back straight we raced. As we came off the final turn he pulled ahead of me by 1 step…then 2 steps…then 3...right there in front of my family and the whole world.  He crossed the line in front of me by 2 1/2 seconds.  Even though we both broke their Wood County junior high record, I was devastated. I had lost!  

His Mom’s Words

As I walked off the track I went to him and congratulated him.  He just smiled as I looked into his eyes and shook my hand with a dead-fish handshake and then he walked off to the group of anxious girls waiting. Oddly, a lot about this night has stuck with me and his weak handshake was one of them. Yet there he was the victor, surrounded by lots of pretty girls!

I went to the stands where my family sat.  No one said much except “good race” and “that was exciting” and “you looked good”. The crap you don’t want to hear when you’ve just LOST. That’s when I turned and saw a middle aged woman walking my direction.  I didn’t know it at that moment but it was Brian G.’s mother.  She came over and introduced herself by saying, “My Brian was the one that beat you.”  Ouch! That stung.  I didn’t care much for that statement, but the truth hurts I thought.  She continued with blah, blah, blah and then as she wrapped up the one sided conversation she said the words that I’ve never forgotten: “Don’t worry honey, one day you could be as good as my Brian”, as she patted me lightly on the left shoulder.  Those words and actions were unbelievable to me.  They really rubbed me the wrong way and stuck with me throughout my running career.  They were like salt into an open wound.  To this day my cousin Rob throws those words at me as a joke when we get together…We chuckle now, but not back then.  My parents, brothers, aunts and uncles all heard her say it.  All I could think to do was smile and say “thank you.”

Don’t Be Like That

I was determined after that experience to try to be gracious in defeat and victory.  I did not want to do or say anything to give my opponents a reason to come after me in their training. Win or lose, I would shake my opponent’s hand after the race…and before the race if they extended it.  From that point until I graduated college I chose to abide by that rule.  If I lost a race I wanted to look the man that beat me directly in the eyes, congratulate him while at the same time telling myself internally to never let it happen again.  The fact that Brian G. did not speak to me before the race motivated me for years…Those words from his mom were like fingernails on a chalkboard and they carried me in a lot of training runs during my high school days. And of course, I had a lot of brothers and cousins that would take every opportunity to share his mom’s words with me every chance they got….which was often. It was pure motivation.  

The Embarrassment

The meet ended and the days following were filled with embarrassment for me.  I had lost.  My brothers didn’t lose very often and by this time I felt winning was expected in our household, yet here I started my career with a loss...a loser.  Yes, even in 8th grade I thought this and was embarrassed by it.  I slept with the vision of him pulling away from me in the last 100 yards and became obsessed with turning the tide and never going into another race under prepared as I had on that night against Brian G. I learned that night that, especially in the sport of distance running, you must prepare.  In that one race he put me in my place and taught me that I could not live off my brothers and cousins name in this sport. When you step to the starting line it's you against them.  Pure...clear and primal.  Looking back, I’m now thankful that he beat me and for exposing to me my own weakness and at the time, shortcomings with my running.   

We faced each other several times after that initial meeting and Brian beat me on another occasion in my career…The experiences that change you as a person and especially as an athlete can often be subtle.  You must pay attention and grab those moments. As I reached my junior year of high school I won the West Virginia AAA State Cross Country meet and Brian was over 75 seconds behind me.  That state cross country win (Chapter 25) at Camp Virgil Tate taught me that your body is capable of tolerating much more pain than your mind typically believes and three weeks later gave me confidence to win the 1981 Kinney (now Foot Locker) Northeast Region race in Van Cortlandt Park in NYC.  I then went on to place 7th at the 1981 Kinney National Championship as a junior and 3rd at the national finals the following year in 1982…but those chapters are many experiences later in my life.

On this particular afternoon I learned many things…things that took me years to fully understand. Three of the most important things I learned that afternoon? First, be humble. Don't be your opponent's reason!  Second, as an athlete you go from being a runner to a racer the moment your mind is stronger than your FIT body.  To reach that level you must train the body and mind; callousing both through the introduction of discomfort in the form of tolerable dosages of pain during training.  This pain must be embraced and welcomed often in order to become indifferent to it and ultimately providing you with a mind and body driven with the sole focus of achieving success at the highest level.  And third, as my brother Cliff reminded me that night, "if you want the girls attention, you gotta win gotta win!"