Spotlight on Men's Track
Parker Pruett describes the steeplechase as a grueling race, 3000 meters of "surges and barriers." It's an event that has provided literal highs and lows for Pruett, described by Coach Barry Harwick as "the most versatile runner I've had at Dartmouth."
Pruett's first high came in the spring of 1998, his freshman year. He won the Heptagonal steeplechase in a driving rain storm at Brown. Recalls Harwick, "There was as much water on the track as there was in the steeple pit. It was an amazing win for a frosh runner."
The low came a year later. As he trained for the steeplechase, he pulled a muscle that's essential to clearing barriers.
"I tried to keep running but it never fully healed," he says. The result: He lost most of his junior year to the nagging injury. "Such is life," he philosophized.
This year the frustrating injury is behind him, and Pruett's career is peaking though the steeplechase isn't on his schedule. Last fall the highs returned as Pruett finished fourth overall at the Heps cross country championship, using what Harwick calls "the best finishing speed of any distance runner we've had here." Dartmouth won the overall championship for the first time since 1995.
"Winning the Ivy team title at the Heps was a dream because it had been so elusive," says Pruett, "but racing five miles isn't fun. My concentration doesn't last for five miles and I race well when I can keep my concentration."
He's already made his mark at Dartmouth over longer distances, and the mile and 1500 meters are his current targets.
It was as a high school miler that he caught Harwick's attention. At the Maine Distance Festival in 1995, Harwick was competing in the master's mile. Pruett won the high school mile. "I started sending him stuff," says Harwick. The message hit home - Pruett was interested in the Ivy League and the challenge of Division 1 training partners.
Since the age of 10, Pruett has lived in Birch Harbor, a dot on the peninsula across Frenchman Bay from Bar Harbor. "If you're not into sports, there's not much to do," says Pruett. "It's at least a 30-minute drive to anything."
Pick a distance from 800 to 3200 meters and that's what Pruett did, becoming one of Maine's best-ever high school runners.
At Dartmouth, he's become an English major with an eye toward the future as a film writer and director. "I like the creative process of film," he says. "The script is the first layer. You control people's perspective with film."
But that's getting ahead of things. This winter his target is Dartmouth's record in the indoor mile - 4:02.26 held by another runner from Maine, Sam Wilbur '94. In the spring season, he'll take aim at the Green 1500 meter mark of 3:43.42 held by Shawn O'Neal '84.
"Parker has always been a hard worker," says Harwick. "Being injured for virtually his entire junior year has made him train even harder this year. He's pulled his mileage up a lot and it's really paying off."
Whether Pruett becomes Dartmouth's first four-minute miler is in the offing but, he says, "I've always set high goals. I'll be close." (Jack DeGange)
Parker Pruett's recruiting trip to Dartmouth was made possible by the generosity of Richard B. Swett, M.D. '63 and Mr. and Mrs. Henry H. Croker P'97 through the Athletic Sponsor Program.