Track star runs through the competition

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Photo Credit: Jack Jensen

Vandervalk, a senior at Glen Rock High School, has been running in varsity races since freshman year.

by Jack Jensen, Staff Writer

During the season opener for the Glen Rock Cross Country team, history was made when Ryan Vandervalk, a senior at Glen Rock High School, crossed the finish line.

Vandervalk ran a 16:51 at the season opener race at Darlington County Park. Vandervalk’s time was good for the third best time in Glen Rock High School history running this time in a 5k (3.1 miles).

“During the race I thought about how bad I wanted to succeed,” Vandervalk said.

Vandervalk attributes his success to the fact that he simply refuses to give up during a race.

“Every runner is going to feel exhausted at some point of the race. However, the successful runners are the ones who don’t give up even when the race gets tough,” he said.

Cross Country Coach Stacie Gallo praises Vandervalk for working “really hard” during his training.

Vandervalk has been running in varsity races and has been a ‘scorer’ since freshman year. Seven runners are entered as scorers for each team at any given meet (first place runners would receive a point total of 1), and their scores are then tallied at the end of that race. The team with the lowest total score is the winner.

In addition to his success on the course, Vandervalk is also a role model to his younger sister, Anne.

“Ryan is the type of person who doesn’t give up, and in that way I look up to him,” she said.

He is described by those whom he trains with as a tough competitor and a hard worker.

Coach Gallo said, “He pushes everyone else to be better runners.”

Yet while he inspires others today, Vandervalk was motivated by someone close to him in his childhood.

After running a 5k with his father at the age of eight, Vandervalk has been running ever since. He has been running competitive cross-country since he joined the middle school cross-country team in sixth grade.

To be a successful runner, you must never give up.”

— Ryan Vandervalk, senior

“Most people see running as a way to stay in shape but it is Ryan’s favorite thing to do,” Anne said.

Vandervalk is the kind of person who goes to great lengths to win and succeed in what he does. Yet while training hard, he said that he still loves “going out for a nice 10 mile training run.”

Coach Gallo remembered a time when Vandervalk was very sick, but he refused to drop out of the race.  Gallo was relieved: he was one of their best runners.

Perhaps this dedication, despite his sickness, can be explained by something he said himself: “My motivation to run is the feeling I get while I am running.”

Vandervalk knows he is a scorer and feels a strong responsibility to his team.

“To be a successful runner, you must never give up,” Vandervalk said.

When running, his desire to win takes over, and he perseveres through the proverbial ‘brick wall’ at any cost.

His sister calls him a “tough competitor because there are a lot of great runners out there, and Ryan wants to be the best.”

He often thinks about how much training over the summer went into the season opener race at Darlington County Park. He doesn’t want any of it to go to waste.

“Physical pain is temporary,” Vandervalk said. “But the pain of regret lasts forever.”