Medina Grad Eric Schmuhl Making Strides Toward a Fantastic Track & Field
Season at Baldwin Wallace University
BEREA, OHIO -- Medina High School graduate Eric Schmuhl, a junior at Baldwin Wallace University, has made major strides towards becoming an indoor track and field leader in the Ohio Athletic Conference. It is just the beginning of a career that will be dedicated to leadership.
An All-OAC performer in 2003, Schmuhl, who stands 6í1", has set goals of winning an OAC title and qualifying for the NCAA Division III National Championship Meet. Although both are lofty goals, Yellow Jacket Head Coach Dr. Bill Taraschke feels Schmuhl has the talent, ability and work habits to make it a reality.
"Eric is one of the hardest workers that we have," said Taraschke who has guided the BW cross country and track programs to 38 OAC titles in his 20 years in Berea. "When you combine his work habits with his talent and ability, you have something that is very special. Unfortunately, injuries have played a part in his first two years here. This year, Eric is healthy and running better than ever."
"Personally, my goal is to win the Ohio Athletic Conference title in the 55-meter high hurdles, but more importantly, I want to continue to improve," said Schmuhl. "Unfortunately, nagging injuries have been an issue. Regardless of the injuries, my goals have been consistent."
Last weekend, Schmuhl had a breakout meet as he won both the 55 meter hurdles in 7.85 seconds and the 300 meter run in 36.76 seconds to help the Yellow Jacket men claim the team title at the annual Greater Cleveland College Indoor Championship Meet hosted by BW.
"Eric had a solid meet," said Taraschke. "He is just beginning to meet his potential. Eric is an outstanding hurdler who has sprinter speed. We are a little thin on sprinters so we have to utilize his talent in both areas."
With only half the season completed, Schmuhl has achieved personal records of 6.52 seconds in the 55 meter dash and the 36.76 seconds in the 300 meters. He earned his season best 7.85 seconds in the 55 meter high hurdles this past weekend. Schmuhl achieved his personal record in the high hurdles last season at the 2003 OAC Indoor Track and Field Championship Meet. His second place finish of 7.84 seconds narrowly missed the NCAA provisional qualifying time of 7.81.
"I have a lot to improve on in my speed and technique," said a modest Schmuhl. "However, I do believe that if I can get that perfect race, I will have an excellent opportunity to accomplish my goal of qualifying for nationals this season.
"Every week, we compete against some outstanding competition," continued Schmuhl, who was timed last Saturday in 8.20 seconds in the 60 meter hurdles in an open meet at NCAA Division I Kent State University. "I am hoping that either next Friday at the Ohio Northern Midwest Elite Meet or at the OAC Championship Meet in two weeks that another runner or two or three will push me over the edge. It would be great to qualify for nationals."
The Yellow Jacket men are looking to improve upon last yearís third place OAC Meet when they compete at the 2004 OAC Indoor Championships at Capital University on March 5-6 in Columbus.
"We were hoping that he would run the perfect race at Kent State," said Taraschke. "Now we will look to the ONU and OAC meets as the next set of opportunity. It isn't just running that's the tough part for Eric. He can do that quite well. It is the mental preparation that can take a lot out of a person."
"As a team, our team and individual goals remain the same," said Schmuhl. "As a team, we would like to win the OAC title. Individually, we each desire to run better than anyone thinks that we can, and we hope to surprise our opponents at the OAC Meet. Most importantly, we want to surprise ourselves. We are facing adversity because we are short on runners, particularly in the sprints and jumps, but in the end, nobody will be able to question our effort or integrity."
To sustain his motivation throughout the arduous indoor and outdoor track seasons, Schmuhl relies on basic running fundamentals.
"It might sound cliche, but it all comes down to tireless work habits," said Schmuhl. "In working toward qualifying for nationals, I try to keep track in my mind at all time. When it's time to leave practice everyday, there is still a great deal of mental preparation to work on. Being passionate about the event has a lot to do with sustaining the level of competition."
Schmuhl added, "Hurdling has always appealed to the me because of the small margin for error. When you hurdle haphazardly, you run slower. To run your fastest time, your hurdling has to become almost mechanical. I think perfection is not only the goal with hurdling but it is what makes it fun in this technique-oriented event."
Although Schmuhl is enjoying his time as a student-athlete, the middle childhood education major has added incentive to perform well both on the track and in the classroom. With concentrations in science and social studies, his ultimate goal is to become a teacher and track coach.
"After graduation I would love to start teaching and coaching track immediately, but my greatest goal is to make it back to my hometown of Medina to teach and coach for the program where I started," said Schmuhl. "I wouldnít be at BW running track had it not been for my high school coach, Kevin Kelly, pushing me to continue my track career at his alma mater. Coach Kelly was a big influence in my decision to keep hurdling after high school."
"Eric is going to make a fine teacher and coach, just like Kevin," said Taraschke. "Kevin is now a principle and moving forward in the field of education to make a difference with young people. I think Eric will have the same affect on young people.
"Eric is an outstanding leader every day in practice," continued Taraschke. "His work ethic and enthusiasm is contagious. I wish I had more Eric Schmuhl's."
Schmuhl began his track career as a high school sophomore. As a senior in 2001, he earned All-Pioneer Conference honors in the 110 metter high hurdles. He also qualified for the OHSAA state meet in the 300 meter intermediate hurdles. He was the Medina High School Most Valuable Performer and the MVP of the Amherst Comet Relays. His career bests were 14.6 seconds in the 110 high hurdles, 39.0 seconds in the 300 intermediate hurdles and 22.8 seconds in the 200 meter dash. In addition, he recorded a height of 12-feet in the pole vault.
"Eric is a very versitile performer," said Taraschke. "In college, we have had him focus on hurdling and using sprinting as a way to become a better hurdler. We feel it has worked as he is beginning to achieve his goals one by one."
Schmuhl has found that as a collegiate runner, his positive experiences are not limited to his success on the track.
"Iíve had so many memorable moments with this team, but Iíd have to say watching our womenís team win the OAC title as a freshmen was incredible," said Schmuhl. "Our women werenít favored to win that meet, but they pulled together as a team, despite injuries and a great deal of adversity to become champions. It was a great lesson -- one that I will remember for a long, long time. Many memories I have of that meet, inspire me today."
Schmuhl added, "Nothing beats being part of a family. Being a member of this team is special because of the personal connection.
"You go through so much pain and frustration, both individually and collectively," said Schmuhl. "And, at the same time, your teammates become the most important people in your life. They cheer for you in victory and they lift you up when you fail. They keep you modest, and they wonít let you settle for anything less than becoming a success. Itís an extraordinary bond."
It seems whether Schmuhl is in the classroom or on the track, he continues to learn many valuable lessons. He hopes they are one's that he can take back with him to Medina and Medina High School oneday to help others, just like Kevin Kelly helped him.
"As a teacher and coach, you just want to make a difference. You just want to help. Kevin Kelly made a difference. In time, it will be my turn to make a difference."