Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sean Tully has Olympic Dreams

Sean Tully: Back on Track and Hungry for The Olympics
former Syosset High track star has found balance, and with that, success

By Josh Stewart
March 31, 2010

Villanova taught Sean Tully how to be an engineer, but his greatest lesson on structural wear and tear didn't take place in a classroom.

The former Syosset High School track star can look back now and see where he went wrong. But a professional career that could culminate at the 2012 Olympic Games almost ended before it started, until he realized that even for the most dedicated among us, sometimes less is more.

"I ran really, really well my sophomore year, [surpassed personal records] by a lot and all of a sudden I thought, 'I'm going to be going places,'" Tully says of his time with the Wildcats.

When a person turns getting cut from the high school basketball team as a sophomore into teaming to set a national record in the 4x800 relay as a senior, why not aim high? (The mammoth 2005 Penn Relays plaque and accompanying photo of Tully, his twin brother Dan, Adam Lampert, Chris Howell and Coach Bart Sessa is the highlight of the Syosset High trophy display.)

"I got way too excited about it," Tully says of the early college success, drawing out the "way" for a couple of seconds to make a point. "And that summer in my base training, I basically was just destroying myself running way too hard on all of my runs."

He couldn't stop running, even as he was running himself into the ground. Tully even competed in a couple of cross country meets for Villanova, which he now understands doesn't translate into track success.

"Running under six-minute miles on a 12-mile run on what's supposed to be an easy day, that's going to come back to get you," Tully says with a chuckle.

The result was a wasted junior year and a totally different strategy as a senior, which included more chilling and less charging during the summer. A sixth-placed finish in the '09 NCAA Championships in the 800m followed by a 12th at the U.S. Nationals confirmed that he was literally back on track. Emboldened by that performance and curious where he would have been had he not lost so much momentum his junior year, he has put aside his engineering career to go the route of a fledging professional runner.

He doesn't make Usain Bolt money, but is sponsored by the New York Athletic Club. And he admits he's lucky to be able to work a few months a year for his dad and uncles' company, Tully Construction, before going back to Villanova to work out with his college coach, Marcus O'Sullivan. ("There's not many jobs you can come to in September and say, 'Hey, I'm going to up and leave in January.'")

Nothing's getting him down right now--not even the meet trip to Nigeria where the athletes had their passports collected, and their promised visas hadn't shown up nearly three days later.

"If someone wanted to ask for my papers, I didn't know what would have happened," Tully says.

Maybe in a few years his face will be a little more recognizable.

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