Burnett redefines the word tough

Robb Munro is a middle school history teacher by day at Bainbridge-Guilford. During his off school hours, he is one of the most respected track and field coaches in Central New York, and he serves as Section IV girls track and field coordinator.

Munro is in the final days of this school year, and took time from grading essays to speak about the tremendous accomplishments of Chenango County athletes at the 2010 state track and field meet held this past Friday and Saturday at Dick Hoover Stadium in Vestal.

Munro had several members of his boys’ team qualify for the meet, with senior Chris Burnett winning a Division II state championship in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

“He wanted to run a little bit faster (Saturday), but he’s still rather new to the event,” Munro said of Burnett.

Burnett ran cross country in the fall, he was a full-time wrestler on the B-G/Afton team in the winter (while also running some indoor track and field), and he ran anywhere from the 800 meters to the 3,200 meters – along with legs on relays – during the regular season.

No matter the distance event, Burnett was the best on the Bears’ team. He was among the best Section IV runners in all of those events, too, but not good enough to contend for a state championship. “At the beginning, we trained him as a miler, that way he could go down to the 800 or up to the two-mile for meets,” Munro said. “We felt he could medal in anything, but he wasn’t going to beat Noelle (Chad) in the 1,600 or 3,200, and the kid from Marcellus (Mike Quercia) is among the best in the country. If he was going to win it a state title, it had to be the steeplechase, and he had to learn the event fast.”

Munro explained that of all the distance races, the 3,000 meters covered in the steeplechase is the most physically painful. Munro would know since he ran the event in high school, and is the Midstate Athletic Conference record-holder. “You have to be a tough all-around athlete,” Munro said of the steeplechase. “It’s an interesting mix. You have the aerobic aspect of distance, but jumping barriers, that’s anaerobic. It’s a quick explosion that burns a lot of energy. You have to have a nice balance of speed, jumping, endurance, and the final component is just guts.”

Burnett told Munro after the race that he felt awful the whole race, and that the early pace was killing him. Burnett laid back in last place nearly the first half of the race running consistent 78- to 80-second laps. He then began to make his move picking people off who had gone out too fast. On the final lap, with about 350 meters to go, Burnett moved past the Division II leader into first place, and ran his final lap in 71 seconds to win a state title with ease. “Chris is such a disciplined athlete and he stuck to his plan,” Burnett said. “He made an aggressive move and he closed very well.”

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