HPU senior enjoys Peachee keen steeplechase campaign
Coming off a poor junior season, Dakota Peachee wasn’t optimistic about his senior year running track for High Point University.
“Coach doesn’t want to hear this but I didn’t do much training last summer because I had gone through so many bad seasons,” Peachee said. “I hit the off button. I thought my career might be over. I had a bad cross-country season. But toward the end I started coming back.”
Able to dodge the minor injuries similar to those that affected half of his eight seasons in high school and college while adopting a go-for-broke approach, Peachee set an HPU school record of 8:46.69 in the 3.000 steeplechase. It is a time that qualified him for the NCAA preliminary meet today and Saturday at North Carolina A&T and makes him optimistic about his chances of progressing to NCAA Finals next month in Eugene, Ore.
Peachee goes in with fifth-best time among those competing at A&T. The top three finishers in each of three heats and the next three fastest times advance to Eugene.
“I expect to make it,” Peachee said. “Unless something catastrophic happens, I think I will advance.”
He not only hopes to make it to Eugene, he believes he has a shot at finishing in the top eight and earning All-American honors. Another goal is to run 8:40 or better and make it to the U.S. National Trials.
That’s a far cry from the time he suffered setbacks from injuries, even though all were minor.
“There are some times in my career I wouldn’t have confidence because I was really, really unfit,” Peachee said. ”Coming back is tough. You’re out there with guys who aren’t normally as fast as you are, they’re on a tempo run and you are out there sucking wind. It’s de-motivating. You don’t want to travel and don’t want to race. That’s a pattern with the injuries.”
Peachee, who competed for West Johnston for the last three years of high school after his family moved across the Wake County line, has dodged the injuries this season. He also cut down on the amount of miles he runs in training.
“I’m running less miles this year,” Peachee said. “I’ve substituted volume for intensity but everything is fast. And I don’t have anything to lose. I just go out there and compete. I don’t worry about time too much.”
He had an inkling he could have a good season when he did well in an intra-squad 800 meters. He won a couple of 800s indoors and then got off on the right foot when the outdoor season started.
“The outdoor season came and I ran the 1,500 meters and the 400 hurdles at a meet and I had never run the 400 hurdles,” Peachee said. “I thought my times, for just coming out starting the season, were great. Then, I knew it was going to be a good outdoor season.
“My times have steadily progresses. I race when I need to. If I have a bad day and feel tired, I run a few miles and that’s that.”
The steeplechase has been his favorite since his freshman year in college.
“Something about it stuck with me,” Peachee said. “It’s a wild man’s race. You can’t be one dimensional. It requires the focus of the 5K and the speed of the 1,500. You don’t have to post a superfast time to win but you have to be fast at the end.”
He set the school record while outdueling teammate Benji Szalai in a race at the University of Virginia. Szalai will also compete at A&T.
“I think Benji will also do well,” Peachee said. “He’s been running well. We’ve been alternating leads and he’s been running on my hip and he feels good.”
Peachee feels good enough about his performance at UVa that he believes that he can get to the 8:40 mark.
“I had a lot left in the tank,” Peachee said.
Peachee and Szalai will be joined by three other Panthers. Christine Rickert will compete in the women’s javelin. Christian Spaulding qualified for the second time in the men’s javelin, and Even Emery is back for a second time in the 200 meters.