“There was this kid on our cross-country team my freshman year, and he was really slow, but we all really liked him a lot. He was really quiet, a really hard worker. One race, it was the hardest race of the season—Fremont’s course—he fainted a mile into the race, but he got up and kept running. And then it happened again, and he kept running. It happened another time—he fainted and kept running. He finished the race in like 35 minutes. He fainted three times and still finished the race. We were all just in awe. We just couldn’t believe it. That was super inspirational.”
“OK, 5,000-meter final, NAIA indoor championships. I ran the race of my life in the prelim, it felt so easy, I PR’d by like 10 seconds. It just kind of came out of left field. So going into the final I’m like, Man, anything can happen. I wanted to give myself a chance to finish hopefully in the top three, maybe even win it if I could. Me and coach had talked about our strategy for the race, and our strategy was to really start kicking home with 600 meters left—it was a 300-meter track, so with two laps to go. I noticed with what was three laps to go, they had two up on the card. I started realizing then that they could ring it [the bell] next time, but I thought they’d get it fixed. There was some lap traffic starting to happen. We came around the next lap, and I’d been consistently closing the gap on the top three guys. By that point, with two laps to go—one on the board—it was about a two- or three-second gap, and I was feeling pretty good. They rang the bell, and all three of those guys took off, and I had to make a call at that moment. I could try to chase them, probably not catch anybody and be totally spent, or I could make things interesting—force a decision. I kind of protected my spot; I went a little bit faster than maybe I would have wanted to. Held on to fourth, and then just kept rolling. I remember looking directly at the guy counting the laps, and I’m exaggerating saying I’ll never forget his face, but his face was definitely telling a story about his internal dialogue as I ran past him. I didn’t know if anyone took off after me. I ran that last lap in a little bit of confusion. I finished the race, and I turned around and saw my teammates going nuts. It sure felt like I won. It was really cool. They ultimately decided to go with the 4,700-meter results. I kind of looked at it as the best of both worlds, because if they would have given it to me, it had an asterisk. And frankly, I think the best I could’ve done in that race was second. I don’t think I could have won. But now I don’t have to handle that, I don’t have to worry about people saying, ‘That’s not a legitimate national title because the officials screwed it up.’ But I still had those moments after the race, and for like an hour it was just kind of floating on cloud nine. When I finished and turned around and saw 20 guys and girls in IWU stuff just going bananas, it was something I will not forget—a really neat moment. … I didn’t know what I was going to do with the plaque—I didn’t know if I wanted to scratch out fourth and put first, or scratch out 5,000 and put 4,700. The coolest thing for me was that I was the subject of a topic that trended on the LetsRun message boards; that will never happen again.”
Neno (speaker) leads the pack in the photo above.
“We were on a Sunday morning long run, and it was like eight miles that day. There were five or six of us, and we had found a new route that month, so we were exploring it on the other end of town. We’re running through a not-so-nice neighborhood, and obviously we’re really used to dogs, but our coach’s daughter, Alyssa, is really good with dogs—she trains dogs—so she taught us that when we see dogs, we gotta stop and just stare them down, and they’ll back away. So we’re running, and all of a sudden we hear all this barking. Three pit bulls and a bulldog come charging at us, and they’re just blazing. We tried to stop and stare at them, but they don’t stop, and we’re scared they’re going to bite off our calves. We’re running out into the middle of the street, then we smacked into a car. Now we’re pinned between this car—which we hit, and the driver was probably really mad at us—and these dogs that are going to eat us. We’re all screaming, not knowing what to do. And now the dogs are like a foot away from us. All of a sudden, this cop comes out of a cop car and starts hitting the dogs with a stick and backing them away. He gets between us and the dogs and saved us. … We haven’t run that way since.”
Julie (speaker) is on far right.
“My high school coach, we call him Coach Pi. I remember going to Illiana Christian, my high school, and [my sister] played volleyball and basketball, and they had cross-country practice around that time. I’d walk in, and I knew [Coach Pi] was the cross-country coach. He’s not a weird-looking guy, but he just kind of stands out just the way he is. He’s like 55 and wears running shorts, and he’s muscular and stuff—he just stands out. I wasn’t even going to do cross-country, and my mom just told me during the summer while they were at cross-country camp, ‘You should go [to the practice for non-camp runners].’ My mom told me to go, and I just ended up doing it. Even now, and during my whole high school career, [Coach Pi] was always doing things to make it fun. We’d play Ultimate Frisbee sometimes when heck, we could’ve been getting injured. We did football tosses and made running fun. He just did the silliest things, and at the time it was like, What are we doing now that’s stupid? It was so different in college—I like college—but it’s just different. I remember asking Coach [John] Foss when I came [to IWU], ‘So do you guys like, play a lot of Ultimate Frisbee and stuff?’ I could tell he was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ … My whole high school career, [Coach Pi] made it fun for me, and I try to make things fun, and I like when other people try to do that. He loves running, and we took it seriously, but he was never—I mean, we had a lot of interesting personalities on the team, so the fact that he balanced all that is incredible. If you knew all of us, you’d just be like, ‘How did he deal with you guys and make you guys pretty good runners?’ He knows his stuff, and he just keeps it fun.”