Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Male Athlete of the Year: Andrew Bumbalough

No one had ever run a sub-four-minute mile in Nashville.

So hoping to be the first to do so, a bevy of professional runners gathered at the 2005 Music City Distance Carnival at Vanderbilt University. Also toeing the line hoping to be the city trailblazer was a local high-school track star, Andrew Bumbalough. Bumbalough’s friends, family and classmates from the nearby Brentwood Academy came out in droves to see the kid that most knew as “Bumbi” make a run at the historic four-minute barrier. While the task may have seemed nearly impossible for a physically immature 18-year-old with a 4:05 1600-meter personal record to date, he still wanted to take a shot.

“I learned while coaching Andrew to never underestimate what he can do. The plan was just to go ahead and go for it,” said Brentwood Coach Marshall Smith.

As the gun sounded, Bumbi, feeding off the hometown excitement, ran the first 800m in 1:58 – he was half way there. His pace slowed through the next 100m, but as he came through 1200m, he was still on pace at 3:00. As the intensity built, Bumbalough’s fans poured onto the outer lanes of the track, urging on the local standout. Yet with 200m to go, he hit a wall, slowing drastically down the final straightaway to finish in 4:05.

“With 400 to go I was like, `Oh man, I’m at 3:00, I’m perfect,'” Bumbalough said. “With 300 meters to go, I was like `Oh, this is going to be tough. I’m really starting to hurt.’ The gorilla was jumping on the back. I was just a little over my head physically.”

Three years later, Bumbalough, now a junior at Georgetown, took another shot at the elusive 4:00 mark at Yale’s Giegengack Invitational. This time, he was successful, clocking in at 3:58.46. The time was at the top of a list of impressive accomplishments for a runner who had one of the most successful individual years in recent Georgetown history.

Bumbalough got his running start in middle school, when after watching him outrun the other kids on the soccer field, a teacher suggested that he try cross country. It was here where Smith, who would coach him throughout high school, sparked Bumbalough’s interest.

While his talent was evident early on in his high school career, Bumbalough still held back from committing himself completely to the sport. It was not until midway through his freshman cross country season when a senior, Brad Polley, confronted him about not giving a maximum effort that he really started to show his full potential.

“Maybe he didn’t realize how good he was, and so maybe I was just trying to do that to encourage him, to have confidence in himself, to not be afraid to go on and pass some of the older guys,” Polley said.

Polley got through to the freshman.

“That kind of lit a fire under me. I was like, `Man, I really do have a lot of talent in this, I can race well – let’s really bring up the training and let’s really buy into this,'” Bumbalough said.

Bumbalough did work hard, and as a high school junior, he established himself as the top two-miler in the country, running an 8:49 at the Arcadia Invitational in California.

“That was an eye-opener. We knew he was ready to go out and probably break nine minutes, but we didn’t even talk about winning that race,” Smith said. “[Andrew] is very confident and has never been afraid to compete with anybody.”

Bumbalough dominated both the fall and spring seasons his senior year, winning state titles in cross country, finishing second at the Foot Locker Nationals and taking the 800m, 1600m and 3200m state titles in track. In all, he finished high school with nine state titles and three state records.

Current Georgetown Head Coach Pat Henner, who was an assistant at Georgetown at the time, was in charge of recruiting Bumbalough. Henner met him at a summer running camp following Bumbalough’s sophomore year and went to Nashville to be in Bumbalough’s living room at noon on the first day that coaches were allowed to meet with recruits.

“Undoubtedly that made a statement, and I knew that he really wanted me to be at Georgetown,” Bumbalough said. “The commitment that he showed by being there the first day kind of set a tone.”

Henner’s commitment, along with Georgetown’s distance history and the fact that Smith had been a former athlete of Henner’s at James Madison, led Bumbalough to sign with the Hoyas during his senior year.

With much hype and lofty expectations heading into his freshman year, Bumbalough suffered the first real setback of his running career with a hip flexor injury that forced him to red-shirt both the cross country and indoor seasons.

“It was really frustrating. Spending time in the pool is miserable. Being in Yates instead of on the trails with my teammates, that was hard. I had such a good experience in high school that the expectations were at a certain level, and because of my injury I wasn’t able to achieve any of those expectations,” Bumbalough said.

Bumbalough was able to compete during the outdoor season but was disappointed with an eighth-place finish in the 1500m at Big Easts.

However, that summer he would bounce back with a second-place finish in the USATF Junior Nationals 1500m, which earned him a trip to the World Championships in China, where he finished 10th. As he built momentum going into his sophomore year, Bumbalough was derailed once again during the cross country season when he suffered a thigh injury, aggravating an already-tight IT band during the Big East Championships. The injury forced him to sit out the regional and national competitions.

Over winter break, disaster struck again. Working too hard and too soon on a muddy hill, Bumbalough badly injured his Achilles tendon and was barely able to walk. The moment was so frustrating that he contemplated walking away from the sport.

“This was the lowest point of my career as a runner and probably one of the lower points in my life, in general. I was really depressed that I couldn’t run,” Bumbalough said. “This was kind of like the make-or-break moment in my running life in terms of, like, I either need to quit this and move on and find something more meaningful in my life, or I need to just, like, totally suck this up and start to believe again.”

With his parents’ constant support and Henner’s calming demeanor, Bumbalough was able to overcome any doubts he had and make it back on the track at the end of indoor season for the IC4A Distance Medley Relay.

“As meaningless as [the race] is on paper – it’s so low-key it’s unbelievable – but that race meant the world to me because it meant that I was out on the track again and was running,” said Bumbalough.

During the outdoor season, Bumbalough continued to improve as he got healthy, notching personal records in all his events. Yet once again, he fell short in the postseason, taking fifth in the 1500m run at Big Easts and missing the finals at Nationals for the second year in a row.

Bumbalough said that ever since his junior year in high school, he has felt that the sky is limitless.

“The first two years [at Georgetown] kind of masked that a little bit and kind of put it down a little bit, that mentality, but I still held onto it. It never died,” he said.

So far, throughout the three seasons of this past school year, Bumbalough’s persistence has paid off, as he’s been able to stay healthy and turn in quality performances in every race thus far. During cross country, Bumbalough’s most courageous performance came during the Big East Championship, where he pulled his hamstring about 800m from the finish, but was still able to finish fifth. While dropping out may have been justifiable, he fought through an injury in the same race that cost him last year’s season.

“I’d realized that we’d been second two years running, and I didn’t want it to be a third year, and I just let those emotions and those thoughts take over and not really worry about my personal health at that point,” Bumbalough said.

Henner tabbed Bumbalough’s competitiveness and love of competition as two of his greatest assets.

“Sometimes people don’t see those kind of guys as being really team guys, but he’s definitely a team guy,” Henner said. “Our team doing well and our program doing well is really important for him.”

While the Hoyas finished second to Louisville, they bounced back with a big win at Regionals and went on to finish 13th at Nationals, due much in part to Bumbalough’s 22nd place, an all-American finish. While finally being healthy enough to compete at the national level and garner all-American status was a big accomplishment, Bumbalough served his team best by staying positive despite the disappointment of having two Hoyas drop out and a third walk to the finish during a race.

Opting to lead by example, Bumbalough shuns any flashy, confrontational strategies when interacting with his teammates.

“I’m not a big rah-rah leader. . I would rather fire somebody up by going out and having a really good last 100m,” Bumbalough said.

“It’s pretty inspirational – I mean he’s actually probably the only person on the team who I can say that I will always rely on as a teammate,” classmate Mike Krisch said. “It’s just how it is.”

During the indoor season, Bumbalough put together one of the top performances in Georgetown history, breaking four minutes in the mile at Yale. As Bumbalough broke through the tape with the second-fastest indoor time in school history and the nation’s fastest time of the year at the time, the emotions were overflowing.

“Deep down, there was a sense of me wanting to go after it and take [the four-minute mark] down. It was the two previous years of disappointments at Georgetown all coming out right there,” Bumbalough said.

Said Henner: “It’s more of an accomplishment that everybody can relate to. Everybody kind of knows the significance of a four-minute mile. In that regard it was a tremendous thing for Andrew, for our program and the university.”

Bumbalough ran to an all-American second-place finish in the 3000m at the NCAA Indoor Championships and a 3:56.1 mile as the anchor in the distance medley relay that brought the Hoyas from last place to fifth, cementing yet another all-American award.

“I got the baton in last, and I was like, `This is not respectable. This is Georgetown Track and Field, we don’t get last in these kinds of races,'” Bumbalough said.

Finally, in the outdoor season, which is still in progress, Bumbalough has only continued his impressive year. At the Big East Outdoor Championships, he notched his first Big East wins ever, taking first in the 1500m and 4x800m relay. Bumbalough beat at least half a dozen four-minute milers in the 1500m relay.

“I think the race at Big Easts is significant because it was really the first time that Andrew actually took control of the race – a big race. Instead of reacting and overreacting to the competition, he was basically the one who controlled the race,” Henner said.

As Bumbalough focuses on the 1500m for Regionals at the end of May – and hopefully Nationals in June – he will face stiff competition. Looking to the future, however, and seeing that Georgetown has produced a good deal of professional runners, along with 20 Olympians, it comes as no surprise that Bumbalough wishes to continue Georgetown’s rich running tradition by running competitively after his time here.

“It’s really exciting to be wearing blue and gray and be wearing the `G’ on your back. I think that there are a lot of expectations for Georgetown to be producing a marquee athlete, and I’m really excited to fill that role,” Bumbalough said.

With a life-long dream to make the Olympics, Bumbalough’s current 1500m time should qualify him for the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., this upcoming summer. While he currently has the goal of making the 12-person final, Bumbalough will be in a much better position four years down the road.

“Andrew is still relatively young; he’s still developing physically, and he really doesn’t have a whole lot of training under his belt for somebody running at his level,” Henner said. “I think he can keep improving by leaps and bounds over the next few years. The big question is [whether he will] stay healthy. The better and better you get, your desire has to grow, too, because it takes more and more of a commitment the better that you get,” Henner said.

For now, Bumbalough will focus on finishing off the best year of his career.

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