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Training Partners

Oct. 1, 2014

By Adam Van Brimmer
Buzz Magazine

The following story first appeared in the August issue of BUZZ magazine.

College coaches’ livelihoods depend on their ability to find talent.

Sometimes, though, talent seeks out coaches instead.

An overlooked prodigy sends a highlight tape. A high school coach or mentor makes a telephone call. An un-recruited athlete walks on the first day of practice.

The Georgia Tech men’s cross country team’s season promises to be the best in years because two off-the-radar recruits sought out coach Alan Drosky.

Brandon Lasater and Jeremy Greenwald will anchor the Yellow Jackets this fall and show the potential to make the team a contender at the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA meets. And both ran unorthodox courses to the front of the Georgia Tech pack.

Lasater was a high school state champion, albeit in the private school ranks of the Georgia Independent Schools Association. Tall and lanky, he had little aspirations beyond high school track and cross country. He didn’t even contact Drosky until after he’d been accepted to study electrical engineering at Georgia Tech. Drosky showed little interest until Lasater’s high school coach, a retiree who coached distance runners at Tulane and the U.S. Military Academy and knew Drosky through the college coaching network, called and vouched for the then-high school senior.

“He told me he thought the kid had some potential, and while we hear that a lot, this coach had a little more credibility with me,” Drosky said. “His times were on the borderline, so given the coach’s background, I figured I’d give him a shot.”

Greenwald, meanwhile, was less of an unknown, albeit beyond Georgia Tech’s usual recruiting sphere. Like Lasater, academics sparked the Virginian’s interest in Georgia Tech. He reached out to Drosky upon his admission acceptance. The times he shared “were right on the cusp” of what college coaches look for in recruits, and “as he continued to improve on those, our interest grew,” Drosky said. Greenwald was the runner-up in the state championship meet as a senior, finishing behind only a much sought after runner who now competes for Georgetown University.

So while the initial recruitment was Greenwald reaching out to Drosky, the coach wooed the runner in the end.

“I was coming anyway,” Greenwald said. “This is where I wanted to be.”

Both Greenwald and Lasater have validated Drosky’s interest since. Greenwald was named an honorable mention All-American in track this spring and was an NCAA All-Region selection in cross country last fall. Lasater is a three-time All-ACC performer and a 2013 honorable mention All-American on the track and was an NCAA All-Region honoree in cross country last year after finishing a team-best 16th at the NCAA South Region meet.

Both runners continue to make strides because of their commitment to turning weaknesses into strengths. Lasater is well known – feared even – for his closing kick but sometimes falls too far behind the leaders to make up the ground necessary for a top finish. His focus is tactical, stalking the frontrunners and lengthening his kick.

Greenwald has taken the opposite approach. A self-described “bull in a china shop” in the middle of runs, he’s worked on his patience, conserving energy for late in races.

The differing styles make Lasater and Greenwald good training partners. Lasater’s steady pace has helped Greenwald relax on the track or course while Greenwald’s innate sense of urgency has pushed Lasater to keep the leaders within striking distance. Both are strong closers.

The duo are also close friends “who like to bust on each other.” They are housemates this year along with a few other Georgia Tech distance runners. Both voiced hopes that the closeness will improve chemistry and propel the Yellow Jackets to nationals.

“We’re not a dominant cross country team – we are built more for the track where other schools are geared toward cross country first,” Lasater said. “But we have the pieces to put it together.”

All because the two main pieces recruited Georgia Tech. Drosky often muses about his good fortune.

“I’ll have a good finish or Jeremy will have a good finish,” Lasater said, “and [Drosky] will talk about how hard it is to turn kids away because you never know who might be that next breakout runner.”

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