By Gary Brimmer. Gary is Store Manager at our Soler’s Tri Sports in Old Town Helotes.

In my 35+ years of competitive running, I have only had one guy that I would define as my “arch rival”.  By this I mean, a fellow competitor that got under my skin so much that I actually would lose sleep obsessing about racing him.

I first  raced this guy we’ll call “Dave” (well that was his name) when I was a sophomore in high school and he a freshman.  Dave’s school didn’t have a cross country program so I only raced him on the track.  I faced him a couple times that year, beating him in the dual meet but getting nipped at the tape by him in an invitational.  Dave turned a lot of heads, however, by winning the 2 mile at our conference championships.  His victory at that meet turned him into my monster in the closet.

My junior year in high school turned into one failed track race after another-trying to beat Dave at any distance.  He would sit on me and out kick me every time we raced each other.  The real frustrating thing was that I would post faster times in other meets when not facing him, but couldn’t figure out how to beat him.  Not only that, but Dave started to become quite smug when talking to me.  He knew he had my number and he also knew he was the top guy in the conference.  I went into our regional meet seeded first in both the mile and the 2 mile. I not only lost to him in both races, but finished 3rd in both and failed to qualify for the state meet.

Dave leading the way in the two mile, me getting ready to drop back to third!

Again his reaction was quite smug.  I faced him 4 more times that  season, our conference meet and an all star meet, again running very poorly and losing to him.

He never really said anything arrogant or cocky, that is until the early spring of my senior track season.  Now mind you we were from western Michigan, we did pretty silly things for entertainment.  Dave was no different and he separated his shoulder after a snowboarding accident.  Well, he was on a snowboard, being towed by a car down a snow covered city street.  The car was going too fast and, you guessed it, he fell.

The first meet that season was shortly after his little accident.  It was an indoor meet at Ferris State University, 11 laps  to the mile.  I ran very well,  10:03 for the 2 mile, placing first at an invitational for the first time.

Holding off one last challenger

Dave found it necessary to search me out to tell me, “the only reason you won was because I wasn’t in the race.  Maybe so, maybe not. But that comment really set me off.   The rest of the season we faced each other several times, and I won every two mile, while he beat me in the mile three times (sit and kick).

Now, the third time he beat me that year was at the State meet, I choked on a monster crap burger after going through the 800 in 2:08 and completely freaking out! I’m pretty sure I was last, in fact I think Donna Donakowski, the girls mile winner even ran faster! I came back well later in the day and placed 7th in the 2 mile, once again beating my rival.  So I’m sitting there after the race, very happy to have medaled, when Dave comes up to ask what I was running in the All Star meet in 4 days.   This all star meet was almost as big as  the State meet for many of us.  To be invited one had  to be ranked in the top 10 in their event.   Dave had actually won the 2 mile as a freshman and sophomore, and wanted to win it again.   I had actually qualified in the 800, mile and 2 mile and was actually thinking about running the 800 and mile only. Now Dave serves up his second volley of smack when he says, “I’m only running the 2 mile so I make sure I’m rested to beat you” (ok so not so much smack, but remember I’m a high school kid and it really ticked me off!!)   So right then and there I decide to run only the 2 mile.

The day of the meet we all gather at my coaches house to catch a ride to the meet, the area newspaper which sponsored the meet did an article on all the favorites. They did pretty nice in depth interviews on each favorite. Now, mind you, I’m seeded #1, by several seconds, but since Dave was the 2 time defending champion, and because he was from the city in which the paper was from, he was interviewed. (I’m steaming!!) Smack #3 from Dave in the interview was when asked, what runners he respected, he listed 2 very good runners, kids I had battled all through my high school career, but hadn’t lost to in the last 2 years. He was then asked specifically about me.   His words were something to the effect of “I don’t really worry about him, you never know how he’s gonna run, I don’t consider him a threat”

Dave and I after our last race

The 45 minute ride to the meet is a blur to me. Several other runners read the story as well and asked me about it. I simply smiled and said nothing.   I didn’t care if Dave did his typical sit and kick, although I decided a hard first mile would be in order. I had a rough patch during the last 2 laps, and he hung in pretty well, but with 200 to go, I took a glance over my shoulder where he was camped out and I made sure I looked him in the eyes…and dropped him hard.  Not a stellar time, 9:39 if I recall correctly. I still have this picture my coach took of me after the finish, me standing there pretty tired, my rival bent over in exhaustion, shaking my hand.

I had ended my high school running career with not only a victory, but a victory filled with sweet vengeance!    Sometimes I really miss high school running!