Nova grad takes strides on local team

Michael Botti

The alarm goes off at 8 a.m. and Scott Tantino struggles to get out of bed and put on his shoes. In a few minutes, he’s out the door on his morning run, while most people are beginning their commute to work. Forty minutes to an hour later, Tantino arrives back at his basement apartment just as those commuters are arriving at their jobs. After some light stretching and a quick shower, Tantino again is out the door and is on his way to the track office at Villanova University. If you ask Tantino though, he’s a runner first and a coach second.

A graduate of Villanova University in 2000, Tantino continues to run and train post-collegiately. A standout in college, Tantino received All-American accolades in the 5,000-meter run in 2001 as a graduate student at Villanova. Why would a man with an accomplished career continue to run after college? What would possess a man to put the “real world” on hold for a few more years in order to continue training?

“I feel that my best performances are still ahead of me,” Tantino says. “I still have some untapped potential.”

Tantino’s not alone in feeling that his best performances are still in front of him. After graduation, Tantino joined the Bryn Mawr Racing Team, a fledgling training group established two years ago. Made up of mostly post-collegiate runners, the Bryn Mawr Racing Team offers accomplished college runners the opportunity to extend their careers and achieve their goals of qualifying for Olympic Trials and international competitions.

“My goal is to get a jersey,” Tantino says. “To earn the jersey.”

The jersey Tantino refers to is the U.S. national team jersey. Given to athletes who represent the nation in international competitions, the jersey represents the payoff for the hard work and sacrifice on the part of a runner. Competing against more profitable sports, such as baseball and football, runners are afforded with little opportunities to earn “the jersey” after college.

The Bryn Mawr Racing Team follows the trend in distance running in the United States over the past few years. The slow re-emergence of U.S. distance running in the wake of the success of African runners has encouraged many runners to continue training after college. Training sites such as Zapfitness in Blowing Rock, N.C., and Team U.S.A. Monterrey Bay in California attract outstanding collegiate runners every year with sponsorships and living accommodations. Lucrative shoe contracts from industry giants such as Nike and Adidas pay for the athletes’ living and travel expenses.

Bryn Mawr differs from the other high profile training groups as it does not have a contract with a major shoe company. Members of the Bryn Mawr Racing Team receive little to no financial support. The runners are provided with only shoes and one paid trip a year by team founder Bob Schwelm.

“I’m thankful for Bob’s generosity,” Tantino says. “He is essentially paying out of his own pocket for his shoes and travel.”

Despite the lack of funding, Bryn Mawr’s accomplishments over the past two years rival the success of the high profile training groups. The Bryn Mawr team captured the 2002 Mayor’s Cup Trophy in only its first full year of existence, defeating the established and Adidas-funded Boston Athletic Association. This past October, the team returned to the Mayor’s Cup race, finishing in the runner-up position to the B.A.A. In addition to the success of the team as a whole, Bryn Mawr can boast that it already has a qualifier for next year’s Olympic Marathon Trials. Matt Sandercock, a West Chester University Graduate, ran two hours and 19 minutes to qualify for his place on the starting line at the Trials.

Despite the success, Tantino feels more organization and better performances are needed to gain the national exposure shoe companies desire. With more exposure, more opportunities to live out one’s dream appear. And that is why as the sun sets, Tantino leaves the track office and begins his second run of the day. As he passes people trying to get home, Tantino smiles and realizes that each step brings him closer to his goals.