Nov 062006
 
Authors: Nick Hubel

For a man who has accomplished as much as Bryan Berryhill, looks can be deceiving.

No trophies sit on his desk. No plaques line his office walls. Neither of his NCAA Champion rings adorn his fingers.

His small office in the South College Gym is filled instead with practice plans and pictures of his wife Tori and their two children, Libby and Eli. He wears a simple wedding band on his finger.

The road that has taken Berryhill from a small town in Oregon to the record books of CSU has been an impressive one, but the man who was once one of the fastest middle distance runners in the world has managed to keep a level head throughout.

On Friday, CSU honored the legacy of Bryan Berryhill by adding him to the university’s prestigious Athletic Hall of Fame. It will be the final award in a college career that was filled with them, one more time to recognize the man that has done so much and continues to do so much for this university.

The runner

Bryan Berryhill came out of high school as a champion. In his home state of Oregon he had been a five time state champion track star, earning two straight individual championships in the 400 meters and three straight in the 800 meters.

An avid outdoorsman who enjoys hunting, Berryhill knew that CSU was the right fit for him as soon as he stepped out of the car.

“Long story short, when I got here it just felt like home, it felt comfortable. And for some reason I just had that feeling that this is comfortable, this is somewhere that I could live and it wouldn’t matter if my running was good or poor.”

But Berryhill wasn’t done cementing his CSU legacy. In June 2001, Berryhill won his second NCAA individual championship in the outdoor 1500 meter event, finishing with a time of 3:37.05.

For Berryhill, the accomplishment was made even more special by the fact that the race was hosted by the University of Oregon at Hayward Field, just four hours from his childhood home in Central Point, Ore.

“I had lots of friends and family there, and I had run high school championships at Hayward Field. So that was about as neat as it could have played out, being my final year, my final time as a collegiate runner. And to be able to do it in front of that many friends and family I was able to share it will all of them. So that was probably the most special part of my running career.”

In just five years, Berryhill had gone from a fast, humble kid from small-town Oregon who hoped to someday be an All-American, to a two-time NCAA individual champion, 10-time All-American and holder of seven total indoor and outdoor school track records.

“The support that he got from CSU is incredible,” Rick Berryhill, Bryan’s father, said. “Coach Hessel did one hell of a job with him, he couldn’t have been any better. It was storybook.”

The coach

On June 19 after spending five years as a professional runner and making a run at the 2004 Olympic Games where he finished just six places out of making the 1500 meter team, Berryhill came back to CSU and officially began his work as the cross-country and distance coach. In and around the program, people are excited to have such an accomplished runner returning to his alma mater.

Director of Athletics Paul Kowalczyk said that he can’t wait to see how Berryhill is able to develop into a more complete coach than he already is.

“He is going to be a great coach,” Kowalczyk said. “He is good right now, but he is going to be great.”

Del Hessel, an assistant coach at CSU during Berryhill’s college career, agreed, saying, “He has a great understanding of what it takes to become a coach and an athlete. He is competitive, talented and has a tremendous work ethic.”

As for his induction into the hall of fame, Berryhill is just as humble as the first day he came to CSU.

“I am very much looking forward to being inducted with a lot of other honorable people. It’s kind of a closing to my college career. It is the last award that I will receive for my college career, so it is a closing to that. It is a time of reflection, and I am very much looking forward to being a part of it and just enjoying it,” Berryhill said.

Berryhill said he is excited to finally share his accomplishments with the friends and family who made his running career possible; many will be at the induction ceremony.

“Winning NCAA championship is very neat but it is kind of a lonely feeling in a way,” he said. “Even though there are 15,000 people in the stands and you do a victory lap you are out there by yourself and it is hard to express that to other people. This will be an opportunity to let other people know that I’m getting this award because of you guys.”

Sports staff writer Nick Hubel can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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