April 24, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Rick Scheff has learned that with maturity comes wisdom.
It took choosing to attend the University of Missouri instead of Georgia Tech when both schools came recruiting that led him to see the light.
“When you’re 17, you’re not making great life decisions.” said the fifth-year senior, who is poised to graduate in the spring. “Just getting away from family and where I grew up and doing something new was, to me, more important than the educational value of Tech.”
Determined to show the world something, Scheff, who won two state titles in the 800-meters and another in the 1,600 in his years at St. Pius X High School — he didn’t lose a race his junior and senior years — went to the “Show Me State.” He had success his first two years, earning All-Big-12 honors, but as a junior, he suffered a broken bone in his foot and battled tendonitis. When his coach left for another opportunity, Scheff realized that fate was showing him a sign to do the same. That opportunity was at Georgia Tech.
“I called up Coach [Alan] Drosky and asked him if he still had a place in his heart for me,” he said with a laugh. “Fortunately, he did.”
Drosky’s heart was open to Scheff’s heart-felt request to return.
Following strong 2012 indoor and outdoor seasons, Scheff will be representing Georgia Tech at this weekend’s prestigious Penn Relays, where he will run a leg of the 4×800 relay with sophomore Alec Clifford, junior Shawn Roberts and freshman Zack Fanelty.
Scheff will be running his first Penn Relays but it’s not his first time on the big stage. While at Missouri, he ran at the Drake Relays. The Drake Relays, held in Des Moines, Iowa, are run at the same time as the Penn Relays and have prestige. While he doesn’t hate the Drake, it’s not THE PENN RELAYS.
“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “At Missouri, we always went to Drake, they’re the two biggest but Penn is a little bigger. I’m pretty excited for the opportunity to come out and run at the biggest track meet in America, after seeing the second-biggest a few times.”
“It’s definitely going to be cool for me having seen Drake to come out and see Penn because not a lot of people get to run at both,” he added. “It’s a big thing for me. It’s a cool thing for me. It’s something I’m excited about.”
He’s excited but not nervous. Part of his role on Saturday will be to make sure the younger runners have that same demeanor. He believes that will be easier than it might have been even last weekend.
“I try and pull some guys aside and talk to them,” he said. “With freshmen, I’m not so sure it’s Penn as much as conference finals. I remember when I was a freshman. I was a nervous wreck heading into conference meets. I guess it’s just one of the things that once you do it a couple of times it’s not as bad but the first time it’s just terrifying.”
Call it the wisdom that comes with experience.
In addition to experience, Scheff will be carrying momentum into Penn. In his final ACC Championships held last weekend at Lannigan Field on the campus of the University of Virginia, he ran 1:49.86 in the preliminaries. It was best time since his sophomore season. He ran a 1:50.50 in the Final, finishing sixth.
“I was pretty pleased with my prelim. I was a little disappointed in the final,” he said. “I’ve been battling a strained hamstring since indoor, actually, so my fitness has fallen a little. I was a little disappointed to come back slower in the final but overall I thought it was a good senior year. It was a good way to go out. Hopefully I qualified for [NCAA] Regional and got some points for the team. So, all-in-all, I wasn’t disappointed.”
Getting to Philadelphia’s Franklin Field on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania for the Penn Relays may be harder for Scheff than getting through them.
“My senior design expo is on Thursday so I’m actually flying up a couple of hours after the team Thursday night, landing at midnight,” he said. “Friday morning I’ll get to the hotel and have a day to recover and get out and race on Saturday.”