Sometimes having to write about himself, senior sprinter Brad Wall ends stellar career with four Big Sky championships in the 400 and one in the 4x400 relay
By Fedor Gaponenko, EWU Sports Information
Winning one Big Sky Championship is a huge accomplishment and winning two is unforgettable, but winning five is downright unreal. And writing about his own exploits is even tougher.
There is something about the 400-meter run that brought out the best in Eastern Washington University senior sprinter Brad Wall, who concluded his career with the Big Sky title in the 400 at last month’s league championships. Wall became just the fourth Eastern male athlete in school history to win four individual conference titles and the second to claim three outdoor titles in a single event. He was also a member of a winning 4x400 relay squad during his career.
Apart from being an athlete, Wall has contributed to the EWU Athletics Department as a student working in the sports information office. He said it is advantageous to be part of the track and field team and write about the squad, but admits it’s “different” to sometimes write about himself.
In all, he earned 11 All-Big Sky honors (top three finish) individually and in relays during his indoor and outdoor career. Wall is the school record holder in the 400 outdoors with a time of 46.67 set in 2010, and is second indoors with a time of 47.07 set in 2012. He was also a member of Eastern’s record-setting 4x100 relay team outdoors in 2011 (40.46), and a record-breaking 4x400 relay team indoors (3:11.04). The 4x400 relay outdoors owns the second-best time in school history of 3:11.33, which was set at last month’s BSC Outdoor Championships in the final race of Wall’s career.
He will finish his tenure with eight Big Sky All-Academic honors and twice won United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Academic All-America honors.
On June 15 Wall will be graduating from Eastern with his journalism degree and in July he will be getting married to fellow Eastern track and field athlete Stephanie Dye. His season and college career may be over, but what he has gained from his time here will be with him the rest of his life.
Not one, not two, not three, but four 400 meter Big Sky Championships. How did you do it?
“I think part of it is I’ve developed this reputation of coming back at the end of a race. I seem to have more stamina than everyone else. I’ve won each of those four races coming from behind and chasing people down. It’s kind of the strategy I’ve developed and it has worked out pretty well.”
Why is it that 400 meters is the perfect distance for you instead of 55, 100 or 200 meters?
“I have some decent foot speed. If you can break 22 seconds in the 200, I feel like that is pretty good. At the same time, I have some distance running background. I ran distance in middle school and some in high school before I switched to sprinting. I think combining the foot speed and the endurance is perfect for the 400. You need a lot of stamina, but you can’t be slow by any means either.”
Do you have a routine or anything you do before the run to get the adrenaline pumping or to prepare mentally?
“A lot of track athletes have their rituals that they like to do before they perform, but I don’t really have anything like that. I’m picky about what I eat the morning before a race, but as far as my warm-up, it’s pretty routine and nothing big.”
You’ve also had great success in the relays, including an indoor Championship in the 4x400 in 2012. Describe the different dynamics between running solo and with your teammates.
“I love being on a relay. It’s so much different running with three other guys and having to depend on each other. The 4x400 is the finale of the meet, so everyone usually surrounds the track, gets loud and pumps us up. It’s fun and there’s strategy to it -- you have to put certain guys at certain legs to try to work against the other teams. I like the technical part of it too. When I redshirted, the relays are what I missed more than anything.”
This year you have been working in the EWU sports information office. What is it like being an athlete and working for the Athletics Department at the same time?
“It’s been different, but cool. It balances out and works off one another. Being in track, knowing all of the people and having a good sense of track and field performances have been a big help. Knowing all of the coaches has also been nice for the position. It’s really cool getting to write about and publicize our team – they are my friends so it’s been good to be able to represent and write about them.”
Have you ever had to write about yourself and how did that go?
“I did a little bit this outdoor season. It was different at first, and I try to be modest, which people say is one my good qualities. At the same time, with journalism you have to be objective and report the news that happened. If it happened to be something that I achieved, then why not include it?”
Why did you decide to pursue a degree in journalism?
“I really moved around with majors my first couple of years. At first I wanted to be a physical education teacher. I also tried a couple of other things -- I did exercise science and I wanted to go to grad school for physical therapy. It was too much homework for me because they really lay it on you in those programs and I couldn’t handle it. So I re-evaluated where I was. I think the main reason I wanted to be in those programs was the money and job security. Then I told myself to do something that will make me happy; something I won’t mind going to five days a week. Obviously, I love sports and I also like writing, so being a sports journalist was the most logical path for me. I really do love the journalism program here, I’ve received great opportunities in the field and I hope to be able to continue the best way possible.”
All the track athletes here talk about how the team is like a family, but for you this is literally going to be the case this summer. Tell me about how you met your fiancée, Stephanie Dye?
“We had a Life Skills for Athletes class together the first quarter we were here. We were both pretty shy and we didn’t say a lot to each other -- just ‘hi.’ She was dating another guy at that time. A couple months down the road she became single and our other friends started getting us to hang out a little more. We spent time hanging out on trips and just got to know each other more and more. One thing leads to another, and one day I walked her home and gave her a kiss. The rest is history.”
What are you going to miss most about being on the team?
“There is so much -- I’m really going to miss a lot of things. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people who are my extended family. Obviously there is my fiancée, but the coaching staff has been incredible and my teammates are all fun people to be around. Everyone is super welcoming. Even though people come and go, we all have a role and the roles continue to fall into place. I’ll definitely miss competing -- I love going out there and representing the school and gunning after the other teams.”
Apart from being on the track and field team, what did you enjoy about Eastern?
“Being a student-athlete really takes most of my time and I mostly hung out with my track teammates. It’s just kind of how it works out, being gone so many weekends. Eastern has been good to me too, they have a good administration and the education is great. I think it’s one of the more underrated schools, especially in Washington. I can see why the enrollment keeps increasing.”
After graduating what are your plans?
“Stephanie is currently in grad school and we’re getting married in the summer. She’s going to have another year of grad school, so I don’t really want to re-locate at this point. I’m planning to just stick around the Spokane area and it would be awesome if I can find something in my major. But if not, then I will do something to pay the bills for the year and then branch out from there.”
Since you’re a journalist too, is there anything I might have missed that you would have asked yourself?
“I was just interviewed the other day and he asked me, ‘when people refer to you in the future, what do you want them to talk about?’ Obviously, with teammates I wanted to be referred to as a hard worker, a great example and fun to watch – nerve-racking, but fun to watch. What I would love to hear from the rest of the conference is how glad they are that I’m finally gone and how much of a pest I was. Now that I’m gone, others can finally start racking up the 400 titles.”