Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why Sean Hopkins matters ...

Before I get into the heart of the matter here, I must state for the record -- and I know he would agree -- that Sean Hopkins was a big pain in the ass when he was running for me at Marist between 2001 and 2005.

Hopkins was part of the largest, most dysfunctional train-wreck of a recruiting class in my 17-year history as Running Red Foxes coach. While many of his classmates were either dropping out of school or quitting the team -- or some variation of both of those things! -- Hopkins kept giving me lip, kept showing up for practice, kept running ... right up to and beyond graduation.

Yeah, Hopkins often said rude, inappropriate things on those long van rides. But he kept showing up for practice, kept running. Three years after graduation, I am proud of the fact that he's still showing up and still running. And he's posting some pretty swell times now, too, having just PRed for 5,000 meters at Yale.

That's what I wanted to write about. The Yale race, and his involvement with the current team.

Two weeks ago at that endless USMMA meet, Hopkins showed up wearing the Sayville Running Company team uniform. But at the end of the day, he showed he's still a true, red-and-white Running Red Fox to the core. In the 5k at USMMA, he battled it out with freshman Nick Webster. The two of them worked together. Truth be told, Webs used Hopkins, kicked him down and rode the bearded old Fox to a PR time on a day when the conditions were not all that great.

So on Sunday Hopkins shows up at Yale, this time wearing the more familiar red and white of the Alumni Racing Team. His reputation preceded him, but not of being the smart-talking bad-ass from yesteryear. Oh no. Webs spread the word to the guys in the 5k that day: Sit on Hopkins. You'll get a great time. Lovely! My own, personal, living-breathing pacesetter.

Check out the splits from a few posts ago and you'll see this to be the case. Hopkins was the perfect prop for Emerel and Duggan, both of whom ran marvelous races and posted big-time PRs. But this time, Hopkins was not to be denied his own glory. He might have been used, but he prevailed with the fastest time of the day. And he was able finally to put to rest the ghost of Charlie Williams -- fittingly enough at Yale, where Charlie outdueled him many years ago -- and get that long-sought PR for the 5k.

Hopkins' reach on this team is far greater than as a pacesetting prop. He coached and advised Tim Keegan, who has put together a marvelous freshman year of running. He has remained close to the team, despite the fact that he was actual teammates with only a handful of the graduating seniors. He's on a first-name basis with guys a lot younger than him, who have gotten to know what the back of his singlet looks like.

Yeah, Hopkins was a pain in my ass back in the day. But one thing I'll never forget was how he put things together during his senior season -- not an easy task, at a time when many runners lose their way as they prepare for real life. I'll admit we probably didn't connect properly as coach-athlete for several years, but we finally made the right adjustments toward the end of his college career. I remember his last race at VCP, how he PRed and ran great. Afterwards, he hugged me and said: "We nailed it, Pete." I'll never forget that moment.

Usually, the memories end right there. Fortunately, this shaggy old runner just won't go away. And he's helping to create more great memories. For me and for a new generation of Running Red Foxes.


Steve said...

It's got to be a real joy to see the Marist Alumni singlets on the roads and the track. It speaks volumes about you as a coach.

Chris Camp said...

Sean Hopkins is my greatest enemy in life. With that hate comes a respect. kudos to Sean Hopkins