Foot Locker Nationals Fastest Floridians: Ryan Deak

(Ryan Deak seen here in the center of the photo with the shaved head competed against Florida's best including 2012 Olympian Sammy Vasquez from FPC, Ryder Leary of Bishop Kenny, and Steve Haasen of Vanguard a fellow Foot Locker National finalist)

Ryan Deak is no stranger to the Foot Locker National scene in San Diego. The former Maclay standout competed in Foot Locker South placing third behind Matt Debole and Bobby Curtis as a junior in 2003 and then runner-up at the Midwest Regional behind eventual national champion Matthew Withrow in 2004. Deak moved to Colorado for his senior and attended Smoky Hill High School in Aurora. He says what he remembers most about the road to Foot Locker Nationals and competing in the postseason was just how fun those races were.

"Everyone was in their best shape of the season so it was a rewarding experience; all the hard work through the season paid off and I believe runners to be the coolest group of athletes. I can't begin to tell you how fun Foot Locker Nationals was.  I was hanging out with the best runners in the country who all loved running as much as I did. It is an experience I'll never forget about. People who hate on us know nothing about us. We're actually some of the most down to earth and humbled people."

The Foot Locker Championships truly are the beginning of greatness for United States distance running. Just take a look at the names on the list when he finished 12th with 8x state champion, 5x All-American at Wisconsin, and former 10,000m American record holder Chris Solinsky winning the event in 14:40.50. Deak says some the best stories were centered around Solinsky's dance moves.

"We named one, 'the Solinsky'. You just get in the middle and start dancing and be yourself. When you're the national champion you can do no wrong."

Deak moved west from Tallahassee to Smoky Hill High School in Colorado for the opportunity to get in-state tuition to the University of Colorado. He trained through the state meet and started tapering/peak training two weeks before, the same plan as when he was in the Sunshine State. Another emphasis was on race pace and sharpening sessions as well as working on his finishing kick in workouts. He adds that every bit helps when you are running on a tough Balboa Park course against the nation's best runners.

"Balboa is a tough course because it's near impossible to get in a rhythm on that course. It's extremely curvy. Twisting and turning constantly. My advice to those guys running would be get out and get in position early, settle in and then relax. Let the course come to you. Use all the straights you to make up or put distance on people.  Relax on "the hill" and accelerate at the top to regain momentum. Use the downhill as much as you can to get your legs going again. The finish is downhill after a brief up hill so be ready to kick once you get to the top, definitely be accelerating up the hill."

His final cross country season he jumped from 12th to 6th in San Diego clocking a time of 15:13.00, seven seconds faster than in 2002 and beating guys like Lopez Lamong, Mo Trafeh, Andrew Bumbalough, and Garrett Heath. The names in front of him? Ben True, Kiptoo, and Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp. He says even back then he knew these guys were good.

"Oh yeah, for sure. Once they matured, running age wise and training, sky would be the limit for them."

Postseason meets like Foot Locker South and Foot Locker Nationals propelled Deak's running career by preparing for all aspects of running mentally, physically, and emotionally. It was also a place where college coaches were present and gave him the opportunity to talk to them and present himself in front of the NCAA's best teachers including CU's Mark Wetmore where he made his initial college decision.

"I ended up going to the University of Colorado for two years then ended up moving to Virginia to be with my running coach. My college career wasn't what I wanted it to be but that's water way under the bridge. I accomplished and experienced so many things during my running career that I'll never forget. "

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