Boccher hits his stride

After participating in track during his junior year to get ready for baseball, Wilde Lake senior Travis Boccher found he has a passion for running.

May 10, 2006|By GLENN GRAHAM | GLENN GRAHAM,SUN REPORTER

When Wilde Lake senior Travis Boccher decided to sign up for indoor track during his junior year, the idea was to help get him ready for his first varsity baseball season in the spring.

He wanted to cover more ground in the outfield and steal bases.

Boccher has never made it back to the baseball diamond, however, as he developed a strong passion for running.

"I had planned on going out for track in previous years, but never had the time. So I finally got out for indoor season and ended up liking it a lot," said Boccher, a distance runner who will lead the Wildecats in the Howard County Track and Field championships, set to start today at Long Reach. "You watch your times go down and you see yourself improve. It was clear, there was a fine line to my improvement."

After quickly learning the art of distant running - his biggest lesson was pacing himself to take full advantage of his strong late kick - and overcoming a stress fracture in his leg that took away the majority of last year's spring season, Boccher has been on an extended joyride during his senior year.

In the fall, he participated in cross country for the first time. Despite never having ran a race over one mile, he was the catalyst on an overachieving team that won the Class 3A state title despite losing six of its top seven runners from the year before.

Boccher claimed a regional title, placed second in the Howard County meet and was the Wildecats' top finisher at states, taking third. Placing in the top five in six invitationals, the runner who seemingly came from nowhere earned first-team All-Metro honors.

Boccher said that camaraderie was a factor in the team's success. All season long, junior J.P. Allera - the team's only key returnee - was side by side with Boccher to provide a constant push.

"I think that motivates us all," he said. "It's easier to decide when you're out there just running for yourself to just say `Oh well, this race isn't as important and I don't care as much about it.' But when you're team is counting on you and they're your good friends, than it pains you to let them down."

During the indoor track season, Boccher overcame illness to win the state title in the 3,200-meter race with a time of 9:47.78, earning him second-team All-Metro honors.

"He had been in bed with the flu like 10 days before the state meet, so we barely got him on the track," Wilde Lake coach Whitty Bass said. "He was on medication and still feeling terrible when he went out there, but pulled through. It was one of the most courageous races I've ever seen."

What Bass originally saw from Boccher when he first started running last year was "a tough kid with some speed and promise." Getting the most from that potential was the next step. Boccher's mile time in his first individual indoor race as a junior was 5:08, which he lowered to 4:32 this year.

"The hardest thing for Travis was getting him to understand that there is such a thing as running too hard, especially at practice," Bass said. "Getting him to accept that you need to pace yourself through the season, and that there's a time to run hard and a time to recover, was important. What we had to do was harness some of his ability and drive so he could be completely ready on the day of a race."

Boccher, who has gone undefeated in each of the individual races he has ran this spring - he competes in the 800, 1,600 and occasionally the 3,200 - has learned fast.

"What has paid off for Travis is his self-discipline, his work ethic and he has the talent," Bass said. "What I give him all the credit in the world for is that he's determined to be successful and isn't going to let you pass him unless you're willing to work for it."

In the final lap of a race, Boccher draws on the competitive nature that he developed over his years playing other sports.

"You can definitely see his competitive spirit when he races," Allera said. "He doesn't like losing, so when he gets to the end, he's able to give all 100 percent of what he has left no matter what."

With the postseason about to get underway, Boccher is confident the Wildecats can make an impact.

"Our team is looking really strong this year. In year's past, we weren't quite as strong overall," Boccher said. "You need your sprinters, distant runners and jumpers to all come together - you can't just have one part. This year, everybody is scoring points, and so guys who jump will come over and cheer us on and we'll make sure to go over and support them. Everybody is pulling together as one team and it's like the camaraderie from our cross country team is carrying over to the entire track team."

Boccher, who maintains a B average, will attend George Mason next fall to study history. With new coach Andrew Gerard coming from Stanford this year, he's looking to take his running career to a new level.

"I felt like I wanted to be at a college where I was going to have the opportunity to learn and grow," he said. "I'm excited to see where it takes me. It's been a great ride so far."

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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