Bryce Lentz was frustrated with his dead legs. After he dropped a place to finish third at last week’s Pole Green Invitational, he aired his bodily grievances to his coach Dave Davis.
“I really don’t care, it’s September,” Davis recalled saying to Lentz, who is starting his junior year at Colgan High School. “The leaves are still green and you’re running 65 miles a week. Nothing matters.”
Lentz is still a little green himself. Even though he has been running since seventh grade, the last year, since moving to Virginia and winning the JV race at Great Meadow in his 2018 debut, has been steadily finishing toward the front of races. He won the Cardinal District last year, plus the 1600 and 3200 meters during the track season.
After finishing fifth in Virginia’s 6A cross country state championship, and because he’s 6’4″, he is losing the element of surprise.
“He won’t be able to sneak up on people anymore,” Davis said. “It was nice to hide, but we can’t hide anymore.”
That was evident at last spring’s Southern Track Classic, when bottom-seeded Lentz ran 9:30 to finish third. He finished third in the state outdoor 3200 meters, too.
He started running after leaving a middle school football team in New Mexico where he stayed on the field but teammates faked injuries.
“I memorized every defensive position and half the positions on offense,” he said. “Running was a different feeling, and I knew whatever work I put into it, I’d get it back out.”
When his father was transferred to the Pentagon, he met Davis, with whom he credits for understanding how to train him and connect with him as a runner.
“I owe what I’m doing to coach Davis and (co-coach Bill) coach Stearns,” he said. “The team was incredibly welcoming, and I like being around everybody.
“Even when we move, with each place having a different culture, I always manage to find people I enjoy being with.”
Colgan’s proximity to the Pentagon means it plays host to a lot of military families, and Colgan’s short history helps foster an easy going atmosphere for students starting later than ninth grade.
Lentz impressed Davis early on with his determination and mental strength and his willingness to put in the work.
“His training age is basically 2, and he’s seeing a level of competition he hadn’t before, but he’s not backing down,” Davis said.
Lentz likes the challenge, and the opportunity to see his progress either in the times he is running, his second time on each course, or as he finishes higher in race standings.
“I’m just trying to do everything right, not get injured and keep getting faster,” Lentz said.
What he needs to work on, both he and David admit, is his turnover and pure speed.
“Whenever he is running really fast, that’s all strength there,” Davis said. “He can run 4:32 (for 1600) 9:26, but when we get to the 400, it just isn’t happening. He can split 2:04 for 800, but that’s one gear.”
And indoor track is even tougher.
“On those little 200 meter tracks with the tight turns? He has to be in lane two, or forget it,” Davis said.
Fortunately cross country is more suited to his frame of body and frame of mind. He also had the benefit of training for a while over the summer at 9,000 feet while attending a Christian military camp in Colorado.
“New Mexico was a little too flat and there’s a little more shade here,” Lentz said.
Before New Mexico, the Lentz family lived in North Carolina and Washington state. Despite moving around a lot, Lentz’s personality has remained consistent. He’s quiet but focused, but still willing to take step out of his comfort zone for the benefit of others. His mother, Monica, said he once dressed up as Buddy the Elf while volunteering at a Christmas party. Given his height, he probably pulled it off.
RunWashington is throwing in a season-long surge of cross country coverage. In September, we’re featuring our All-RunWashington team. So far we have profiled: