Geneva grad Huling running to new heights

  • Dan Huling, pictured in his high school days finishing as the state runner-up in the 1,600 for Geneva, has become a world class athlete in the steeplechase.

    Dan Huling, pictured in his high school days finishing as the state runner-up in the 1,600 for Geneva, has become a world class athlete in the steeplechase. Daily Herald file photo

Published: 9/23/2010 12:05 AM

Every so often you see Dan Huling's name pop up somewhere. On television, in Track & Field News, on the Internet.

He may have lost touch with his Geneva background - Huling lives in Columbus, Ohio, trains for months in high-altitude Colorado Springs, and his parents, Kenneth and Laurie, moved to New Hampshire - but the distance runner gets around.

The 2002 Class 2A runner-up in the 1,600-meter run and 11th in 2001 cross country as a senior at Geneva, Huling now focuses on the 3,000-meter steeplechase, an event he's run since his sophomore year at Miami (Ohio) University.

Now 27 and sponsored by Reebok, Huling ran the fastest time in the event by a United States man this year (and 12th all-time), 8 minutes, 13.29 seconds on July 18 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

He was the 2010 U.S. Outdoor champion in steeple and runner-up in 2009, earning fare to the World Outdoor Championships in Berlin. His prior personal-best time of 8:14.69 in the 2009 Brussels Cup led all American runners that year, and Huling finished fifth at the 2008 Olympic Trials. He's currently 13th on's world 3,000-meter steeplechase rankings.

"Kind of my immediate focus is a world championship this year and then London (Olympic Games) in 2012," Huling said on the phone from Columbus. He golfs, reads, hits the Web and plays disc golf in his down time, and is engaged to be married in April 2011.

"I was on track to break the American record (8:08.82, Daniel Lincoln, 2006) in steeplechase this year and I just did some things wrong in training so it didn't happen. That's been pretty disappointing," he said.

From time to time the easygoing Huling returns to his roots as a "flat" track runner. This year he recorded personal-best times in the indoor mile (4:00.13), the 3,000-meter (7:46.97), and the 5,000 (13:24.72). This Sunday he'll run among an international field in the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City.

At college he also ran both flat and steeple, graduating in 2006 as both the Mid-American Conference's 5,000-meter champion as well as steeplechase winner.

"I think I just decided I was going to jump in and try it," he said. "I won the race and almost qualified for regionals. I was like, 'I'll try this a little more.'

"It's just a little different from flat running. It's interesting and it's challenging. I feel you can always pick out points to improve upon, especially with the hurdles."

Navigating those hurdles - the normal ones, not the barriers before the water pits - are what Huling will address in his brief "off-season" before races resume in January.

Being the fastest runner in your event means not standing still.

"I don't really think about being the best," Huling said. "That's just a weird thing to say. There's nowhere to go after that... I think once you start having that mentality you've got nowhere to go but down."

Quote of the Week

Visiting the Guerin Gators on Saturday means Marmion football coach Dan Thorpe will line up opposite Tony Tinerella, Guerin's defensive coordinator who did the same job for Thorpe as recently as 2008. Tinerella was the Cadets' head coach from 2002-04.

Asked if facing Tinerella will be fun, Thorpe said: "No. He's a good friend. I hope we bring disappointment to him on Saturday, but that's not fun."

The disciple

Aurora Central Catholic varsity football coach Brian Casey is the first of Montini coach Chris Andriano's former players to become a head coach. The two are on opposite sidelines Friday in Aurora.

"I think it'll be fun," said Casey, who in Weeks 2-3 led the Chargers to consecutive wins for the first time since 1997.

"I've certainly got a great deal of respect for Coach Andriano and everything he has done," said Casey, who added he's spoken with Andriano on football issues "a ton," including this week.

Casey cautioned that after the original thrill of seeing his former coach across the field it'll be back to business.

"I don't want to treat it bigger than it is," Casey said. "It's a big game for them and it's a big game for us. Once it starts it has nothing to do with myself at all."

Andriano, an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee, recalls Brian going back to his days in the Westchester youth football program, which was led by Tim Casey, now assisting his son at Aurora Central.

Andriano complimented the elder Casey for teaching football "the right way," highlighting integrity, respect, character and fundamentals. It rubbed off.

"You could tell from the minute he got here (at Montini) he was a coach's kid," said the 32-year head coach. "He understands the game. Coaching was already in his future."

Brian Casey was Montini's starting quarterback in 2000. He directed a 7-2 team that finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Suburban Catholic Conference and lost in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.

Chargers assistant coaches also include former Montini players Tom Kero and Tom Costantini.

"It's exciting," Andriano said. "It means the guys love football. The guys that play (at Montini) usually have passion and a love for the game and I'm glad to see it's being passed on, and those guys are using their love for the game to teach at other places. That's a compliment. (Casey) was always that kind of kid."

A do-it-yourselfer

Back in Geneva, Vikings soccer captain Robbie Johnson is trying to use lessons he learned this August at the Chelsea Training Academy in London.

The crux of the training sounds simple: "self-reliance on your teammates and yourself, not your coach," said the senior.

That's not to say he advocates ignoring Geneva coach Ryan Estabrook. What Johnson meant, in essence, is that all the training in the world doesn't work if players don't take responsibility to correct things themselves.

Last December, Johnson's club team, Campton United Navy Under-17, competed at the Disney Soccer Showcase in Florida. The defender was selected by coaches as one of 18 "all-stars" out of the 400 U17 players there to attend the Chelsea Training Academy. He was in London Aug. 6-15.

The Disney All-Stars played a few English academies and attended games by Chelsea, the Queens Park Rangers and the English National Team, at Wembley Stadium.

"There was something like 84,000 people in the stadium. It was pretty nuts," said Johnson, who is looking at playing for Division 1 programs at Lipscomb University or Dayton.

"Soccer's just treated differently," he said. "It's the big sport, so people are wearing soccer jerseys all over the place.

"I don't want to say it was a tourist trip, because it wasn't. It was an opportunity to learn something from the Academy coaches, to grow as individual players."

He said a big thing with the Chelsea trainers was problem solving, how to deal with opposing alignments or change formations to capitalize on opponents, on the fly, as a unit.

"The answer wasn't handed to us," he said.

"It's altogether made me a smarter player," Johnson said. "I can just see the game in different ways, see how I can improve, really, a lot more."