I grew up in Louisville, Ohio where I attended Sacred Heart of Mary in grade school and middle school. It’s no longer a school, but I still have many fond memories and close friends from that time. At Sacred Heart of Mary I played basketball, football, and ran track. There was no cross country program, but I doubt I would have ever even considered it at the time. Football was my passion in 7th and 8th grade, and I excelled very much at it. In track and field, believe it or not, I did sprints, and the farthest distance I ever competed was at 400m. I was a bit naive at the time and joked with the other sprinters on how terrible it would be to have to run farther than a lap! In gym classes though I would always be the first to finish any endurance events, but I never thought anything of it. Whether it was running to a flag across a grass field and back, or to the end of the gym and back, I was winning and enjoying myself.
I went to St. Thomas Aquinas for high school and played football my Freshman year. Football is actually where I realized my true stamina compared to most. Before each practice we would do multiple laps around the football field for our cardio. I was always way ahead. At this time, I still did not know cross country was a sport or that Saint Thomas even had a program. I had a good freshman football campaign so once the season ended I couldn’t wait for next year!
I decided to run track in the Spring to condition for football. I wound up training with some of the distance guys and a coach named Matt Reneker. I still remember my first run. I don’t quite remember the distance (it wasnt far), but I remember not being able to feel my legs. They hurt so bad! Reneker’s class room was on the third floor and I could barely walk up to it! This pain though was different to me and a challenge to overcome. I loved this feeling.
Once track started I got stuck running 800’s miles and two miles. I loved the challenge of something different though and the stigma of being labeled as anything other than a football player wore off quickly. I was a freshman in high school and I was having a lot of what I viewed as success very early.
The only race I remember vividly as a freshman was the 1600m district race at Norwayne. I had a competitor named Nicholas Dysle, a talented runner from East Canton in the race, who I looked up to. I figured if I could stay with him for a few laps, I’d qualify. After the first lap I exchanged blows back and forth with Dysle till he eventually edged me at the line. I finished fourth, made it to regionals, and set a new PB in the 1600m by 14 seconds in a time of 4:41. To me as a freshman, that was a fantastic time. I found out cross country was a sport, and I made the difficult decision to quit football and run cross country my sophomore year. The rest is history.
Our cross country team went to being one of the worst programs in Ohio to being State champions my Junior and Senior year in cross country. I individually was a five time All-ohioan. I was never an individual state champion though, I had gotten 2nd, and 3rd, I felt I still had unfinished business to do in college.
My experience overall at Malone was a great one. Malone University (it was Malone College at first) is located in Canton, Ohio and the cross country program lead by THEE Jack Hazen has always been very successful. Transitioning to college initially was difficult for me. My family moved to South Carolina at this exact time and it was a lot to take in at first. My freshman year I was not on varsity but the team went on to win nationals in the NAIA.
Sophomore year I met my now girlfriend Sara Polatas. I attribute a lot of my success to the stability she provides me. We were national champions in the NAIA again, and this time I was on our varsity and it was an amazing moment.
Junior year is when I actually started my love for marathon training. The NAIA in Track and Field has the marathon as one of its event (the coolest thing ever!). I knew Senior year we were going to be transitioning to DII or I would have waited till my Senior year to do this. I dove head deep into long marathon sessions and loved every minutes of it. I went on to finish 2nd in the nation in my marathon debut in a time of 2:28:32.
Now Senior year came along and I was in the best shape of my life, but I had nothing to show for it. I won our last 4 cross country meets of the year, but had no post season. I finished cross country with a bitter taste in my mouth from not getting a chance to compete with the best.
Indoor track came along and I was still running at my best, posting a PR in the 5k with a 14:33 at Kent St (which was a great time for me!) but nothing real to compete for. Then outdoor rolled along, and we were still in the same boat, no post season. I ran a 30:08 10k which once again was a huge PR for me, but it meant nothing. It was extremely frustrating and it felt like a waste of time. Looking back now at these moments that were not in my control, I feel like they have made me a stronger athlete.
During this time of transition for our University I got a chance to run the Chicago marathon after track. A spot opened up through work at Second Sole two weeks before the race and I had to go! I am always in good marathon shape! I went to Chicago in 2012 with Shannon Bragg and ran a 2:23:28 for 36th place. I was really happy with that time, and was never quite sure if I would improve much.
I had been working at Second Sole (and still am), a local specialty shoe store, for a few years while in college. A post collegiate team developed called teamRED, sponsored by Second Sole, Newton, and Sugoi. I was excited to join this team and really get into some serious marathon training. We got off to a some what rocky start. At the Columbus marathon in 2013 I finished 4th overall in 2:24:00, that was disappointing though for my goals. I wanted to run faster!
Next fall rolled around and all my training had been going great. Twin Cities was the peak race for me. It was the U.S. Championships and a very big deal. I remember not being very nervous at the start line because I knew how well my training had gone. My goal was to just go out and compete. I ended up finishing 11th overall in a PB of 2:18:32. I was and still am ecstatic.
Two weeks later I went after the Columbus marathon again. I was still very sore from Twin Cities obviously, but the disappointment from last year still lingered. This time I finished 3rd overall in 2:20:52, mixing it up with the Kenyans. I was top American, and top Ohioan.
My post collegiate life still continues. I hope to keep adding more and more highlights to this page. 2015 is going to be a great year!