Sept. 11, 2008
By Jack Wilkinson –
Following is the fifth in a series of profiles on the members of the 2008 class of the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. Jack Wilkinson is catching up with each of the six members leading up to the Annual Hall of Fame Induction Dinner, which will be Friday, Sept. 19 at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased by calling 404-894-6124.
The newspaper clipping is still stored in his office file cabinet. When Alan Drosky pulls it out, it’s the accompanying photograph that still jumps out at him. A photo which, even 15 years later, bespeaks talent and determination, potential yet maturity, and eventual greatness.
“I looked at this picture right here and I said, `This kid’s gonna be something special,'” said Drosky, Georgia Tech’s distance running coach. “If I saw a kid today, I’d say the same thing: `This kid’s gonna be a runner.'”
The kid in the 1993 photo is a then-rising high school senior in Las Cruces, N.M., named David Krummenacker. He’s running a high-altitude workout, not a race. He’s wearing not a singlet, but a black Malcolm X T-shirt.
“I never noticed that until now,” smiled Drosky, who noticed everything else. “Number one, his build. A tall, slender kid, and how young he looks. A young, fresh face. You can see a high school senior and you think, `That could be a college junior.'”
That, and much, much more. “I don’t know what it was about that pose,” Drosky said, “but it strikes me that, `That kid’s fast.'”
Fast enough to come to Georgia Tech and become a multi-time ACC and NCAA champion. Fast enough to become a three-time U.S. champion in the 800 meters, winning consecutively from 2001-03. Fast enough to become the premier American middle-distance runner in the 800 and 1500.
And now fast enough to run right into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. “It’s an exciting honor,” Krummenacker, 33, said by phone from his home in Tucson, Ariz. “Tech’s had a long tradition of very talented athletes. To be named among the elite of the elite is a really high honor.”
Krummenacker, who runs professionally for adidas, won’t be able to attend the Sept. 19 induction banquet. But then, his accomplishments and ex-coaches speak volumes for him.
“David’s one of the most beautiful middle-distance runners we’ve ever had in this program,” said Grover Hinsdale, Tech’s head track and field coach. “And he’s one of the most mature runners we’ve ever had. He was very businesslike as far as his training, very methodical. He knew what he wanted to accomplish, and he just took care of business.”
“David’s had a phenomenal career,” Drosky said. “He’s certainly been huge, HUGE for the Georgia Tech program. But beyond the countless ACC championships and NCAA championships, it’s the way David carries himself as a man.
“He is such a credit to our program and the Athletic Association, and to Georgia Tech, beyond the times and races he ran,” he said. “He’s truly one of the great young men to come through Georgia Tech.”
For Krummenacker, part of the Tech allure was the great runners already on the Flats: Derrick Adkins, the 1996 Olympic 400-meter hurdles champion. Derek Mills, a 4×400 relay gold medalist. Conrad Nichols, then a middle-distance mainstay. Octavius Terry, NCAA 400-meter hurdles champ in `94.
“I felt my skin prickling when I first got there,” said Krummenacker. “These were the kind of athletes I aspired to.”
And then there was Drosky. “This was somebody who was real serious about developing a good person,” Krummenacker said, “and not just a track athlete.”
In 1994, his sophomore year, Krummenacker suffered an Achilles injury that sidelined him – and changed his career. “There’s key moments in your life when things could go one way or the other,” he said. “I’m just glad I didn’t have surgery on my Achilles.”
Instead, he hobbled around that winter on crutches, wearing a stabilizer boot before recovering and returning to the track. “After that, every moment I had in training felt like euphoria,” said Krummenacker. “I really enjoyed running after that.”
He ran like the wind: The NCAA champ in the indoor 800 in 1997 and ’98. In both years, the ACC’s Most Valuable Performer in the indoor and outdoor championships. Six ACC indoor and outdoor 800 titles, three in the 1500 and four more in the 4×400 relay. Nine times an All-American, including thrice in the 800 outdoors.
“David was the proverbial workhorse for us at the conference meet, pulling yeoman’s duty for us,” Drosky said.
The 4×400 relay remains especially memorable for Krummenacker. “I really enjoyed that,” he said. “It was different: passing the baton, running as a team. Winning conference and national championships is also exhilarating, but just being able to run as a team was great. We were close-knit.”
Krummenacker moved to Tucson in 2001, to run with a new group of training partners and under a new coach. “It was a good move,” Drosky said. “I’d probably gotten David as far as I could get him.”
That year, Krummenacker won the first of his three straight U.S. 800 titles. At the ’03 IAAF World Championships, he won while upsetting the great Wilson Kipketer, who still holds the world record of 1:41:11.
“That was like a dream almost,” said Krummenacker, whose personal best is 1:43.9. “I’d admired him since my junior year at Tech, looked up to him. I’d been in awe. He’s still the man.”
The only void on Krummenacker’s resume? He never made a U.S. Olympic team. “It’s the only missing accolade,” said Drosky.
Krummenacker failed to qualify in either the 800 or 1500 in 2000. By 2004, “He’s the premier American middle-distance runner going into the trials,” Drosky said. But Krummenacker, a strong favorite in the 800, finished a disappointing, stunning fourth in the final.
Still, in the 1500, all Krummenacker needed was to run in the first round. He’d already met the Olympic qualifying standard, having run 3:31 earlier that year. In the final, only one runner beat the qualifying time; had Krummenacker merely run in the first round, he’d have finally made the Olympics.
Instead, he chose not to run. In doing so, he honored his sport, and himself.
“I wasn’t prepared to run the 1500 that year,” Krummenacker said. “I was focusing on the 800. To me, the Olympics is not something to go to as a spectator. A lot of people were calling me and saying, `You’ve got to go. It’s the Olympics.’ I looked at the Olympics as competition. I didn’t want to go and do nothing. If I had to do it 1,000 times, I’d always do it the same way.”
And that gap on his running resume? “I don’t feel like there’s a missing part from not being in the Olympics,” Krummenacker said. “In track and field, we have the World Championships every two years. The Olympics hold a special place because they hold all those sports. Of course, I would have liked to have gone, but it’s not something I’d look back on and say, `Oh, I missed that opportunity.
“I’ve really felt like I’ve enjoyed my time in running,” said Krummenacker, who’ll likely retire after next year, get a masters degree in education, then teach and coach. “I’ve had a tremendous amount of success, and friendships. But it’s time to move on to something else.”