Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stillwater Sub-4--Sean Graham

By Jim Ferstle
The 1997 Stillwater boys cross country team dubbed "The Magnificant Seven"  by a local sportswriter. Sean Graham, Luke Watson, Greg Wikelius, Chris Boldt, Jon Francis, Joel Solomonson, and Pete Prince won the school's third consecutive state cross country title and were voted the number one ranked team in the country in a USA Today/Harrier poll.

"The training group that we had," said Graham.  "To say second to none wasn't even close. There was Luke and myself and three to five guys that were right there as well. Then there was Scott (Christensen, the coach). I'd say 90 to 95 percent (of our success) was due to his ability to develop us...There was a training atmosphere, a culture.  We were out there to win.  The fun came along with that.  What Scott did to get us prepared.  He set us up for being successful. He knew how to get us ready. The group that we had had a lot of different personalities, but we clicked.  There was no ego, we all worked for the team."

Graham had been a "B level" soccer player in elementary school until he went to a meet to watch his older sister run.  She started running track in the 8th grade, said Graham. She won the race that Sean observed, and he was hooked.  "I can do that," Sean remembers thinking after her race.  "It encouraged me to come out (for track and cross country).  I enjoyed it and kept improving.  It's hard not to have fun when you're successful.

"When you're that young, you're looking for things to gravitate towards (that you can be successful at).  But at the beginning I was thinking that I could beat my sister."  As he recounts his career, All American rankings in high school and college, ranked as high as fifth in the 5K in the US, Olympic Trials finalist, Graham believes that not only was he successful in running, but the lessons he learned in how to attain that success helped him in all aspects of his life.

"I was talking to my boss the other day and I said that really most of the things I did were influenced by my running," said Graham.  "I chose my college because of the running program.  When I went back to school (to get an advanced degree), I chose a place where I could do coaching.  When you started off in that kind of atmosphere(that they had at Stillwater), it sets you up for things later in life. It was a remarkably rewarding experience."

Running a sub-four minute mile in May of 2007 was just icing on the cake for Graham.  "(Running sub-four) was certainly on the wish list,"  Graham said  "It was pretty remarkable to actually do it.  You have to run a sub-four now, just to qualify for the NCAA championships.  I think when I did it, I was the 292nd American to have broken four."

No comments: