Mckeeman lives out a dream with big victory
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.