I vividly remember the first time I met Van in 1997. I was in 8th grade and ran for a local rival prep school. We had a middle school track meet at Baylor. Before the meet he and Jamey Gifford (former Stanford runner), a senior at the time, were doing a track workout. Being new to running I couldn’t believe two people could run that fast.
I believe I ran 5:32 in the mile that day, losing to a couple of Baylor kids. After the meet, he walked up to me decked out in full bright Adidas gear and said, in a distinctly non-southern voice, “great run, come to Baylor.” I didn’t go to Baylor and for the next 4 years was routinely destroyed by his team.
He was a fixture at local road races. To me he was a running rock star junky, always ready to talk (you would listen) shop.
He also convinced me to run higher mileage. He argued there was a big difference between 50mpw runnners and 70mpw runners. I set all my PRs after my first winter of 70 mile weeks.
I have so many flash memories of Van, like when Oliver set the school 800m record, to laughing at my size when I was finishing a local 5k last March. Tim Ensign loves reminiscing about the time he in Van were in a classic duel and Van collapsed right at the finish line and ended up in the ER. I've heard it a thousand times.
But, on most of our interactions he would jump right into discussing running, sometimes even mid-story, and it went something like this:
“Hey, so yeah, great race at NAIA nationals. 4.14, is that a PR? How is Rodney doing?”
“Van, I’m Joseph, you are thinking of my brother Daniel,” I replied.
“Oh, right, you look so much alike. Did you see Simon ran 3.46 as a frosh?”
RIP to the "Peter Pan" of running