LARAMIE, Wyo. -
They could hardly come from more diverse backgrounds. One is a 23-year-old graduate student from Southampton, United Kingdom, and the other is a 19-year old freshman from Rock Springs, Wyo.
In a matter of months, however, Harry Fisher (grandpa) and Ricky Faure (kid) have formed a unique friendship and a special bond, thanks to their abilities to run. They both excel in the most grueling, most painful, race in the sport of track, the 800 meters. Their passion brought them together, their respect for one another created the friendship. Welcome to the marvelous world of collegiate athletics.
The talents of both and the entire Cowboy and Cowgirl track and field team will be on display Friday when Wyoming hosts the Cowpoke Open beginning at 10 a.m. MT at the Louis S. Madrid Sports Complex.
Fisher is earning his master's degree in kinesiology and health promotion. At some point he wants to make a difference in the world of bio-mechanics and will return to England to earn his PhD. A native of Wales, he graduated from Cardiff Metropolitan University, and came to Wyoming a year ago. He currently has run the second-fastest 800 meters in Cowboy outdoor history at 1:48.34. His time ranks second in the Mountain West this season and 24th in the NCAA.
Faure (pronounced four) was the nation's number one prep distance recruit last year as a senior at Rock Springs High School, and one of the most decorated runners in the history of Wyoming prep track. This season he's run 1:48.83 in the 800 meters, the fourth-fastest in Cowboy outdoor history, while ranking fifth in the conference and 41st nationally. Both will run the event during Friday's meet at 1 p.m.
"Their relationship is unique," says Wyoming Head Coach Bryan Berryhill. "It's a pleasure to watch them create an amazing training environment. They push each other. I think they are as proud of each other's accomplishments as they are of their own. Ricky is doing some amazing things for his age, but he's lucky to have Harry who has taken him under his wing."
Both Cowboys are quiet, and modest to a fault. They certainly don't enjoy talking about themselves. They would rather let their feats on the track do their talking. That is, until they talk about each other.
"Harry is like the brother I never had," Faure says. "I look up to him, and we have become very close. He has made me better in so many ways. But training with him, watching how he approaches practice and competition, has been a huge help to me. He has taught me to be consistent in my training, and to enjoy the race. I've had to work hard at keeping my nerves in check. Harry has helped me with that."
That's the freshman's take on his relationship with the elder. Here's how the elder sees it. "Back home I have a brother who is Ricky's age. The way I look at it, I now have two younger brothers. Despite the age difference, Ricky and I have become great friends. He is a special athlete, extremely gifted, and as the older guy I believe it is my responsibility to help him. I constantly tell him he can't take things too seriously...relax, and go have fun. That's been difficult for him, but he's getting better at it. We both really enjoy training together. I love his attitude, his will to improve. It's really a lot of fun."
Both Cowboys agree they have benefitted from one another. They also agree they have benefitted from their head coach who was one of the nation's best distance runners during his competitive days.
"It's great to have a coach who has been there," Fisher says of Berryhill. "Coach has meant the world to all of us, but especially the distance runners. He's helped Thomas (fellow Brit and graduate student Atkinson) and me tremendously as older guys, and I know he's really been a great influence on the young guys. I really enjoy sitting down and picking his brain, especially about strategy. "
"We took a risk on both Harry and Thomas (who hails from Gomersal, West Yorkshire, U.K.)," Berryhill says about his two Brit graduate students. "We brought them in because we really needed help in the 800 meters, and we needed help quickly. We learned about them on a recruiting website. They had impressive times, but we honestly weren't sure how good they would be, especially Harry who was coming off of knee surgery while in England. It was a risk for us, but it was a risk for them too. The risk went away when they got here, and we could see they are outstanding runners. You can see it in their strides, and in their approach. Not only have they excelled for us, but they have helped Ricky and our younger guys who are lucky to have Harry and Thomas as role models."
The collegiate track world knew that Faure was special. He was highly recruited, and it was huge for Berryhill and the UW track program to make him a Cowboy.
"Ricky was the top distance recruit in the country," Berryhill says. "He wanted to be a Cowboy, and truly wanted to help this program become better. In our home visit with his family, we told him that we had a couple of older guys (Harry and Thomas) who had lots of experience, would push him, and be great training partners for him. He certainly has taken advantage of their experience and learned from them.
"In my years as a coach, I have spent time with a lot of special athletes," Berryhill continues. "Ricky may be the most special I've been around. He has that rare blend of speed and strength. He has the pure talent, but he also has the maturity level to handle all of the pressure. While he has been special in the 800 meters, his best race may eventually be the 1,500. For him, the sky is the limit on how good he can be."
Fisher's goal is to return to England and compete at a high level while earning his doctoral degree. Most track athletes in England want to come to the United States because of the opportunity to compete against top-notch athletes. "I quite fancy being here," Fisher says in that marvelous British accent. "But it was a shock at first, I must say. Getting used to the elevation and some of the weather made the first month or two rather difficult. The elevation was a massive barrier early on. But I am exceptionally happy to be here."
Faure, whose aunt Francie Faure ran for the University of Oregon, actually wanted to excel at soccer as a youth. "But in eighth grade I ran a 4:56 mile in a meet at Lander," he says. "I wasn't really into running, especially longer distances, but after that I knew it was my sport. When I got here on my recruiting trip I knew about Harry, and looked forward to meeting him and watching him. I was impressed. He knew what he wanted, understood his goals. I've learned that focus from him. The more we trained together the more I liked and respected him."
Born in Thermopolis, Wyo., Faure lived in several different places before his family moved to Rock Springs when he was in third grade. He has four sisters in the family ("now you can see why I wanted to run," he says with a big smile.) which makes his relationship with Fisher special. "I look forward to the day when I can be a mentor to younger guys like he has been to me. Harry is a coach figure to me when Coach isn't with us. That's what I want to be for younger athletes someday."
While the "brother" story is a great one, the two are a part of another great story, the Cowboys' 4x800-meter relay. The team is comprised of the two old Englishmen--Fisher and Atkinson--and two young Wyomingites--Faure and fellow freshman Calum Kepler from Casper, Wyo. The Mother Country and the Colonies coming together! The group have the capabilities to make some big noise in that event before they're through.
"I don't feel near the stress when we are running the relay," Faure says. "I'm running for the team, running for my three guys. It's a lot easier for me. I'm really proud of how we are coming along, but I know we can get a lot better."
Fisher has the same feeling. "We get on very well," he says of his relay mates. "We're friends, and have a great relationship. It's a pleasure to train with them. Because of that relationship, when we compete I think each one of us finds a little extra so we don't let each other down.
"I think we would all say the same that we couldn't be happier with our decision to come to Wyoming. I know, for me, it was the best thing that could have happened, and I found another brother."