Mckee­man lives out a dream with big vic­tory

North Penn Life - - Sports - By Kev Hunter khunter@jour­nalregis­

For North Penn grad­u­ate Michael McKee­man, the fo­cus has al­ways been per­sonal im­prove­ment.

“For the last 24 years that I’ve been run­ning, ev­ery stop along the way, even when I wasn’t the best, I was fiJKWLnJ DJDLnsW PysHOI WR get bet­ter,” the 36-year-old Ard­more res­i­dent said. “I UHPHPEHU wKHn , fiUsW JRW WR high school, I was one of the slow­est run­ners on the team, and I worked my way up. :KHn , fiUsW JRW WR FROOHJH, , was one of the slow­est guys, and worked my way up. It’s been the same way ever since.”

McKee­man reached the sum­mit this past Sun­day, and got there run­ning hard.

The 1994 North Penn grad out­raced more than 11,000 other run­ners to win the 2012 Philadel­phia Mara- thon with a time of 2:1T:4T. Back in 2006, the last time McKee­man com­peted in the PDUDWKRn, KH finLsKHG sHFond in 2:1T.50, out­done only by eosea Kimu­tai of Kenya (2:1T:09).

“It was the cul­mi­na­tion of a lot of time and ef­fort,” McKee­man said of the vic­tory. “I ran it in ‘06, and ever since then, it had been on my mind. I wanted to come back, but it never quite worked out with the tim­ing. This year, ev­ery­thing kind of fell into place.”

Run­ning is a big part of McKee­man’s life in many dif­fer­ent ways, as he not only makes money as a run­ner but also coaches and works at a Uun­nLnJ DnG fiWnHss sWRUH.

ee trained for the marathon by run­ning 80 to 85 miles per week.

“That’s al­ways been one of my strengths is that I was so self mo­ti­vated,” he said. “(YHn wKHn , fiUsW sWDUWHG out, I wanted to get bet­ter and com­peted against my­self. I was al­ways really mo­ti­vated to im­prove my times, and that’s con­tin­ued. I’ve got­ten to travel to a lot of dif­fer­ent places, all over the r.S., all over the world, and made a lot of friends. Run­nLnJ’s GHfinLWHOy EHHn JRRG to me.”

At the 23-mile mark of the race, right un­der the Straw­berry Man­sion Bridge on Kelly Drive, McKee­man grabbed the OHDG IRU WKH fiUsW WLPH DnG pulled away for the win. ee re­ceived the win­ner’s purse of $3,500, which was pre­sented by Philadel­phia Mayor Michael Nut­ter.

Run­ner-up Scott MacPher­son, 25, of Austin, Texas, trailed McKee­man by 46 sec­onds, as he clocked a 2:18:33.

For McKee­man, Sun­day wDs WKH uOWLPDWH finLsK OLnH for a race he be­gan 24 years ago. That run­ner’s men­tal­ity, that burn­ing de­sire to com­pete, be­gan for McKee­man when he was 12. eis days at North Penn helped fan the flDPHs.

“They’ve got a really good pro­gram, and it was really neat to be a part of that,” said the former Knight, who ran track at North Penn un­der former long-time coach Richard Swanker. McKee­man also reached the state meet in cross coun­try.

“They have a lot of his­tory,” he said. “It was al­ways fun at the be­gin­ning of each sea­son, when the coaches would usu­ally print out a list of the top all-time North Penn times. That was al­ways a goal.”

McKee­man be­gan tak­ing in high school races even be­fore he got to high school, as he used to sit in the stands and watch his older brother, Scott, com­pete at North Penn.

Af­ter a suc­cess­ful high school ca­reer for Michael, it was off to Chapel eill.

“I loved it down there,” the former Tar eeel said. “It was great. I al­most didn’t come back (laugh). Chapel eill is a fun town.”

McKee­man ran both track and cross coun­try at North Carolina and would soon be do­ing sev­eral long-dis­tance UDFHs D yHDU. HH TuDOL­fiHG IRU the llympic Tri­als in both 2008 and 2012 - in ‘08 he com­peted in the race up in New York City de­spite bat­tling ill­ness.

“It was a fun ex­pe­ri­ence, run­ning through Times Square, Cen­tral Park, but I felt ter­ri­ble,” he re­called with a laugh.

The Philadel­phia Marathon was al­ways the race McKee­man was striv­ing for, and now, he can en­joy the win.

“I have no plans,” he said gladly. “There isn’t really a ‘next race’ right now. I want to take some time off to rest and re­cover. A marathon is so drain­ing both phys­i­cally and men­tally. It’s a men­tal grind as well as a phys­i­cal one.”

Thanks­giv­ing comes just the right time.

“I don’t care if I eat eight pounds of turkey,” McKee­man said hap­pily. “I don’t have a race to run.”

The former Knight and Tar eeel still ap­proaches ev­ery race, ev­ery run, with the same phi­los­o­phy.

“That’s one of the really cool things about this sport is that there’s var­i­ous de­grees of how you can win,” he said. “Win­ning isn’t al­wDys finLsKLnJ fiUsW. ,W FRuOG be get­ting in the top 10, the top 50. It’s all about get­ting a per­sonal best.”

at his num­bers are cer­tainly good, Akins brings so much more than what can be UHflHFWHG Rn D sWDW sKHHW.

“Ron­nie has been great all sea­son,” said coach Andy Talley. “ee’s a very in­spi­ra­tional player and is well liked by the whole team. ee is a guy that gives you ev­ery­thing.”

Akins hopes that this Ls nRW KLs finDO sHDsRn RI foot­ball. ee would like to take a shot at the NFL, but the 21-year-old has an­other game plan should play­ing at the next level not pan out.

“eope­fully, I get a shot some­where in the (NFL),” he said. “If that does not work, hopefully I can be­come a PE teacher some­where. That is some­thing I want to get into be­cause I en­joy work­ing with kids.”

$NLns’ DIfinLWy Ln wRUNLnJ with young­sters was molded in large part by those that helped him when he was a teen. In par­tic­u­lar, his teach­ers and ath­letic coaches at North Penn helped steer Akins into be­ing the young man he is to­day.

“I looked up to them be­cause they taught me a lot about foot­ball and track and other things,” said Akins, who was a track star in ad­di­tion to be­ing a stand­out foot­ball player un­der Dick Beck. “They played sports in col­lege and they are good peo­ple. I guess you can say that I want to fol­low in their foot­steps.”

Akins fol­lowed in the foot­steps of his two older brothers, both whom also starred in foot­ball and track at North Penn. The old­est, Kevin, went on to play four sea­sons as a line­backer at Bos­ton Col­lege while Eric par­tic­i­pated in track at West Ch­ester. While his brothers could con­sult on the life of be­ing a col­lege ath­lete, there was a pair of safeties that helped the younger Akins im­mea­sur­ably dur­ing his fiUsW WwR sHDsRns DW 9LOODnRva: Fred­die Mal­don­ado and John Dempsey. Both play­ers HnMRyHG finH FDUHHUs IRU WKH Wild­cats from 200T-10.

“Dur­ing my fresh­man year Fred­die put me un­der his wing and taught me as much as pos­si­ble dur­ing the two years we were to­gether,” said Akins, who is on course to grad­u­ate in May with a de­gree in So­ci­ol­ogy. “With Fred­die and John, those two helped me a lot as far as how to play the safety po­si­tion.”

While Mal­don­ado and Dempsey may have been good teach­ers, it is safe to say that Akins turned out to be an out­stand­ing stu­dent as the im­pact he has had in his IRuU yHDUs DW 98 wRuOG DWWHsW. When it comes to mem­o­rable mo­ments, there are a cou­ple that stand out in his ca­reer.

“Last year my pick-six against Penn was very mem­o­rable,” he said. “In the cham­pi­onship game my fresh­man year, there was a kick­off in which I was held. They had a nice run back, but there was a penalty on the guy that held me. I re­mem­ber that.”

When the last chap­ter is writ­ten on Akins’ foot­ball ca­reer, which could be as soon as next week or at some point much fur­ther down the road, he will most cer­tainly em­bark on an­other jour­ney.

“I will set­tle down some­where and build a ca­reer and a life,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind start­ing out (in the Philadel­phia area), but I don’t know where I will be.”

What­ever paths Akins trav­els, he is cer­tain to have a pos­i­tive im­pact. Just like his four years on the Main Line.

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