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Craig Forys - an undertrained overachiever
Coach Jim Schlentz has one of the brightest prospects ever in New Jersey, but don't talk about a 4-minute mile yet

  Special to National Scholastic Sports Foundation

     Call Craig Forys an undertrained overachiever.

     The Colts Neck High School (New Jersey) junior rarely runs more than 55 or
60 miles a week.  He never indulges in double sessions.

       Coach Neck coach Jim Schlentz will never over-race his young middle distance star. 
He plots his schedule with infinite care.   He makes stretching a key warmup before
every trip out to the track.

          More than anyone, Schlentz is aware of Forys's exceeding talent. The last
thing in the world he'd ever want to do is squander it.

     Just four American schoolboy runners have ever broken four minutes for the
mile - Jim Ryun, Marty Liquori, Tim Danielson and Alan Webb; many now tout Forys
as a likely number five.

   On Sunday, March 12, Forys will run the two-mile at the Nike Indoor Nationals in
Landover, Maryland, intent on another super performance.

    Schlentz refuses to listen to speculation about Forys's sub-four-minute-mile
potential; he will not let his star get crunched by such numbers, he's not about to change a winning routine.

    "If he breaks four minutes now (as a high schooler), that's great," Schlentz says.
"And if doesn't break four now, we know he's going to (eventually.) What we're trying
to do right now is set up his future.  It's not real important for him to run
sub-four in high school. What is important is to set him up so he loves the sport.
and not to push him so hard that he'll dread four more years of running in college.

      "More or more, he's falling in love with the sport so he'll want to run for
a long time. It's not a  'I have to do this' thing any more.  It's real important
for me that he feels this way."

    Forys counts himself most fortunate. He knows his running career is in the
  hands of a man who knows the sport as well as any coach in the business.
  Schlentz, a graduate of Freehold (NJ) High and Springfield College,
   formerly coached at New York's Wagner College and Philadelphia's
   LaSalle University.

    As an elite club team coach, he guided Kate Fonshell to a victory in the women's
10,000 meters at the 1996 Olympic Trials.

     His wife, Madeline Noe-Schlentz may be his best pupil of all. She recently added
American women's Masters 45-49 indoor 1,500-meter and 1-mile records
to her array of achievements.

     Schlentz's step-by-step-by-step formula is a winner all the way. It's worked
on every level.

     Forys may be one of the brightest prospect to come out of New Jersey in
  decades - and remember that this is a state that has given the track world such
  notables as Marty Liquori, Vince Cartier, Mike Keogh, Rich Kenah, Kevin Byrne,
  John Marshall and Bryan Spoonire over the years.

       Still 16, this Howell Township, N.J. resident is 5-foot-10, 135 pounds and
sprouting quickly. He has no special diet - anything seafood's high on his list - and no
other secrets, either. His favorite training day: 12 or 16 400's.

    Two races this winter at New York's Armory Track Center exemplified
   this Colts Neck Cougar's current racing level - and his super potential.

      Running the Open Mile - against top-quality post-collegians - at the Armory
Collegiate Invitational Meet on Feb. 4, Forys reeled off a 4:09.77, good for seventh
place in a race won by British internationalist James Thie in 4:03:37.

   "I was hurting in that one," admitted Forys. "We went out pretty slow, I wanted to go out a lot faster. Then they threw in a 29, I think it was third or fourth lap. That really threw me off.  I really wanted to run a 4:05 or 4:05, I knew I had it in me."

       Returning to the Armory for the Eastern Championships, Feb. 28, Forys uncorked
a 4:05.7 1600-meter anchor split that lifted Colts Neck from 16th place with
eight laps to go, to third place when it was all over.

   "Passing all those guys was good, everything was good, everything clicked,"
he said.  "You're almost smiling while you're running. You begin wondering if
you can ever have a better day than this."

    About the only disappointment he's experienced this whole junior year came
at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional Cross Country Championships in late
November.  Feeling under the weather - by a never-diagnosed ailment
that left him weak and sub-par - he struggled to a far-from-qualifying
28th place.

      It was something to just shrug off; obviously, his future is luminescent.

     As an eighth grader, he'd run a 4:39 mile on the Junior Olympic circuit, dabbling in the jumping events, too, and came to Colts Neck High hoping to keep the Forys name in the running news.  His sister Nicole had been a half-miler who went on to the University of Delaware and is now a teacher. His brother Matt had starred in the distances at Howell High and now is captain of the Bucknell University team, planning to run some swift steeplechase and 5,000-meter times this spring.

    "Craig had really bad form in those early days," said Schlentz. "He'd hurt himself
playing soccer in the fifth or sixth grade, and favored one leg. He was limping, almost
hopping on that injured leg.

   "So when he started training at a little higher level, that August when he arrived here
as a freshman, he immediately got hurt again."

    Amazing but true - as Forys was running up a series of great freshman performances,
he was changing his form completely.  Highlights of that 2003-04 campaign
included a state freshman record of 16:15 over the rugged Holmdel Park 5K cross country course; a state freshman mile record of 4:23.96 and the real eye-opener, a national freshman class record 9:20.50 3,200 meters indoors, followed by a national age-14 1600-meter record of 4:16.62 outdoors.

    The three races he actually lost as a freshman were by minuscule margins
of 3/100ths, 3/100ths and 5/10ths of a second.

      His burgeoning career really took off as a sophomore in 2004-05.  At Holmdel
Park, he lowered the state sophomore 5k record to 15:53, and was headed for bigger things
  until a left-leg stress fracture ended his November big-meet ambitions.
Outoors, he clocked a 4:11.27 mile and 8:29.85 3,000 meters for state soph
records, on top of a  9:11.49 for 3,200 meters.

     In a season-ending 4x800 relay at Icahn Stadium, New York - in a scholastic
special at the Reebok Classic Meet featuring many members of the global elite -
he anchored his team to state-record 7:39.54 performance.

    But the best was just around the corner this 2005-06 campaign.

      He took 19 seconds off his XC PR with a 15:34 at Holmdel Park, winning
virtually everything in sight in New Jersey.  His big wins came in the
Monmouth County, Shore Conference, Central and State Group III meets,
  and the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, where he became his school's
  first-ever over-all state cross country champion.

    Running with Chatham's Ben Massam for much of the early going, he fought off
his rival's big surge in the second mile with a big surge of his own, and went on to the
15:34 clocking and a 12-second victory margin on Massam. The 15:34 represented the
fourth best-ever time at Holmdel Park, the state's time-tested challenge.

     Only the Foot Locker Regional race put a damper on all he had done
through the autumn.

     "Because he'd stayed generally healthy so long (since the beginning of XC season),
  he's benefited from all that this indoor season," said Schlentz. "We don't do
a whole lot of speed (training) for indoors. nothing at all faster than 800 pace.
So all his sharpness will come outdoors, as it did last year."

    Lacking an indoor track facility - along with almost every other New Jersey
high school - Schlentz's Cougars simply do their stretching in the school
building before bundling up for outdoor sessions on the 400-meter oval.

     "The joke with us is that we're the (school's) only winter sport team that
trains outdoors," says Schlentz.  "I actually prefer running outdoors.
Most schools aren't going to do that. They run the halls, or wherever they can.
  "We stay outside and our distance runners think it makes them tougher.
Whether (other) people do it or not, in our minds we're doing better workouts and
harder workouts than they are.

    "Whether that's true or not, the main is that they (his athletes) believe it,"
he said. smiling. "We believe we're tougher than anyone else during the winter.
And if the weather's lousy, we're going to be even better."

    Schlentz will never push his athletes too far in a day's training, but will
keep the intensity level at a more consistent pace day after day.

    "If you're so dead (after) one day (of training) that's not very good.
If you're running at a 9 level, but can't go better than a 3 level the next day,
that's not so good.  I'd prefer to have our kids run an 8 day and come back with a 6.
It's like little molehills rather than peaks and valleys.

   "With extremes, you get more injuries.  We'll do everything we can to avoid that.

   "Everything we do is based on form, too. If you're losing your form, you're running
too fast. I may be the only coach you'll ever meet telling his runners to go slower."

     The cross country and relay circuits give Forys to be a true team player,
and an inspiration to his teammates,

   "Best thing is that he gives his teammates no fear of training at a high
level, and racing against good competition," says Schlentz.  "They see a normal guy, just like they are, doing it, and they'll say 'if he's doing it, so can I.'  So they know it's a matter of staying with the person in front of them, and getting better and better and better."

     "It's a lot more fun when you have so many other good guys to run with,"
Forys says. 

    Forys will run the two-mile at Nike Indoor Nationals in Landover, Md.

    "If I want to win, I'm going to have to break 9, and maybe set a (New Jersey)
state record, at least.  That's what I'll need to make it happen."
    "He's coming here because he knows where the best competition is going to be,"
says Schlentz. 

     Colts Neck High - one of six schools in the six-school Freehold Regional
district - opened in the fall of 1998 and quickly gained a reputation as a
track power.  Schlentz has a strong staff with Joe Lykes heading up the girls
program, which features such stars as Ashley Higginson and Briana
Jackucewicz - and Tim Mulligan, Kevin Hein, Tunisha Bass and Dennis
Bruck serving as assistants.

    The school has a first-rate rubberized track, top field facilities, and annually hosts
the big New Jersey International Meet, this year on June 10.  The all-new Colts Neck
Relays, set for April 15, will be another feature event.

     Outdoors, Forys will run an Open 5,000 meters at Princeton, the Penn Relays schoolboy mile, and the High Performance Meet Open 1,500 meters in Boston, on top of his usual scholastic slate.

    An excellent student, Forys will have his choices of top college destinations
to choose from.

   "I've narrowed it down to about 300 schools," he kids.

   "It will be a tough decision, but I've got another year to figure it out."


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