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Publish date: Aug 30, 2011

This article appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Champion magazine.

And one for all

By Gary Brown

Indiana distance runner Andrew Poore is a team kind of guy in a solitary kind of sport.

He may log 85 to 100 miles a week and wear out more shoes than Forrest Gump, but he doesn’t wear out his teammates.

“The most generic goal in a sport like this is to get the most out of yourself,” said the Indianapolis native. “But you can’t do that by yourself. You need your teammates.”

Many of Poore’s teammates are home grown. Almost two-thirds of those on the track roster claim Hoosier roots, including four of Poore’s distance peers who made a pact to restore the Indiana track tradition via in-state talent.

If they do, it will be because of their “all for one” camaraderie. 

“We made up such a great class in high school – we thought it would be a waste not to go somewhere together,” Poore said. “IU actually recruited us as a group, saying we had an opportunity to do something special if we all worked together. We bought into that right away.”

It’s working, too. The Hoosier bunch finished seventh at this year’s Division I Men’s Cross Country Championships, Indiana’s best finish at the meet in 33 years. Poore’s 38th-place finish made him the school’s first All-American since 2006.

Andrew Poore bio

SPORT: Track and field/cross country.

SCHOOL: Indiana.

CLASS: Senior (for 2011-12).

MAJOR: Economics (pre-law).

ATHLETICS ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Two-time Big Ten champion in track; five-time All-American in track and cross country.

ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTS: Two-time academic All-American (Big Ten and coaches association).

WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Poore came of age on the track, helping his high school 3,200-meter relay team set a state record in 2007. “We made a lot of sacrifices, which is unusual when you’re 17,” Poore said.

Poore also placed third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2011 NCAA championships after taking second in the event at the Big Ten meet (teammate De’Sean Turner won it). He’s a two-time Big Ten champion in the 5,000 meters (2010 outdoor and 2011 indoor), too.

Such team-building success could have been dashed had it not been for the group’s commitment to Indiana, despite the coach who recruited them leaving before their freshman year began. 

As it happened, they ended up getting a pretty good replacement coach. Ron Helmer, now in his fourth year, brought with him almost a decade of success at Georgetown. Poore said it was apparent even after the first phone call with his new boss that he had more confidence in this collection of Hoosiers than the coaches who recruited them.

They certainly have confidence in themselves. Perhaps it’s because they’re not just teammates but good friends.

That bonding comes simply from the conversation that occurs during the long runs, Poore said. 

“Even in high school when you’re young and immature with a short attention span, those runs are a long time to stay focused on something. You end up talking about all sorts of things, from school to relationships to family – you really get to know each other,” Poore said.

“And now, running at an elite level, you’re basically putting yourself through pain every single day. When you’re suffering with your friends every day, you share a bond you don’t get with other people because they’re the only ones who can really relate to what you’re going through.”

That bond is what Poore was seeking in a college. 

“I wanted to be part of a team that was focused and committed to common goals,” he said. “To be a good cross country team, you have to run as a pack. By the end you don’t care which one of you wins as long as it’s one of yours and not one of theirs.”

Poore’s next step after college may be with a cleat, too, though he’s on a wing-tip academic path (economics and pre-law).

“You get such a short time in your life to be an athlete, and track takes such a large time commitment that if you’re going to do it, you need to put every ounce of energy you have into it. So I want to see it all the way through before I ‘retire,’ ” he said. That means he’ll probably run at the 2012 Olympic Trials and perhaps even the 2016 edition, too.

In the meantime, Poore said he might pursue a master’s degree in exercise science, perhaps even at Indiana, which would be a good way to keep running. He said he may ask to be a volunteer coach on the track team, too.

“I want to enjoy being an athlete as long as I can,” he said.

And a teammate.