While Carlisle has produced college athletes in track and field in various events, distance running is the program’s bread and butter.
Of the 26 Thundering Herd athletes to commit to college programs in cross country and track and field since 2015, nearly half are distance runners. And 12 distance runners have gone to Division I programs compared to just four in the other disciplines.
There are a few minor catches: Zach Brehm is no longer running at West Point after doing so his freshman year there; Noah (Syracuse) and Sam Affolder (Washington) transferred into the district with their U.S. Army War College family in 2016-17 for one season — Noah’s senior year and Sam’s sophomore year; Maddie Kole (Mount St. Mary’s) ran middle distance and distance in high school and is mostly distance in college; and pole vaulter Sarah Bourdon originally went to Towson but is now at Shippensburg University.
Structure is a staple of practice for Carlisle distance runners. The runners know in advance exactly how many minutes they are running before they arrive and what type of training they are doing for the day.
“It’s really nice to come to practice every day, you know what you’re doing,” senior Meg Lebo (South Carolina) said. “Having the explanation, knowing what we’re doing — it’s really helpful, 'cause then whenever you get to the meet you have [in your mind], ‘This is what I did, this is what it was for.’”
"We focus on our minutes so much," Dickinson soccer/track and field commit Meg Tate said. "We’re always trying to calculate how many minutes we need this day and the whole week. It makes it so we’re doing everything that’s set in stone."
And each year a runner’s volume increases. It is common for a senior to lead the team during cross country season and in the mile and two-mile races during track, with a junior not far behind ready to take over the mantel in the next year. There is a steady stream of developing runners seemingly every year.
“I think the minutes are the big part of it,” said junior Sophia Toti, who is the exception now that she has developed into the girls’ top distance runner this year. “You keep building them up and you get them really high. And every year you get more minutes. ... I think that’s what makes kids faster.”
A lot of the distance running success can be attributed to one man: Carlisle head track coach Ed Boardman.
Boardman took over the Herd in 2008 after four years as the distance running coach under Shippensburg University legendary coach Steve Spence, who won bronze in the marathon in the World Championships in 1991. Boardman was also a four-year runner at SU after a solid career at Chambersburg in the mid-1990s.
He credits Spence for teaching him nearly everything he now knows about coaching runners.
“I take much of what I do from him,” Boardman said. “When I started coaching with him, I had a group of — they’d politely refer to themselves as ‘misfits’ — that [Spence] gave me to work with when I started [at Ship].”
Among Boardman’s first disciples was Kelly Stewart, who became an All-American and eventually qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2008.
Early on, she gave him her training log book. A statistician by trade, Boardman poured over it, looking at her best races and how she trained leading up to that. From there he devised a training plan for her and later made a couple alterations to turn it into his practice plan for all college runners he’d coach.
Boardman also helped Dan Helfrick develop into a 10-time PSAC medalist in the 5K and 10K. Helfrick’s father, Rod, now serves an assistant at Carlisle.
Boardman brought his training plan to the Herd in 2008 and scaled it down for high school runners. It is volume-based, albeit with not as much volume as collegiate runners are used to, and it has been incredibly successful.
“I’m working ‘em hard, but I’m trying not to kill ‘em, because I want them to continue at the next level,” Boardman said.
Senior Jack Wisner knows this. His older brother, Matt, won an indoor NCAA Division I medal with Duke. Both brothers talk about training at times, and Jack knows his practices at Pitt next season will only get tougher.
“It’s gonna be definitely a wake-up call I think,” he said. “I mean, not that Coach doesn’t prepare us for college, it’s just collegiate level is a lot more.”
Editor's notes: This story has been updated to include Bryanna Youtzy as a 2015 Division I commit, and to correct the time frame to 2015-2019. The Sentinel did not have a signing day record of her and regrets the omission. The Sentinel regrets these mistakes.