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Kyle Gaffney Interview
By: Kevin Milsted

You were one of the top distance running freshmen in the state early in your high school career. Had you done a lot of running leading up to high school? Why did you begin running and where along the line did you become so passionate about it?

Before I started running, I wasnít exactly a standout or anything like that. My childhood dream was to actually play basketball, but 6í skinny white kids arenít exactly top recruits. I know it sounds a bit clichť, but my first running experience was the gym class mile. I got maybe 10th in my grade running about a 6:55. Then my running career went on hold until about 8th grade when the Middle Schools in the county had a ďtrack challengeĒ. The only training I did for it was run 4 practices where I jogged 800 meters, which was the race I was entered in. I think I ran something in the 2:50 range, once again, not spectacular. So I decided to do XC my freshmen year to get more stamina for basketball. First practice, I got 4th in the 12 minute time trial my team always does. I guess thatís where my whole career took off. I became super commited to running during the first track practice I ever had. We did a 400 meter workout, and I had to keep up with our senior mid-d guy, Aharon Conerly (800 champ that year in Moco). He basically destroyed me on all but the last two, in which I finally got him the last quarter. Thatís when I thought, ďWell, maybe running is my thing.Ē

Why do you keep it up day in and day out? What is your favorite aspect of distance running? With all the mileage, do you ever get bored? If so, how do you deal with the boredom?

I remember when I used to think that running 7 days a week was crazy. Iíd slack off sometimes, not even run on weekends unless we had a meet. But after a while of doing that I came to the conclusion that the reason why other guys were beating me was because they were straight up training harder than me. So every day, whether itís at 6 am for a jog or 5 pm in the scolding heat, regardless of how bad I feel, I always remind myself that someone out there is training when Iím not. The whole aspect of you get what you give is what I love about distance running. There is never an off season, even if you think there is. Thatís why itís crucial that you have to be tough mentally. You canít lie to yourself that a run is going be easy when youíre out there for 90 minutes or doing 10 400s. At one point or another, you get bored or exhausted, and when you do, you just have to think about something that gets you mind off of running. I find the Blake field hockey team as quite a distraction in the fall ;) just kiddingÖ.but really, I do.

You have experienced some pretty severe injuries over the last several years that have caused you to miss some time. Explain what it was like working through your injury and working to get back into contention.

I could preach and say injuries are just a part of the sport. But honestly, injuries suck. Iíve had a broken foot (from my basketball/indoor track dual sport season), major shin splints, and a stress fracture in my femur. Every injury, I always got this sense of all the hard work I put in was wasted. I felt that way the most my sophomore year when I had a god awful season following the stress fracture in my femur. But one thing I can credit to my injuries is that they made me realize that I canít take running for granted. Iím really fortunate that I can get out there every day and do something I love to do. All in all, they taught me Iím not invincible, and that to be successful in running you have to be able to survive both the highs and the lows.

Hopefully, your biggest accomplishments will come this season, but what have been your proudest accomplishments up until this point?

I would have to say my proudest accomplishment was regions my freshmen year for track. I got second to state champ Zach Martinez, and I beat the XC Champ Ricky Flynn in the 3200. I was basically this little skinny white kid that no one knew, who didnít know how to race, or even know who his competitors were. I ran that race with the most freshmen of strategies: go out hard and try to hang on. That was when I really got some credibility as a good runner and it made me more determined to train harder.

What are your goals for this cross country season?

Geez, itís hard to narrow it down. I would ideally like to go undefeated and just PR every time out and be the best. Of course, thatís in a perfect world, which we donít live in, so I am not really expecting that. Realistically, I think my only two goals really are to be a good team captain and finish every race knowing that I laid it all out on the line.

While racing, sometimes you sit back and let others take the lead, while other times you jump out to the front at the beginning of the race, even separating yourself from the lead pack by a large margin sometimes. What are you thinking when you develop a race strategy? Does your strategy depend on the distance, the other competitors, or other race conditions? Or do you just wing it and let the race dictate what you do?

In case anyone doesnít know, I am a HUGE PRE fan. I feel like every time I go out and run it should be fast. For the first two years of my running, I had zero speed. The only thing I could do is try and pound out the kick of my competition. This year though, I tried to mix it up a lot more. I wanted my strategy to be a variable to other runners, like ďoh is he going to sit on me and wait till 200 to go, or is he going to be doing those crazy surges he always does.Ē It all depends on what feels right when youíre in the moment, because that way you can always change your mind mid race.

So you have done some experimenting with different race strategies. What have you tried that has turned out to be a total flop? What have you tried that seems to be the best racing strategy, say for a 3200m.

Well, I know exactly what the worst strategy I ever tried was. At a meet at Sherwood, I led for 2.5 laps of a mile against Elias Tousley, who as Iím sure you all know can kick like crazy. Basically, I thought it would be smart to slow down, let him pass me, and then try and out kick him. As you can guess, I didnít really think that through very much. In terms of my best strategy though, I think surging is my favorite. When you do it, youíre in control. Youíre forcing the pain on the other guys. Youíre making them have to react quickly, or else the race will be gone in the blink of an eye.

What would you recommend to young distance runners in terms of learning how to race and developing a good, successful race plan?

I think what probably would help any runner is just reading up a lot about past runners. Just seeing where the sport has come from and what was successful for whom. Most importantly though, you have to know yourself and what you can do. Donít say youíre going try and win with a kick if you canít sprint to save your life. Donít go out and try and run 100 miles if youíve only been doing 30.Do what suites you best and not what is better for someone else.

Graduation is coming up. What are you thinking in terms of the future? Would you like to run for a college? Do you have any particular schools in mind?

AHH!! College planning is honestly a huge pain. I feel like sometimes I just want my parents to make up my mind for me. But Iíve come to my senses and have really been looking for a school that fits what I need (which Iím not exactly sure ofÖyet). But I definetly want to try and run competitively in college. I have talked to a few coaches, both Division 1 and 3. Itís hard to pick one particular school, because every school has something that all the others donít have. But Iím going to go on some official college visits in the fall and hopefully I can narrow it down so I donít have too many applications to fill out.

Did you go on any interesting trips or do any interesting jobs/activities this summer?

I actually have one story that involves quite a few Moco runners. I went to running camp in West Virginia with the Sherwood team and itís all Moco schools. One run coach Reeks drove me, Chris Barnard, Reagan Lynch, and a few others out to run up the ďpower lines,Ē which is basically running up and down a mountain. We were supposed to follow these blue markers in the middle of the forest, and apparently we took a wrong turn because we ended up in what seemed to be a current member of the NRAís back yard. We tried to retrace our steps only to go up the biggest hill any of the group had ever seen (we named it the ďAgrocragĒÖall the other good names for hills were taken). So we wandered aimlessly on this mountain road, having to stop and ask West Virginians how to get back to our camp. Any stereotype you have ever heard about West VirginiansÖ.completely true. We tried flagging down cars, but most didnít stop. Even when Reagan stood in the middle of the road, the car drove away as soon as he moved. In the end, we got help from this woman who lived in an Octagonal house, and we made it back to camp some two and a half hours later. In the process, Chris Barnard developed the perfect WV accent. I recommend asking him to use it if you see him.

We look forward to tracking your season. Best of luck in your final high school cross country season.


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