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Thiele runs to success as Cav senior captain

For those of you who think student-athletes are stupid, meet Bob Thiele. He'll change your mind.

Thiele, a senior captain of the men's cross country team, defies the stereotype of the academically challenged jock. He was ranked first in his class in high school, is a Rodman Scholar and lives on the Lawn. Thiele is applying to medical schools and is also a Rhodes Scholar candidate.

Yet the most remarkable thing about Thiele is his tremendous running ability. A true hometown kid, Thiele was born across town in Charlottesville's Martha Jefferson Hospital and started his illustrious cross country and track careers at Charlottesville High School. There, Thiele won the Virginia State AA 1,600-meter run in his junior year and was named The Daily Progress' Central Virginia boys' track performer of the year in 1996.

Related Links
  • CD Online Cross Country Coverage
  • Admitted to the University on a rare full scholarship for track, Thiele's distance career continued to blossom. As a freshman, he ran the 10,000 meters in 29 minutes, 58.29 seconds, the fifth-fastest freshman time in the nation that year. Thiele reached a huge milestone last year when he was named a collegiate All-American, Virginia's first in men's cross country since 1984.

    Much of Thiele's accomplishments can be attributed to his work ethic. After suffering knee injuries that kept him sidelined over the last two track seasons, he has worked hard to get back in shape and is in his best condition ever, Virginia coach Randy Bungard said.

    Now Thiele hopes to return to nationals, which he reached last year in cross country. Under new assistant cross country coach Jason Dunn, Thiele runs 90 miles a week - more than ever before.

    "He's very serious and a real hard worker," Dunn said. "He's just tough, mentally tough. He's the kind of guy that when he puts his mind to something, that's what he's going to do."

    But team success has eluded Thiele through his college career. The Cavaliers have not made cross country nationals as a team since Thiele arrived.

    "All I really care about right now is making sure our team gets to nationals," Thiele said. "Whatever I have to do to get the team there is what's most important to me."

    Bungard agreed that Thiele is a team player - so much so that Thiele tries too hard to pace his teammates during races instead of concentrating on running his fastest time.

    "That's just how he is," Bungard said. "I have to tell him, don't hold back. I mean, pull the team along, but don't hold back and sacrifice yourself."

    Thiele said he anticipates that Dunn's arrival will bring long-term success to the cross country and distance track programs.

    "The hardest thing is, when I look around at practice I realize that three years from now we're going to be so, so good, and I'm going to be long gone," Thiele said. "Now that [Dunn] is here I wish I had more eligibility. I wish I wasn't a fourth year, because I can see how good they're going to be. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be around."

    With a potential future in medicine, Thiele expects this to be his last year running competitively. However, he does plan to run on some level for a long time.

    "I don't want to stop competing, but I'm going to have to eventually," Thiele said. "I like running with my teammates, and I like running by myself. I think that's something I'm going to do the rest of my life."

    Besides his exploits in cross country and track, Thiele also works hard to give back to his community. He participates in the Student Athlete Mentoring Program as well as Athletes in Action, a program that supports student-athletes with emotional and spiritual fellowship.

    "He's got a bigger heart than anyone I know," Bungard said.

    Despite everything he's done, Thiele doesn't let his accomplishments get to his head.

    "I think his personality is really suited for a cross country runner," Dunn said. "He's not a rah-rah kind of guy. He just goes out and does his job, and that's ideal for a distance runner"


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