You can't keep an All American down

By Lewis Hoffman published August 11, 2003

It's cold and snowing, and you are alone and tired. Mud and ice make cover the trail you know is there, but just can't find. The goal was ten miles for the day, and after thirty minutes and just over four miles, you're heading home.

Another crappy day of training in January, try again tomorrow.

This is a scenario that is all too familiar for distance runners training for spring track, and complaining is not an option, because it could be worse. For two runners at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs it was worse, they weren't running at all.

Levi Brathall, who will be a sophomore this year, only saw one meet during the indoor season this past year before being sidelined with mononucleosis for over a month.

It was at the Air force All-Comers meet where Brathallâ€TMs indoor season began and ended. He took third, but led the race for majority of the race.

"I wanted to prove to everyone that I was better that my race at nationals (cross country) showed," said Brathall. "I think I did that."

Then it hit him, out of nowhere.

"I couldn't move, or do anything really when I was sick," said Brathall about his ilness. "But I knew as soon as I kicked this thing, I would come back hard as ever."

He did, and then some.

In April, at the Mt. Sac Relays, which draws many of the nationâ€TMs best athletes every year, Brathall qualified provisionally for nationals with his performance in the 10,000-meter run.
When the qualifying meets were over, Brathallâ€TMs time of 30 minutes, 20 seconds at Mt. Sac was good enough to get him into the national meet.

At nationals, Brathall became an All-American with his seventh-place finish. His time of 30:10 made him the fastest freshman in the race, not to mention one of the best CU-Colorado Springs has ever seen in that event.

Brathall's dedication and perseverance may be as contagious as his illness, because steeplechaser Tina Gray went for the bottom to the top right along with her teammate.

Now a junior, Gray was down for the count during the indoor season with spleen problems.

"I was so frustrated because one doctor told me that I should be running and he didn't see anything wrong with me, and the next doctor I saw wanted to put me under the knife," said Gray.

Fighting the pain, Gray ran with her team every day, finishing as much of the workout as she could. Some days, a bike ride was all Gray could handle. Then, with the pain occurring sporadically, Gray was back in the mix of things right in time for the Mt. Sac Relays.

"I didn't expect to do as well as I did there," said Gray. "To be honest, I was really surprised with my time." Her time just happened to make her the No. 4-ranked 3,000-meter steeplechaser in Division-II.
Not bad for a girl with a faulty spleen (Gray still can't describe how it feels when your spleen hurts).

At the national meet, when Gray lined up for the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, she could not believe she was there.

"I was extremely nervous, because of everything that happened during the season. And everything was so official," said Gray.

Before the gun went off, the starter told the women something that didn't make it any easier for Gray.

"He said, 'After the race, eight of you will be All Americans, the rest won't,'" said Gray.

Gray wasn't confident that she would be one of the eight after the first jump.

"I jumped out, instead of just falling off the barrier, and bruised my foot. It hurt the whole race," she said.

Obviously, Gray has a high pain-tolerance, because at the end of the race she out kicked three runners to become an All-American.

"It wasn't as exciting as my normal kick, but we were going so fast the whole race," said Gray who finished the race in 10:49.

If nothing else, Brathall and Gray learned one thing from their All-American seasons. If it's cold and snowing, you're alone and tired, keep running through the mud and ice, trail or no trail, because it could be worse - you could be not running at all.

 

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Levi BrathallLevi Brathall
Levi BrathallLevi Brathall
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Levi BrathallLevi BrathallDistance
Tina GrayTina GrayJr.
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Tina GrayTina GraySteeplechase
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