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Dulaney cross country coach Chad Boyle running strong as 18th season starts

Chad Boyle believes running cross country is as much a test of the mind as it is a test of the body. He's still working on both as he begins his 18th season as Dulaney High School's coach.

"He really got us to push through when it hurts … and really just to help us develop and get strong and understand when you are competing, everyone else is hurting," said senior Eric Walz, a state runner-up last year. "You just have to go out and leave it all on the course, because if you don't, why are you even doing it?"

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Julie Kramer, a 2006 graduate who was an assistant coach at Dulaney from 2009 through 2012, recalled the effort Boyle put into motivation.

"He made everybody what he called 'Psyche Sheets,'" she said. "Before big races he would write a note and he would put a goal time or write you an inspirational quote or something motivating. I still have every one of those Psyche Sheets."

Senior Andrew King said he hears Boyle's voice when he runs.

"I can definitely hear him, but even when he is not there, I do hear him inside here [pointing to his head], just saying, 'Push through,'" King said.

Boyle is 40 but doesn't look it. He runs around with the energy of his athletes, spreading enthusiasm and sometimes getting lost among the runners at 5 feet 3, 125 pounds. He's big on passion.

"Obviously, cross country and track is a passion of mine, it's a hobby, so I get to do what I love and get paid for it," he said.

The Hunt Valley resident does it well. Dulaney's girls won the state title in 2001 and have finished second in the state six times. They have captured 12 Baltimore County crowns and are the defending county champions.

The Lions' boys have won nine county titles and were state finalists in 2001, 2013 and 2014.

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This season's boys team is ranked No. 1 in Maryland and the Southeast Region and No. 17 in the nation by Dyestat, a website that covers high school running, in the preseason rankings. That ranking, the highest ever for the boys, will be challenged on Saturday when Dulaney hosts the Barnhart Invitational.

"I know it is just a ranking and it is going to put a target on our back, but I told the guys, you've got to be so proud of that," Boyle said. "It's a culmination of so much hard work from so many individuals. It's great for the community, and it's great for the school."

Walz, the reigning Class 4A state indoor track champion in the 3,200 meters, is the leader.

"There is no doubt he has the capability to win a state championship," Boyle said. "For him to reach the level that he has reached ... he has executed a very rigorous training program consistently for 3 1/2 years and not everybody can do that."

Kramer knows the effect Boyle has on his runners.

"I showed up for the first day of practice and I was hooked," Kramer said. "I think it's just the energy and excitement that he brings to the team and how much he cares that kind of motivated me to keep coming back for indoor and outdoor."

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Although her job as guidance counselor at Woodholme Elementary doesn't allow her to coach anymore, Kramer said she would jump at the chance if possible.

"I have nothing but good things to say about Dulaney cross country and track," Kramer said. "It's like a part of me that's in my blood, just like Boyle."

King was inspired by Boyle after his freshman year.

"He taught me about consistency," King said. "He gave a speech and said the best runners are ones that get out 350 to 360 days a year and train, and that really stuck with me. So that summer I remember going out every day and running."

He has been one of the top seven ever since.

"Coach Boyle is the best mentor anyone could ask for," King said. "He just has such a high moral standard to hold you to. He has such a good training philosophy. He likes to win, but he's more about the individual athlete."

Boyle attributes his work ethic, as a coach and teacher of American government and history through sports, to his father.

"My father [Tom] just retired, and he ran his insurance business for 45 years. If he was sick, he went to work, and that's where I got that," Boyle said.

He credits Murray Davis for the technical side of coaching.

Davis coached collegiately at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and coached C. Milton Wright's girls to state cross country titles in 1998 and 1999, beating Boyle's Lions by two points in 1999.

"He coached me post-collegiately after I graduated from UMBC," said Boyle, who graduated in 1997. "He really taught me if you want to be a great coach you have to do your research. You can't just go out there and tell the kids to do what works for you."

Davis coached one year at Dulaney, following longtime coaching legend Bob Dean. When Davis left, he recommended Boyle.

"I said, 'I know a guy who has got a passion for this stuff and he ran Division I and on an excellent team at C. Milton Wright, and you guys need to interview this kid," Davis recalled.

Boyle, who grew up in Churchville and graduated from C. Milton Wright in 1993, got the job.

"I think he developed into his own man," Davis said. "As much as I may have had an influence on his career, he's developed his own way of doing stuff, which is good."

Boyle played soccer his first two years at C. Milton Wright, but switched to cross country for his junior and senior seasons.

"I said, 'The best decision for me is to join this cross country team,' and it ended up being a life-affecting decision, for sure," Boyle said.

He still runs, putting in at least 20 minutes a day.

"It's a good time to think back on your day. People do that in different ways, but for me, it's running," said Boyle, who manages the swimming pool at the Hunt Valley Golf Club during the summer.

It's on the soccer pitch where he found his top runners on this year's Dulaney girls team, which is ranked No. 2 in the state.

Seniors Kristin Meek and Kira Flemke made the transition from soccer to cross country. Meek made the switch before the 2014 season and won the Baltimore County championship and was sixth in the Class 4A state meet.

"Coach Boyle has kind of been on me from the start, always building my confidence and increasing my training so that I can become the top athlete that I am right now," Meek said. "He's kind of basically told me that if I continue the path I was on, I would be a top contender in the state."

Flemke ran indoor and outdoor track for Boyle before switching to cross country this fall.

"I like that he is always honest with us," Flemke said. "He's very up front. He's not going to sugarcoat anything, but he is always going to be supportive of us in a way that we can definitely trust."

Boyle might not be mellow, but he has learned.

"I have a lot of intensity, and I was much more intense 18 years ago than I am now," he said.

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Having run for him, Kramer found that coaching with him was the right mix.

"I'm a little bit more sensitive," she said. "I think that kind of balanced that intensity that he does have, at least I hope."

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