Thornburgs: Brothers and running rivals
Sibling rivalry at its finest will be on display this weekend in Louisville.
For the first time in their impressive and lengthy running careers, the Brothers Thornburg – Alex and Andy – will be competing against each other as members of opposing teams.
The St. Clairsville High products currently are both competing at the Division I level, but they’re some 700 miles apart with Alex competing at Loyola of Chicago and Andy at UNC-Asheville.
Their respective teams will converge on E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Kentucky, which will host the NCAA Division I Nationals next month for the pre-nationals.
Since the Thornburgs saw their respective schedules during the summer, this has been a meet they’ve both had circled on their calendars.
“Pre-nationals is one of the largest meets in the country with some of the most elite competition around, so it’s just an honor to be there,” Alex said. “I think it’ll be a great place to run a few personal records and put up a good showing for our programs.”
Some 60 teams will compete in the men’s red race at 9:30 a.m.
“This is an exciting meet and being on opposite teams of Alex just puts a little bit more excitement into the race,” Andy said. “We’ve both been working hard and it’s always exciting when you get to race against a group of talented runners and see what happens. Everyone has ups and downs in this sport, so anything can happen. This is a race I’ve been looking forward to for a long time because so many big schools will be there, and it’ll be exciting to see where we are and what kind of improvements we’ve made.”
Both Alex and Andy are members of their teams’ top five and have made solid contributions all season and both are anxiously looking forward to their upcoming conference meets.
“Our team has a very strong group of returners from last year heading into championship season,” Alex said. “Right now, we’re the top (team) in the Horizon League, but it’s important to keep our heads on straight because there isn’t much room for error.”
Alex, who battled injuries in his first two seasons at Loyola, owns a season best of 24:50 in the 8K race.
“I am in the best shape of my life right now,” Alex said. “I would really like to run in a national meet. I think the hard work I put in over the last two years will help me to reach that goal.”
Andy, meanwhile, is enjoying an impressive freshman season for the Bulldogs. His best time of 26:20 came at the Winthrop Invitational where he placed 46th. He’s got two top 15 finishes in smaller meets this season.
Before embarking on his freshman campaign, Andy turned to his brother for some advice.
“I feel like I’ve adjusted pretty well (to college running),” Andy said. “The biggest thing I had to learn was to stay rested. If I am going to be able to work out at my fullest potential every day, then I have to get my rest.”
This weekend will be the first time the two have ran head-to-head in cross country since the 2009 Division II state meet when Alex was a senior and Andy was a sophomore.
“It might be a little strange being there and not seeing him in a Red Devils’ uniform,” Alex said. “But, I think it’s a great thing because we’ve both stepped up to another level.”
With holiday breaks and trips back to St. Clairsville quickly approaching, don’t think for a minute there won’t be some bragging rights on the line this weekend.
“I think whoever wins between us will bring it up from time to time,” Andy laughed.
Alex has a feeling that his younger brother would never let him “live it down” if he beat him.
“My age and experience allow me to train a little harder than him for now, but he’s running times comparable to what I ran as a freshman,” Alex said. “He’s also really fit and has a better body type for the longer distances than I do. I really believe Andy will have a really great collegiate running career. I just want to run to the best my ability and do well for my team. If things come to fruition and we get to run together, of course, I want to him him.”
Andy wouldn’t go as far as to say it was a priority to beat his older brother, but when the race enters its final mile or so, expect a strong kick.
“If I am anywhere near him with a mile or two to go, it will give me an incentive to push a little harder,” Andy said.
The Thornburgs’ parents – Dick and Diane – will be making the trip to the Bluegrass State.
“I think our parents are looking forward to it almost as much as we are because they haven’t seen us in a few months,” Alex said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
Neither Alex nor Andy expects to see the other until after the race because it’s a work trip first and foremost.
“I’ll probably see him after the race and I’ll give him a big hug as soon as I get the chance,” Alex said.
OTHER LOCALS IN LOUISVILLE
Also competing in Louisville this weekend will be the University of Illinois. The Illini women’s team have a pair of former OVAC standouts in their lineup. Barnesville High product Stephanie Morgan returned to the starting line earlier this season. Wheeling Park graduate Courtney Yaeger is trying to be the Illini’s top runner for the third straight meet.
Morgan is the only member of her team to have competed in the Pre-National Meet. She did so in 2010.
Staskey can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at TLSportsSeth