By JOE SCALZO
VNDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
He uses phrases like "running soul" and "irreplaceable bonds." He considers excellence as much an obligation as a goal. His physical ability is matched only by his mental strength.
Dave Pykare is a pure runner in a program of pure runners.
Like so many at Maplewood, Pykare's stellar career began in 1972 when a Rocket senior named Ted Rupe won a state cross country title.
"That was the start of it all," Pykare said of Rupe's title. "I've said it time and again, but coach Rupe has really been the difference. He's inspired all our other coaches and they've learned from his knowledge. He's a great influence, a great competitor and a great runner. I've learned so much from him."
Pykare won a state title in the 1600-meter run at state this year, anchored the first place 4x800 relay that repeated as state champions and anchored the third place 4x400 relay.
He is the Vindicator boys track and field athlete of the year.
"I always say that without the grace of God I would never have the talent or the work ethic to accomplish what I have," he said. "People think that running comes naturally, but it doesn't. You can have all the talent in the world and not do anything. I think my faith has made me into the type of person I am and it keeps me humble.
"You can't be egotistical with at least one knee on the ground at all times."
Pykare will run cross country and track at the University of Akron and major in education. He also plans to coach.
"I've always been a people person," he said. "I like interacting with people and helping people and I think teaching is one of the best positions out there. You have a chance to make a difference in people's lives. It's hard for one person to change the world, but if you try..."
His strong showing at the state meet was merely the culmination of an impressive running career. He ran in the 4x800 relay that finished third in 1999 and second in 2000. He finished ninth in the 800 as a freshman, seventh in the 3200 as a sophomore, second in the 1600 as a sophomore and third in the 1600 as a junior.
He's also finished in the top 30 at the state cross country meet all four years, including a fifth place finish last fall.
"As a freshman, I came in just trying to fill in the gaps from graduation," he said. "As the years went by, I stepped into the leadership position and tried to do everything I could to better our team. There's a tradition among the runners here and each year we find a select few willing to pour their heart and soul into the program."
Pain doesn't seem to bother him -- only by pushing yourself do you get better, he said.
"You have to push yourself and keep going no matter what," he said. "That's whole point. That's the fun of running. If you just jog two laps, you accomplish nothing. There's always another level to strive for. No matter what you've done, there's always someone who's gone faster. There's always another goal."
Pykare preferred cross country when he was in junior high but now gives the edge to track -- especially the 4x800 relay.
"I like having the pressure on me to perform when the time comes," he said. "And I like running as a team. That's the goal -- everybody depending on one another."
He will miss high school, he said, but is looking forward to running at the Division I college level.
"Everybody says there's nothing like your high school years," he said. "Through the endless hours of road running you make friendships and bonds that are irreplaceable. I'm definitely going to miss my coaches and teammates.
"But I'm looking forward to a higher level of competition. I'll get to run some different races like the steeplechase and it will push me to improve my training and work even harder."