Old Mill's longtime track and field assistant coach Leon Walters compares a successful distance runner with being able to manage money.
"If you get paid the first of the month and spend most of your money in that first week, you suffer the last three weeks. It's the same with distance running," he says.
Over the past two years, Old Mill junior Victor Thillet has shown an uncanny ability to budget his energy.
As a sophomore last winter, Thillet captured county, region and state indoor titles in the 3,200-meter run along with a third-place finish at states in the 1,600 to be named Anne Arundel County's Performer of the Year.
He followed that with another state title in the 3,200 during the spring outdoor season, once again claiming Arundel Performer of the Year honors.
Not bad for someone who didn't start running competitively until his freshman year.
"I learn from every race," said Thillet, who has never lost a 3,200- meter race since first competing in the event about this time last year. "My freshman year, I was opening up too fast. Now, if someone is in front of me, I don't worry about him. I just settle in and know I can come back in the later laps. It's all about being able to pace yourself."
Walters, in his 17th season handling the distance running at Old Mill, said Thillet is a master when it comes to pace. Completing the package is Thillet's ability to surge, leave his pace at any time during a race for a sprint to take control while still leaving plenty for the end.
"He doesn't panic at the beginning of a race when others go out fast. He showed he can run either from the back or the front," said Walters. "At indoor states, he had to come from behind and won [the 3,200] with a sprint at the end. Then at states in outdoor, he led from beginning to end."
Thillet continued his running success last summer, winning 1500- and 3000-meter races at the Amateur Athletic Union 16-and-under Jr. Olympic Games in Norfolk, Va., and taking thirds in the same events at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Nationals in Seattle.
He also worked hard on improving his time in the 800-meter race, which he took fourth in the county last winter. It has shown. In a meet in Hagerstown this weekend, he ran the 800 in 2: 04.2 -- just one-tenth of a second off last year's time that won the indoor state title.
"It's great having him to run with. Every day, he makes me a better person and a better runner just trying to stay with him," said teammate Joe Capri. "What's best is how modest he is. He may be the best runner in the state, but you would never know by talking to him."
At 5-3 and around 115 pounds, Thillet, who plays midfield for the Patriots soccer team in the fall, quietly goes about his business with a relentless work ethic.
His keys to success: "You have to have the will," he says.
As for preparing for a race: "I always pray before I run and focus on the event. I picture where I want to be at the start and last lap," he adds.
And the reward that comes with it all: "The encouragement I get from others who cheer me on every time I run," he concludes.
Thillet has provided plenty to cheer about.
"I tell my kids there are four things needed to be successful -- talent, health, training and guts," said Walters. "Victor certainly has a great deal of talent; he has never missed a practice due to illness or injury; he's very coachable and puts his faith in my ability to put together a program for him; and the guts -- competitive spirit is there."
Pub Date: 12/23/98