Kyle Graves is in the middle of a dream season in which he has run 4:13.34 in the 1600, 9:21.07 in the two mile, and anchored his distance medley relay team to a victory in 10:09.07 in the Penn Relays Championship of America. He not only has made a case for himself as the "fastest Graves" in a family of competitive runners, he is making a case for himself as one of the best Montgomery County distance runners in history. While still on cloud nine from his Penn Relays victory four days ago, he describes some of his greatest memories as a Good Counsel runner and why he chose to spend the next several years running at the University of Maryland.
MoCoRunning: Youíve had cousins and siblings come through Montgomery County for at least the last decade. Is it mandatory for every Graves to run cross country and track in high school? Just how ingrained is running in your family?
Graves: Running has been an important part of my family starting with my dad and his brother John (Brian Gravesí dad). They both ran in high school and joke about who had the fastest times, although I donít think Iíll ever know who the faster one really was. This debate has continued on with my brothers and my cousins. The big question being, ďwho would end up being the fastest Graves?Ē Since my cousin Brian and I will still be running in college, the competition continues. As far as being mandatory in my family to run cross country and track, no, thatís not the case. My sister was a cheerleader, two of my brothers played baseball and my oldest brother Kevin ran cross country, indoor and outdoor track. My whole family and all my cousins run the Bethesda Turkey Chase on Thanksgiving morning every year which is a lot of fun.
MoCoRunning: About ten years ago, it was Kevin Graves who was one of the top prep runners in the DC area and now he is coaching you at Good Counsel. Describe your coach-athlete relationship with him. Does it work well or are there ever any brotherly moments?
Graves: I donít mind at all that Kevin is my coach because I have grown up having a family member as my coach almost every year while playing sports. My dad was my baseball coach for 6 years during grade school. Kevin and I agreed that when he started coaching my freshman year we would separate track and XC from our home life. He would be my coach at practice and the meets but he would be my brother back at the house. At home he would not get mad at me if I had a soda or ate junk food every once in a while. At practice he would treat me like any other athlete on the team. There are a few brotherly moments at practice where we might joke around, but I know that he is a knowledgeable coach and that he can help me improve my time so I can be the best that I can be.
MoCoRunning: Looking back on four years of high school cross country and track, what were some of your fondest memories and what was it like training and developing under Coach Tom Arnold?
Graves: Now that I have just returned from Penn Relays, winning the Championship of America DMR is my most memorable moment in my high school career. It was amazing to run at the University of Pennsylvania track. It is something I am going to remember for the rest of my life. Another special memory was back in my sophomore year, when I helped my team win the WCAC Championship, which ended up being my only Cross Country Championship win during my four years. Another memory was the MD/DC Private School XC Championship when I finished 2nd and broke 16 minutes in the 5k for the first time. Training and developing under Coach Arnold is an honor. He is an amazing coach and very knowledgeable. He is very motivational and has great training methods. He may seem intimidating, but he really is a nice guy, and I enjoyed my four years running for him. He is one of the reasons I am continuing to run in college.
MoCoRunning: What was your training like from the end of last cross country season through the end of the winter? Were you base-building with high mileage or getting in quality speed work? Were you peaking for Nike Indoor Nationals or training through the winter to get strong for WCACs in the spring?
Graves: During the winter, I worked on everything to become a well-rounded runner with a little more emphasis on speed Ė although it was tough with so much inclement weather. I was training to peak at Nike but with the ultimate goal to be completely ready for the WCAC Championship in the spring.
MoCoRunning: How were you feeling at Nike Indoor Nationals? Did you feel ready for a breakthrough? Describe each of your races that weekend. Fans would love to hear a first person account.
Graves: Nike Indoor Nationals was my first national meet in high school and I was a bit nervous, but I was also excited because I knew I would be running against great competition which would help me run faster times. The DMR was an exciting race because when I got the baton, we were 3rd in the heat and I had a huge adrenaline rush which made me get out a little too fast, but it still worked out and I PRíd by running a 4:20 split. Then the next day I ran the 2 mile which might have been my best race that weekend. I didnít worry about pace at all that race, I just let the competition help me out and my time of 9:21 ended up being about a ten second PR. I then came back the next day and ran the mile. I was really excited after having 2 PRs on back to back days so I was ready for another. On the third day, my legs felt a bit sluggish after two intense days of racing and I came short of my goal to break into the sub 4:20 range but ran another 4:20. Overall I was pleased with my performances that weekend.
MoCoRunning: The Florida Relays was your big breakthrough in the 1600: 4:13.34 on a warm day against tough competition. There seemed to be some elbowing on the last lap, too. What was that experience like for you?
Graves: Racing at Florida Relays was almost like racing at Nike because of the number of talented runners in almost every event. I was lucky to be seeded in the fast section of the mile which allowed me to race against the best competition. Because I knew that, I allowed them to take the pace. I held on until the last lap to make my move and closed with a 59 second last lap to get a 4:13.34 1600. Thereís going to be elbowing in any race because itís just a part of the sport. When I was elbowed on the final turn, it did break my stride but it motivated me even more to try and chase the guy down. It was an awesome experience for me and my team. I really enjoy going to meets which have the best runners from across the nation.
MoCoRunning: What havenít you already accomplished that you would like to accomplish before graduating?
Graves: I would like to break 4:10 in the 1600 and 9:10 in the 3200 before I leave for college.
MoCoRunning: Talk a little bit about your decision to run for the University of Maryland. Was it always one of your top choices? Why did you ultimately decide to go there? Do you know what your major will be?
Graves: My decision to run for Maryland was a tough one. When I started my college search, I first looked at University of Dayton, Mount St. Maryís and UNC Wilmington. There were different things I liked about every school. About halfway through cross country season, running in college became more important to me and I started looking at schools where I had some familiarity with the running programs - Appalachian State University (my cousin Brian runs there) and University of Maryland. I liked both colleges and the decision came down to location, costs, and the running program. For the location, Appalachian is over 400 miles away, compared to Maryland that is local. Next was the cost and both colleges are fairly comparable in costs with Appalachian being only slightly more expensive. The most important factor in my college decision was the coaching and running program. Both colleges have great programs and great coaches but I chose Maryland because I had run for the head distance coach, Coach Dunham, from 2000-2005 when I ran with the DC Redwings. I know his coaching style and I knew he would be the best choice for me. I felt Coach Dunham would help me continue to improve as a runner. So ultimately, my college decision came down to the XC and track program at each school. My major will either be Criminal Justice or Physical Therapy. If I choose PT, I would major in Exercise Science or something similar because Maryland doesnít have a Physical Therapy program and then I would transfer to another school for the graduate program in PT.
MoCoRunning: What else do you like to do besides run?
Graves: I like to snowboard in the winter, play golf and go to the beach in the summer, play the guitar, hang out with friends, and also like to play ping pong against my friends and my Dad.