Dylan Straughan is a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. Straughan brought his mile and two-mile PR's down to 4:36 and 9:56 respectively this past outdoor season, but this cross country season is the first season that he has stayed healthy until the end. As a result, he is able to reap the benefits of a very productive summer and a consistent in-season workout plan. He is able to dictate the best pace for himself during workouts, and as a result has showed the county the full extent of what he is capable of. After a 4th place performance in 16:18 at the County Championships, Dylan has established himself as one of the elite distance runners in the county. Here he describes all of the tough decisions, obstacles, and successes that come with being a soccer-enthusiast-turned-runner.
MoCoRunning: You were an athlete who got a taste of track and decided to give up your fall sport to run cross country. Was that an easy or difficult decision for you?
Straughan: The switch from soccer to cross country was probably one of the hardest decisions Iíve ever had to make in my life. My dad had me hooked on soccer since age 2, and I had been playing on competitive programs since age 6. I did have support to switch sports from the XC team (of course), but also oddly enough Elias Tousley and a couple other guys (especially for this season) asked me to really think about my decision since I was pretty injury-prone, and it might be better to have me healthy for indoor/outdoor track instead of being constantly injured from the heavy mileage of XC. I donít know why I switched honestly, and I do sometimes regret the decision. But here I am. I donít think Iíve done too badly at this running business.
MoCoRunning: More generally speaking, it seems like B-CC especially has a tendency to land good runners starting in their junior or senior years, which was especially apparent on this yearís cross country team. Is it something about B-CC, or Chad Young, or something else that draws in the quality athletes later in high school?
Straughan: Honestly, I think itís a coincidence. Good XC programs sort of come in waves Iíve noticed. The reason some programs consistently do well is because of the coach, for example Pelkey at QO. The thing that really draws some of our better athletes (for example Kyle Short) is just the team itself. I know when I got onto the team indoor of sophomore year I expected it to be an extremely competitive (which it is) passive-aggressive team, where everyone thought they were better than one another. I think this is the way it is in a lot of high school sports, and when some guys figure that XC, Indoor, or Outdoor track may help their performance in their preferred sport, they find the nature of the team very refreshing (Iím not sure about other schools, but this is true of BCC). Everyone has an idea of what everyone else is capable of. There is no passive-aggressive behavior regarding who is in that top position. Everyone has been through so many tempo runs in the rain, back-to-back workouts, and long runs in sleet that itís ok that, say Prevost beat me in that race or whatever, because I know he had to hurt to get there, and I know exactly what he has been through. I think this mentality attracts runners to BCC XC.
MoCoRunning: Congratulations on finishing 2nd in the county as a team this year. Tell me about some of these other guys on your team and why you think no one knew about them before this season.
Straughan: Not only can anything happen, but anything should happen.
Well, I canít say that (in my opinion) anyone last year besides Elias and Bowie had good seasons. The workouts were forced because of trying to keep up with Elias when he was doing say, his last mile of a 5 x mile cut down in sub 5. This year we are able to take the workouts at our own pace, and I think that has given us a lot of results. Also we had a pretty good group of guys that did quite a bit of summer mileage and I think that has had a really big influence on our performance. Prevost has had a really good season so far, PRing by a minute and god knows how much. I honestly am scared this kid is going to kill me come track season. He is much more speed-oriented than I am, and he has burned me on a couple tempos already this season. It wonít matter though, because I still sell more shoes than him at RnJ (we both work there). I think that his performances last year didnít really spell out superstar, and thatís why no one knew about the French phenom, aka Boiiwonda, aka IímnotasgoodasDylan, haha. Prevost spent the summer in the Amazon forest where he trained by trying to get away from anything colored green. Since then, he has gotten over his fear, but sometimes the condition spontaneously recovers during tempo runs at Candy Cane Park.
Kyle is ridiculous. Of course no one can be blamed for not knowing about him, but I would definitely watch out for this one. Heís also more speed-oriented than myself, and is up there with me on every workout. During the summer, he will return to his Inuit tribe in Canada, where he will perfect the skill of walrus hunting.
Matt DKís summer mileage has done a lot for him. He is probably one of the smartest in his training because he hangs back a lot. He wonít always run workouts with the top guys so he gets a more quality workout for himself. And donít think heís slacking off back there; he has the Chinese symbol for perseverance tattooed on his left bicep. DK became as muscular as he is when he was banished from his village in Africa and forced, as an infant, to hold his own with a mother lion and its cubs.
James, despite not as much base, has really come through for us this season despite a bad race at counties. The ďhurdleatorĒ should be very strong this season in XC and in track. On weekends, James practices flicking his hair to the right, and if heís not too busy with the photo shoots, he peels grapes for his beautiful girlfriend to make sure the sour grape skin doesnít bother her. He also practices looking out.
Thatís the top 5, but Walter Beller-Morales and Andrew Finklestein have been great contributions to the team. Walter is known as the only human ever to eat all the meat from an entire cow and Fink is renowned throughout the world for his knowledge of guerrilla tactics when combating standardized tests.
MoCoRunning: It seems like youíve rarely been able to finish out a season until recently. Tell us a little bit about your struggles with injuries throughout your high school years.
Straughan: Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from judgment.
I wouldnít say I have struggled with injuries. It's more I have struggled with stupidity. So far I have not completed a season without being injured. I think itís really just that as Bill Dellinger said, ďGood things come slow, especially in distance running.Ē Apparently I didnít get this memo until this season, and Iím still struggling a little bit with the concept. Even after I got my stress fracture last XC season, I still wanted to push in indoor and outdoor, which eventually, with a lack of base, ended up with me peaking a little too early.
MoCoRunning: What kind of work did you put in over the summer? Did you factor injury-prevention into your training? Did you have any specific goals in mind over the summer?
Straughan: Well, I canít say the summer was too smart either. I still had not recovered fully from a badly tweaked hip flexor, but I ran anyway, very slowly to not feel the pain. I worked my way up to 70 miles per week (mpw), and then was really sporadic, running 40 one week (in 3 days because I got my wisdom teeth pulled) and 80 the next. I think after my 80 mile week the whole concept of not getting injured hit me. I was over-trained, having mood swings, odd cravings for food, sleeping 12 hours or more a day... it was just bad. Then I realized that I have to stop this, and this is when I really started reading up on running. I dropped my mileage to 50 mpw or so (basing my runs solely on feel) and started to get my legs back, being meticulously aware of how my legs felt to prevent injury. My goals never change. I want to be the best I can be. I think it was good for me not to set any time goals over the summer or this season because I am very prone to getting obsessed with them.
MoCoRunning: Youíve finished 4th in the county individually and 2nd as a team. Now itís time to move onto 3A competition. In track and/or cross country, do you prefer going up against the best of Montgomery County or the best of the 3A competition?
Straughan: Well, thatís complicated. I love to win, even though the only time Iíve ever won a race was when Elias was my rabbit for the mile run at the Wheaton-BCC dual meet when I was trying to break 4:40 (I ran 4:40 flat). But I also feel guilty that I might not deserve whatever place I might get in regions or states because there will be others in the state that may beat me. However, I really enjoy county meets because I see my competition so much. I really like racing against guys like Andrew Palmer because after the race we might talk or go tear down Bethesda. All in all, I like MoCo better because you know...itís MoCo, we the best.
MoCoRunning: Certainly, you are excited to finish out the cross country season at regionals and states, but will we be seeing you at any post-season races like the Battle of the Potomac or Footlocker Regionals?
Straughan: Iím not really sure. I really want to run those, but one of my qualities is being indecisive (along with getting the guys lost every time we go somewhere). Depending on how my peak goes, I think I might run one or the other. I donít want to run Footlockers and put on a lackluster performance.
MoCoRunning: Do you consider yourself more of a cross country or track guy and why? What is your favorite track event? Are you looking forward to putting together another nasty 4x8 this year?
Straughan: Track, I love track. XC to me is my base training so I can get some good track times. It's not about the race itself. Itís about the feel of the meets. In track thereís a constant energy because someone is always toeing the line... always putting on a show. I also like to be able to watch my competition. My favorite event has to be the mile. I like how you need the endurance to run the 2 mile, but the speed to run a 400 or 800. Iím really looking forward to our 4 x 800 team. Hopefully we will be able to be a top contender in the state meet.
MoCoRunning: Do you get it done in the classroom like you do in cross country? What do you think you might major in?
Straughan: Haha... No. I donít. Itís really a mental thing. I enjoy running, and therefore I run. Iím just not interested in writing analytical essays about poetry, so well... they donít turn out so hot. However, Iím in the IB program because I know that I will only be mediocre, so I might as well make it interesting. Schools Iím interested in are Villanova, Syracuse, Haverford (though theyíre a little tough academically), and depending on my track times, maybe Oregon, (or if I grow wings Wisconsin). Iím really interested in sports psychology and business, or possibly physiology.
MoCoRunning: Whatís your personal record number of plates at The Mongolian Barbecue?
Straughan: Well my friend worked there over the summer, so I went in there quite a bit. I think my record is 6. Lamb and an egg are requirements in every plate, and I can never decide what sauce I like best.