Benefield: El Molino runner Brian Schulz sets a determined pace
I’ve seen this face before.
Anyone who has watched El Molino junior Brian Schulz run has seen it: His face contorted in, what is it? Pain? Rage? Drive?
But I’m seeing this face at a pre-meet, Tuesday afternoon practice. And in the weight room no less.
Distance runners are not known to get after it in the weight room, especially not the day before a meet.
But here’s Schulz, possibly the Empire’s premier boys’ distance runner this track season, the day before today’s meet with Healdsburg High, lifting weights, doing pull-ups, core work and working his triceps.
It’s like the guy doesn’t ever stop pushing. And, according to his dad, El Molino’s distance coach Hal Schulz, it isn’t wise to ask him to stop.
It seems that when Brian was 8, his older half-brother Hunter was training for a major hike so needed to put in a 20-mile run. Brian wanted to go along. Hal Schulz acquiesced but thought it best if the route took the brothers by the house in loops, so Brian could drop off any time he wanted.
“At three or four miles Brian is keeping up with him. I said, ‘Brian, why don’t we just stop?’ And he was pissed,” Hal Schulz remembered. “So he went eight miles and pretty darned brisk.”
Brian Schulz has been running at a “pretty darned brisk” clip ever since.
He’s posted the Empire’s fastest times in both the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter races this season.
Schultz set top 10 all-Empire times for freshmen and sophomores in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races his first two years at El Molino.
His 9:18 at the HOKA One National Two-Mile Postal Competition in November put him in fourth all time in the Redwood Empire for juniors and fastest since all-time record holder Luis Luna ran an 8:55 in 2011. Convert the 2-mile to 3,200 meters and he jumps to third all time fastest.
He owns the cross country course record at Ragle Park in Sebastopol.
He finished second in the North Coast Section cross country meet last fall and seventh at the state meet in Woodward Park in Fresno with a 15:38. As a sophomore he finished 44th with a 16:33 and as a freshman he took 40th with a time of 16:41.
He’s cut 15 seconds from his 3,200 meter time since freshman year, dropping his time from 9:27 to 9:12, a personal record he set at the massive Arcadia Invitational in Los Angeles last weekend. That time puts him in the top 10 all-time in the Empire.
And he likely could have gone faster.
“It went out a lot slower than I thought, definitely,” he said. “There was not a lot of room to move out.”
“I wanted to kick a lot sooner. I wanted to go with two laps to go,” he said.
But after fighting his way out of the crowded box of runners, he had to settle for a kick inside the final lap and still picked off a talented field and finished fifth in his heat.
“It was great,” Hal Schulz said. “It was like a big train coming through and everyone is going fast.”
But father and son both wanted Brian to break out and test his mettle against the train.
“He has tremendous speed,” Hal Schulz said. “There are not too many people who can out kick him with 300 to go.”
Hal Schulz knows of what he speaks. A decorated prep runner at Redwood High in Larkspur, Schulz ran at Cal and made the Olympic trials in the marathon. He’s seen his youngest son mature and reign in his competitive zeal.
He’s no longer the kid growled at the Little League umpire after being called out.
“He’s a fighter but he doesn’t blame anybody except himself,” Hal Schulz said.
And even that doesn’t happen often, father and son agree. He’s only disappointed if he doesn’t leave it all out there, doesn’t do the best he can on the day.
“That’s really the only time I don’t feel good about a race, if I feel like I didn’t put in enough effort,” Brian Schulz said. “You just don’t want to look back on it and say ‘I could have given more.’”
“Don’t let your body be in control of you,” he said. “Don’t stop just because you are hurting, just recognize that you are hurting.”
Schulz regularly gives more. He essentially trains alone because he’s the only varsity distance runner, boys or girls, on El Molino’s track team. And the Lions don’t even have a track.
The major overhaul under way on the Covey Lane campus isn’t yet finished, leaving the Lions to focus on strength in the weight room and run laps around the basketball hoops on the black top.
Schulz does all this, and then takes off for a run around Forestville.
“It’s hard for someone to train by themselves,” head track coach Ryan Hopkins said.
But Schulz will drive to Santa Rosa Junior College for track workouts or go on long runs with his dad pacing on his bike. Anything to push himself.
Hopkins said Schulz is a leader - that other athletes look at his work rate, the miles he puts in on his own.
There is no mistaking his effort in anything he takes on, even if it’s just a Tuesday afternoon session in the weight room. You can read it all over his face.
Columnist, The Press Democrat
Have a story that is wild, wacky, bizarre or beautiful? Tell me about it. Have a question that starts with, “What’s the deal with…?” Let’s figure it out together. This column is about the story behind the story, a place to shine a light on who we are, what makes us a community and all of the things that make us special. With your help, I'll be tackling the questions that vex us: (the funny, the mundane, and the irritating.)