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FUR SEALS, STEEPLECHASE, AND BIG HEAD TODD: THE SCOTT

DVORAK STORY

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By Woody Green

Scott Dvorak has been running at a high level for many

years. He started at Ocean Park High School in Florida,

where he feels that a wise coach held him back from doing

too much training early in his career. He ran a 4:27 mile

and 9:35 two-mile, then moved on to Bevard College and

North Carolina State. A solid performer through his college

career, he discovered he was a good steeplechase runner in

his senior year when he clocked 8:57.

Scott managed to lower his steeplechase time to 8:39.6 and

make a name for himself nationally as a top distance

runner. Now concentrating on the 5,000 and 10,000 he has

continued to improve and placed 6th in the 1997 USATF

nationals for 5,000 meters. While he had a down year last

year due to injury, Scott is upbeat and has his eyes on the

big prize, a spot on the Olympic team in 2000.

This North Carolina resident's interests are certainly not

limited to running, though. He enjoys music, drawing,

windsurfing, mountain biking, and he even does some

modeling to earn a few extra bucks. He also spends a good

deal of time in front of his computer, working as a

WebMaster and updating his personal web site.

When asked how he balances all his interests and active

lifestyle with his running, he said, "It's always

difficult, and I really have to focus sometimes on making

planned time for my training, and not merely trying to

'fit' it in. Certainly, there are times when 'life's little

hand grenades go off', and I have to replan things, but

I've found that if I begin each day with a set plan of when

I'm going to train, where I'm going to train, and how I'm

going to train, then it becomes more the priority, and not

an afterthought. Running is not the number one thing in my

life, but when it's time to do it, it is!"

Good employment situations and a support crew of friends

and family have helped as well. "I've been fortunate enough

to find jobs that are somewhat understanding of my running

and my goals. I used to work for a sports management

company, and they gave me a lot of latitude when it came to

training and racing. Now, I work as a WebMaster for a

company called Self Source here in Charlotte. My boss is a

guy named Bill Taylor, who was a national class runner in

the late 80's and early 90's. Having an employer who

understands what is needed to achieve the goals that I've

set for myself in running is definitely a plus! I generally

do my morning runs at lunch now, and if an employer is

understanding of that, it makes it a whole lot easier."

While it may be tough to fit running into a busy schedule,

not running at all due to an injury last year was worse.

Then, he had the long road to recovery. "Fortunately I had

the understanding of a lot of people including Christie

(his fiancee), my family, my coach Jim Cooper, and my

sponsor Brooks, who still had faith in me."

"I had some chronic knee pain that wouldn't go away. I had

also had some other things happen in my life that left me a

little emotionally wrecked as well, and at that point, I

wasn't sure that I ever even wanted to put on a pair of

training shoes again. I still had my goals in running, but

I wasn't sure if I had it in me to do the work to get back

to where I was. I was just drained all around."

It wasn't easy for this elite runner to start over after a

long lay-off. "It wasn't until August that I really started

to train again," he said, "and regain some of the 'fire and

desire'! I told my coach Jim Cooper recently, that if I

ever miss that much time again, I don't know if I will make

it back. It's just really difficult when you fall out of

your running routine for a long period of time, to try and

make it a daily part of your life again. The fact that I

would go out and suffer through a 4-mile run didn't make it

any easier, knowing where I had once been. And believe me,

I suffered through a lot of them this past summer!"

Scott seems to be quite the adventurer. He has traveled to

faraway spots like Vietnam for a bicycle trip and

Antarctica, where he competed in the Antarctica Marathon in

1997.

Of his travels to the southernmost reaches of the globe, he

says, "When I agreed to do the event for World T.E.A.M.

Sports, I decided that I would try and not deviate too much

from the plan that I had set for my spring and summer

season. The focus for me was to just get through it without

damaging my upcoming track season. I basically continued to

do the same work that I would have done otherwise, but I

bumped my long runs up a little from 14 or 15 miles to

around 16 to 18 miles. Don't misunderstand me though, I

went down there with a serious frame of mind."

Running in the Antarctic summer, "it was 28 degrees with a

wind chill of -2 degrees. The first part of the race we

went into the wind, so I had a lot more clothing on. The

wind was by far the worst part, especially on the run up

the glacier. It was a crosswind, and you really had to dig

in to keep from getting blown down the thing.

"The race was predominantly run on a dirt road, which was

muddy at times, but for the most part fairly dry. We ran

about 3 miles up and down the glacier, and there was some

very rocky terrain that we had to navigate before and after

hitting the glacier. For the most part, I was able to carry

a good pace over the terrain. I ran 2:23:11, a Continental

Record for Antarctica. Only 7 people in the world can make

that claim! It's stretching it a little for a 'claim to

fame', but I'll take it!"

During the run he came upon a couple of fur seals in his

path. These animals can be vicious at times, so he had to

take a wide path around them. "That wasn't so much a

frightening experience as it was a wake-up call," he said.

"Up until that point, it had just been another cold run. I

mean, I knew where I was, but I could have been in the

middle of North Dakota in 28-degree weather and wouldn't

have known much of a difference, it would have felt the

same. But when I came around that turn and saw two big Fur

Seals in the middle of the trail I was like, 'Holy $#%@,

I'm at the bottom of the world running a marathon!' It just

really sunk in of what an incredible experience I was

having! One that only a handful of people would ever

experience!"

For many people, just trying to run the 3000-meter

steeplechase, a track event run over heavy hurdles with a

water jump each lap, would be wild enough. This was Scott's

primary event for a while, but he says, "I think my steeple

days are coming to a close. In '94 I was in Vancouver, at

the Harry Jerome Meet. It had been raining all day, and the

conditions were pretty ugly. I was boxed pretty well. We

were a mile into the race and I wasn't getting a clear view

of the barriers as I was approaching them. Going over a

hurdle on the backstretch, I slammed my trail leg knee into

the barrier and it completely flipped me. It was probably

one of the most shocking things I've every experienced."

Leaving the steeplechase behind makes sense in ways other

than simply saving body parts, too. "With the improvement

that I've had in 5000 and the fact that my knees aren't

what they used to be, I'm more inclined to stay away from

the steeple. I'm also hoping to run my first 10,000 on the

track in the summer, so I may focus on either the 5,000 or

the 10,000 for 2000."

When asked why the Kenyans seem to have such a strangle

hold on the Steeplechase in international competition,

Scott said, "I think they're just really talented and do a

lot of work. Most of them aren't really beautiful hurdlers,

but they can run like mad in between the barriers. They

also have a fearlessness... They have a strangle hold on

distance running in general, not just the steeple. I would

prefer to concentrate less on why they're so good, and more

on how we, as Americans, can get that good!"

What will it take for that to happen? "I think U.S.

distance running is taking the correct steps to see

that there are Americans once again competing with the best

in the world. The programs that are being instituted are

right on target. When I first came out of school there was

very little. Now, with some of the grassroots programs that

are starting, I think there is the potential for great

improvement. The training groups that are starting to form,

like the guys in Boulder and in Washington, D.C. will help,

as well the grants that are being made available. Also,

more opportunities to race, like the CAN-AM Series, will

help. I think they need to continue to focus on the

developing athlete, but also not forget the guys like

myself who have been at the grindstone for longer. I only

wish that they hadn't waited for things to get so bad

before they started trying to make improvements."

One of the programs that helped many U.S. distance runners

was the high altitude elite distance camp in Utah in 1997.

Scott was one of the participants there.

"That was another great experience! I would like to see

more of that take place in the future. The camp brought

together some of the best guys in the country to train for

4 1/2 weeks in Park City, Utah. Guys like Brad Barquist,

Dan Middleman, Dan Browne, Scott Strand, Gary Stolz and

Francis O'Neil. By spending time with them, we were able to

not only trade off on training ideas and thoughts, but also

developed a lasting camaraderie and friendship between us.

There was a study that was taking place around us as well

which focused on the 'Live High, Train Low' Theory, the

idea being that by living at 8000 feet, and doing our

interval work at 4000 feet, we were able to get the

beneficial effects of living at altitude, without the

taxation that it brings to the body when training at high

altitude." Scott hopes to take advantage of some high

altitude training later this year, perhaps in the mountains

of Arizona.

Scott's focus for this year and next are pretty clear.

"Obviously the big one is the Olympic Team in either the

5000 or possibly the 10,000. Everything else is focused

around that, the World Trials this June, possibly Europe or

the CAN-AM Series, Mt. SAC or Penn Relays the following

year.

"I feel like I'm capable of running in the 13:20's this

year, but I've got some work to do to get there. I'm

mentally very rested and hungry right now. Taking that time

off was the best thing that I could have done. I'm very

optimistic. I feel like there is a wave of momentum

beginning to be built with running in this country again.

Guys are talking about running fast again and there is

excitement in the air when you hear people talk about the

near future."

With his running back on track and his employment situation

looking good, you might think that completes the story.

But, Scott is more than just a runner and an important part

of this man's story happened in April at a rock concert he

attended with his girlfriend, Christie.

Scott tells it like this, "Her name is Christie Webb, and

she is an incredible person! She works as the Director of

Wellness for the county, basically overseeing the physical

wellness programs for all county employees. I asked her to

marry me on stage at the Big Head Todd and the Monsters

concert here in Charlotte. The group is her favorite band,

and I thought it would be a great way to do things and make

it something that she and everyone else would remember. I

was able to get in touch with the band's manager, and

although he wasn't quite sure how we'd do it, he said that

they were game to give it a try.

"When she and I got to the concert, I sneaked away to a

port-a-john and called the band's manager on a cell phone.

He had 2 backstage passes for us, but I had to sneak away

to get them. I came up with a bogus story of having to go

find one of my friends, and went and got the passes. The

plan was that Jeff (the band's manager) would act like he

was an old college friend who was now a roadie with the

band, and that he'd gotten me the backstage passes. I went

back and found Christie and let her know that an old

college buddy of mine had managed to come up with the

passes and we were going to get to watch the show from the

side stage. She was elated! We said good-bye to our friends

and proceeded backstage.

"I had made sure to tell all of our friends, as well as

Christie's parents, what was about to transpire, so they

were all in the crowd. We went backstage, and were hanging

out with the band and Jeff. It was funny because, Jeff and

I were having this false conversation about our college

days that never happened. Meanwhile, all the guys in the

band knew what was going on, so they keep giving me a hard

time behind Christie's back. About 10 minutes before the

band was supposed to go on, Jeff asked me if I could help

him move some things up on stage, so I went up on stage

with him. Then I asked Christie to come up and check it

out. She wasn't really wanting to get up on the stage where

people could see her, but after some prodding she did. We

were sitting off on the side stage looking out on this sea

of people and talking about how cool it all was. Christie

still had no idea was about to happen. There was a big

group of our friends right down in the front row. At this

time I was pretty nervous. Then Jeff comes up to me and

says, "Hey Scott, the band's about to go on, could you go

out and introduce them?" Without missing a beat I said

'sure,' got up and began walking out onto the front of the

stage. I turned around to see Christie sitting there with

her jaw dropped wide open, wondering what the heck was I

doing?

"I took the mic in complete tunnel vision and yelled, 'Are

there some Big Head Todd fans out there?' The crowd

erupted. I went on to tell them that the band would be out

there in a minute but first I had a little personal

business to take care of. I said that I've got a huge Big

Head Todd fan back stage, and I needed their help to help

me get her out, cause she has know idea what's about to hit

her. The crowd erupted again. I looked backstage and saw

Christie with her hands in her face either laughing or

crying hysterically, I couldn't tell! I saw Jeff run over

to her and tell her something, probably that she needed to

get out there! Christie came out, and when she got up to

me, I dropped down on bent knee, took out the ring, and

simply said, "Marry Me!" It was awesome, she took the ring,

and gave me this huge hug and a kiss, and the crowd was

going nuts."

When Scott talks about his future in running, he says,

"I'd like to be thought of as a legitimate shot at a spot

on the Olympic Team at the end of this year. Whatever it

takes to do that."

With a rock concert proposal and an Antarctic marathon he's

gone literally and figuratively to the end of the earth in

pursuit of his life goals. You've got to figure the man's

got a shot at anything he puts his mind to.

 

Visit Dvorak's web site at:

http://www.concentric.net/~steepler/