The junior's ultimate goal is to make the U.S. Olympic team in 2004.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- When Kurt Michaelis was a junior high student in Toledo, he really wanted to play football.
His father was concerned that Kurt, who was a pretty good baseball player, might get hurt. So Michaelis ran cross country instead.
The more he ran, the better he got until he forgot about baseball, football and everything else, and running was the only thing he wanted to do.
That decision paid off for Michaelis, who two weeks ago became Youngstown State's first Division I All-American at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
"It's always been a dream of mine to be an All-American and to be YSU's first is just an amazing feeling," he said.
The YSU junior ran the mile in 4 minutes, 7.79 seconds in the finals, finishing ninth in a field of 11 runners to earn the All-American honors.
"Actually, the pace was a lot slower that I had figured it would be and it probably hurt me in the long run," said Michaelis. "I kind of hung back in the pack for most of the race, and then the last 400 meters I gave it everything I had and managed to pass a couple of runners to get into the ninth spot."
Likes indoor season
Michaelis now is getting ready for the outdoor season, but admitted that he prefers the indoor season.
"A lot of runners don't like to run indoors, because of the shorter tracks and the higher banks and tighter turns, especially the taller runners, but I love to run indoors," he said.
Michaelis holds the indoor mile record (4:02.71) at YSU, which he set earlier this season, but he knows that he's got to get his time down much lower if he's to reach his ultimate goal of making the U.S. Olympic team in 2004.
"Qualifying for the Olympics has always been in the back of my mind, something that I've always dreamed about, but now it's a lot closer to reality," he said.
Michaelis has used up his eligibility for next year's indoor season, but has two more outdoor seasons in which to compete, then will make his bid for the Olympic team.
"You have got to have the qualifying time at least to have a shot at making the team," he said. "I figure it will be around 3:36 for the 1,500 meters. Then there is the trials where the top three get consideration."
Gives Gorby credit
Michaelis said much of his success is due to the work of his coach at Youngstown State, Brian Gorby.
"He's taken me to so many meets that otherwise I'd never been able to run in," he said. "I don't know where I'd have been without him."
Gorby responded that Michaelis deserves the credit.
"Kurt is just an unbelievably hard worker," the coach said. "He maximizes all of his talent and continues to drive forward."
Michaelis doesn't know what will happen after college, if there will be an Olympic spot or not, but he knows he wants to keep running.
"I'd like to try to run professionally, if I can get a sponsor," he said, "and if that doesn't work out, I'd really like to coach, maybe right here with Coach Gorby.
"I'm really leaving it up to God and whatever he wants me to do."