Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Coach Profile - Dustin Sweeney

Meet Dustin Sweeney

Name:  Dustin S Sweeney
Place of birth:  Winchester, VA; Reared in Berryville, VA
Year of birth:  1983
HS:  Clarke County HS
College:  Shenandoah U

Coaching Credentials:  USATF Level II
Coaching Mentors:  Lydiard, Vigil
Coaching Background:  Clarke County HS, James Madison University, George Washington University, Pacers NB

Dustin's Story / Coaching Background:

Berryville, Virginia is a sleepy town nestled in the northern neck of the Shenandoah Valley.  It was once known for it's vast acres of apple orchards.  It was then, for a short period of time, known for running.  The apple orchards were uprooted to make room for corn and soy beans.  Much the same, running, has been pushed aside.

I dressed in the locker room by myself; tights, long sleeve, hat, gloves.  Laced up the Asics 2040 and I was out the door.  I was fourteen and indoor track wasn't in my vocabulary.  It didn't exist in Berryville.  The only thing that existed were miles of gravel roads, back roads that meander around cattle and horse farms, the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I ran solo almost every day.  

I was preparing myself for the upcoming baseball season.

Spring came and I made the JV baseball team.  My coach came up to me two weeks into practice, took me aside and told me something that I never forgot, and something that has been a theme throughout my life.  He said "when I was in high school I played in four sports, I was very good at all of them, but I wasn't great in any of them.  You have a chance to do something and be great at it..."  Maybe he was just telling me I was a lousy baseball player.  Once you start a season in a sport, you're not eligible to switch sports -- they made an exception in my case.  I finished the year all-state in the 3200.  

I was then possessed.  I grabbed "How to Train" by Hal Higdon, I flipped through and found a chapter written by John Davies.  Davies was coached by Arthur Lydiard.  My life changed that summer.  I ran my first 100 mile week, and it was easy.  As the youngest of three, you always struggle to define yourself.  I was a runner, and this is what I will do for the rest of my life.  

Four years later, I was back coaching at Clarke County.  I was eighteen years old when they hired me.  I would be coaching some athletes that were older than me.  I would be coaching athletes that had more facial hair than me.  I would be coaching athletes that didn't like me.  To have a winning team, you first must develop the correct culture, this is impossible to do without pissing people off.  It's a tough row to hoe, and it can take years to develop.  

It took me two.  

My girls and boys finished third at the Virginia State Meet in 2003.  Parents, friends, other coaches were all elated for me, the athletes and our program.  I was happy, but strangely not satisfied.  I understood that the culture had changed when I looked around and noticed my athletes were not satisfied either.  They weren't breaking bats over their knees, but they were hungry.

Again, everything changed that winter.

The following Monday we were still running.  Of course, some athletes had down time, but I was still there, and people ran.  Where six years ago I was the lone runner, I now had a crew of boys and girls ready and willing to see just how fast they can push their bodies.  CCHS agreed to start an indoor track and I was having the best time of my life.

We went on to win the following three Boys and Girls State Cross Country Championships, equaling Pat Henner's record at Blacksburg HS.  In 2004 we also had both individual state champions and team champions, equaling Ron Helmer's record at Virginia HS.  I was in esteemed company, and I was 21 years old.  Our teams would win eight of ten cross country titles, as well as several outdoor track titles.  Berryville was now a running town.  

I left Clarke Country to pursue the NCAA. This is my dream job.  I quickly learned that the NCAA is not designed to promote athletic excellence.  I can post about that later.  

I learned much from Dave Rinker and Bill Walton while I was at James Madison University.  Coach Rinker allowed me to take the reins of the middle distance program after less than a month on board.  This was my chance!  There was a steep learning curve and I was still developing as a coach.  My girls went to place fourth at the ECAC 4x800, running the second fastest time ever at JMU.  

I moved on to George Washington University and eventually landed with Pacers.  I'm forever grateful for the experiences I had in the NCAA, but in my endless pursuit of excellence, I understand where my talent lies and that's with developing post collegiate athletes.

I started coaching my self and my good friend, Charles, when I was 15; I'm now 30  I've been coaching an incredible 15 years.  I was insatiably driven in my younger years; getting up at 4:30 am, working off caffeine and dreams.  

I have found a great niche and incredible opportunity in the DC area.  DC was once an (elite) running town, and it soon will be again.  

Coaching post collegiate athletes is what I was meant to do and that inspires me every day when I get up.  Meaning in life is incredibly hard for some to find.  I found it when I was fourteen, logging miles in the apple orchards.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Runner Profile - Paul Thistle

Meet Paul Thistle

Born: Abington, PA July 2, 1987

High School: Wissahickon High School, Ambler PA

College: Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove PA


1500m - 3:53
Mile - 4:13
3000m - 8:30
5000m - 14:25
3000m Steeplechase- 9:02

Favorite Local Trails: Rock Creek

Paul's Story

Growing up I played many sports and didn't consider running until I got to  junior high school. I started with track and field and eventually got involved with cross country once I attended high school.  I experienced success and positive reinforcement so I decided to pursue both sports throughout my college years. I attended a small liberal arts institution in central PA and started to improve my times and developed a stronger desire to get faster. 

After graduation I moved to Pittsburgh but continued to train under my college coach Marty Owens. After my first year out of college  I got married and moved to Tanzania with my wife where I had a year of just easy running and no race or competition expectations.  Upon returning from Tanzania I reconnected with Marty and started training with the intention to improve times but long-term goals set on qualifying for USATF Championships in the 3,000 meter steeplechase. 

I relocated to D.C. in April and found an opportunity to work for Pacers and train with a team. I decided to join and Marty was very supportive and encouraged me to pursue the chance to work with American University coach Matt Centrowitz. 

I am excited about  the chance to work with coach Centrowitz and improve my times on the track and venture into some road races here in D.C. as a member of the NB Pacers racing team.

Friday, May 03, 2013

All Gold Everything

Penn Relays 5000m - A Race Recap From Frank DeVar

"I want what every man wants, more."

Going into racing season this year, it would be honest to say that Penn Relays was the main race I was looking forward too. The past two years I was injured well before I could even give the race a chance, so it became somewhat of a desperate mission to make it to the starting line. For all intents and purposes, my body is obsolete. Injuries plague me constantly. Every week I tell myself and my coach, “if I make it through today, I’ll make it.”

We left for the race at 4pm on a Thursday. Tripp drove, with Dustin in the backseat. It was our first road trip together. Tripp followed his instincts, and we made it the stadium around 8:00pm.

On the way up, coach Sweeney wanted to talk strategy and said if the pace was slow to take over. He went on to say that I might be passed in the last few laps but I could still kick and win. There was something about this progression that seemed ill advised, foolish, but he rarely leads me astray so I politely listened and said it was an option. For music, Tripp put on 80’s pop and Trinidad James. He knows how to ease the nerves.

"Gold all in my chain
Gold all in my ring
Gold all in my watch
Don’t believe jus’ watch"
-Trinidad James

At the starting line, I stood next to my teammate Chris Kwiatkowski, and Ryan Witters from Georgetown Running Company. The number one seed had flown in from Flagstaff so I figured he must be in good shape.  Some daffy kid led the first few laps and kept asking for help. I wanted to talk to him afterwards and tell him that it is not a team sport, and no one will ever help him.

After five laps or so, Dustin starts yelling at me with true contempt. He says it’s too slow, and I need to do something about it. Never have I had a coach sound like this, nor have I ever followed directions from a coach in a race. This time was different, I scooted around the pack and dropped the pace down a few tics.  This went on for the next 5 or so laps. Leading is not great, the pace soon slowed down again. With around a K to go, Chris K ran along side me and then passes me. The flagstaff runner follows suit. With a lap to go, Dustin yells at me that I would win the race. He was right.

My last lap was in 58 seconds. I’ve never closed that fast. An official brought me over to present the Penn Relays watch and take pictures. My father was in the crowd. I talked to him. It was a wonderful experience. 

A few days later, this achievement has worn off, and I oddly feel little satisfaction.


15Frank DevarPacers New Balance14:03.36
21Adam VessRun Flagstaff14:04.85
32Chris KwiatkowskiPacers New Balance14:13.57
414Brent JohnsonTrooper's Track Club14:34.94
517Scotty AlbaughMichigan14:34.94