Thursday Conversation : Danny Thater


Thursday Conversation: Danny Thater

Danny Thater is on a mission.  After placing 5th at the highly competitive Forest Park Cross Country Festival, he has not lost; placing 1st at Richard Clark, the OSU Cowboy Jamboree, and the Ozark Conference Championships.  His season best of 15:41 was run en route to his head-turning win at OSU on one of the hardest courses in Midwest. I had a chance to catch up with Danny this week to talk about that great race in Stillwater, his training, and the coach of Kickapoo who doubles as the team jokester among many other topics.

You had a big win at the OSU Cowboy Jamboree a few weeks ago, winning by 12 seconds in 15:41. Walk me through the race, how did it unfold?

The race at OSU was the first race I felt like I had my legs under me.  Despite a late night room reassignment, I felt better than I had all season that day.  Feeling rested, and nervous, I toed the line eager to notch the first win of my season.  The gun sounded and the first uphill to start the race was seemingly nonexistent.  The packed dirt of a course soaked with the sweat of previous generations felt right.  A kid shot out ahead of the pack before the first 800 and obeying my coach I went with, keeping my distance.  I went through the first mile around 4:52, a little fast but knowing the course all too well I could tell the last mile was going to kill the rabbit.  I put it in cruise control for the second mile, saving it all for the third, but I was slowly inching my way back up to the leader.  The third mile consisted of a series of valleys, 5 in all, which gives the Stillwater course its reputation for being tough.  As the hills began I was counting in my head keeping track of the valleys, in particular the uphill segments.  With around 800 meters to go I passed the leader on an uphill and never looked back.  Everything I had held back that race, the lacking of my season up to that point, all the training, everything seemed to swell up resulting in my legs powerfully eating up the rest of the course giving the rest of the field no chance.  I was rolling at that point, it seemed as if nothing could stop me.  I finished the race a little winded, but regretting not making a move earlier.  I just felt right on that day.

Kickapoo is a great cross-country program. What is the team dynamic that makes Kickapoo such a powerhouse?

Kickapoo's cross-country team is made of dedication, not just of the top runners but also a solid JV squad who logs the miles as much as anyone on the team.  This summer the roads around town were filled with runners wanting to get better.  This is in part to the previous year's success and their desire to be apart of a state qualifying team.  On our team we are all friends. Our first through fourteen runners all like each other, but there is a bit of a gap between the top runners and the second string when looking at close friendships; some may consider this a negative quality of the team, but I look at it as yet another motivating factor.  They want to be included in the long run fun, the nighttime jogs, or secret runs known only to the varsity.  All in all the team has fun, but also knows when to work hard and push each other.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

The training at Kickapoo follows a strict schedule that stays true until the next stage of season is reached.  The days are always the same: every Monday we have a longer work out, every Tuesday the long run occurs, Wednesdays are shorter, faster work out days, and Thursday and Fridays are meant for recovering; Saturdays of course are races, or in the event of an off week we have another long day.  Our coach basically divides the season into three parts.  The first part we log miles, reaching into the high 60s per week. The second section consists of a little bit faster workouts and a mile shorter long run.  The last section is the taper; the runs get shorter, the before school recovery runs occur less often and the workouts refine the speed aspect and get the legs used to moving fast.  Workouts in each section may be mile intervals and tempo runs for the first part, quarters and 800s for the second part, and thousands and fartleks for the last; Each section the workouts shorten up a little bit.  All of our workouts are done either on abandoned soccer fields close to the school or out at Springfield Lake where we run along various courses set up.

What is the hardest workout you have done?

The hardest workout I have ever done would have to be quarters on the track (during track).  I run a quarter then float for 60 seconds before running another.  As opposed to walking around and resting, I am forced to jog 200 meters in the normal rest time.  The last half of that workout may be the hardest thing ever, assuming you keep pace of course. 


Cross-country or track, which do you prefer and why?

Track.  I love cross-country and the team aspect of it, but track is where my heart lies.  It is just as fast as you can go for the set distance.  Also I enjoy the ability to race multiple times in one week as opposed to just once.

Tell me about your coach and the impact he has had on you as a person and runner.

Jeremy Goddard is an excellent coach, but also a friend.  At times I forget he is our coach when he is playing volleyball, or ultimate frisbee with us.  Even though the girl’s team has led him to be less cool, he is still a ton of fun.  He is the "class clown" of the team, and the coach at the same time.  He is also a father figure to many of the kids on the team, myself included at times.  He is an excellent role model for everyone and achieving success for him is the least I can do.

Who would you say are the top 5 runners in the state right now?

The top five runners in the state is hard for me to pinpoint because I am trying to stay away from the ranking and results of races this year.  If I had to put together five I would say Caleb Hoover, Kevin Colon, Maksim Korolev, Caleb Wilfong, and myself.

Do you have any post-season plans?

For the post-season I am going to play it by ear, but at this point in time I plan on attending the Nike Team regional and hopefully qualifying for nationals.

If you could race anyone in the nation right now, head to head, who would it be and why?

I would race Caleb Hoover.  He beat me at the beginning of the season while I was getting things figured out and now that I am on top of my game I would like another shot at him.  As a junior he has proven himself as one of the top runners in Missouri, if not the best.  I am disappointed we don't get to race again this season and I would like another shot at him.  I would like him to go to Nike, but he has a chance to qualify for Footlocker which is much more prestigious.

What is your favorite pair of training shoes? Racing shoes?

Right now I am training in the Adidas Sequence and I love them.  No issues at all.  For racing I am a Nike guy.

If you could pass down one piece of advice to freshmen just starting to run, what would it be?

Hard work knows no limits.

I’m sure as a senior with some incredible credentials you have college coaches after you. Are you planning on running in college and who is on your list at the moment?

I do plan on attending a Division I college and running there. I have narrowed down my choices to Oklahoma University, Mizzou, Syracuse, Arkansas, and Tulsa. 

Thanks Danny! We are cheering for you here at Milesplit as you make the final push for state.