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Kremer: USF's Bahret Running Down His Dream

University of St. Francis Academic All-America selection Danny Bahret is on track to follow in the footsteps of one of his mentors.

University of St. Francis sophomore Danny Bahret earned Academic All-Amerirca honors after qualifying for the NAIA nationals in the 5,000 meters and running on the Saints' national championship cross country team. Credit: University of St. Francis
University of St. Francis sophomore Danny Bahret earned Academic All-Amerirca honors after qualifying for the NAIA nationals in the 5,000 meters and running on the Saints' national championship cross country team. Credit: University of St. Francis
In the rearview mirror of his young, adult life, University of St. Francis distance runner Danny Bahret can look back and relish that moment when his big-boy world started to take shape.

He was engaged in “board races” in a calculus class taught by Minooka Community High School’s Scott Tanaka. And, Bahret, standing in front of a room full of his peers, was not viewed as that big, red-headed geek. Rather, he was the cool dude who always solved even the most difficult of problems.

Well, almost always.

“He’d challenge us on tests and put at least one question on there that was a really difficult problem and that was really a miracle if you got it right,” Bahret said. “But it was fun to try to do it.”

Today, he is halfway home toward his goal of becoming a high school math teacher and coach himself, halfway home to following in the footsteps of his mentor, Tanka.

Bahret, a resident of Channahon, recently was named to the Capital One Academic All-America College Division Men’s Cross Country/Track & Field Team. He was one of three Saints to gain the distinction in voting of the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Phil Rizzo and Mike Blaszczyk also earned academic All-America honors as USF completed a run to its most successful season—on and off the track. USF set a school record with 10 academic All-America picks in all sports during the 2012-13 school year.

And the Saints’ men’s cross country team won the NAIA national championship. The men’s track team placed 22nd at the indoor nationals and 38th in the NAIA outdoor championships.

Bahret ran a 1:51 split on the Saints’ 4x800 relay team that placed eighth in the nation at the indoor nationals. He clocked a personal-best time of 14:54 in the 5,000 meters at the Gina Relays in Hillsdale, Mich., and qualified for the NAIA outdoor nationals.

More importantly, he completed his sophomore year at USF with a 3.91 grade-point average. He remained on track to to major in math and secondary education. And he started to think about his future.

Bahret said his parents raised him with the expectation he would carry his weight in the classroom. And, he has done just that since enrolling at USF, except for a couple minor hiccups, one in a class where his grade was determined by the results of three tests, one he failed miserably.

“On the first test, I got like 100 percent on it,” Bahret said. “Then, on the next test, I got like a 60 or something. It just shocked me so much. I thought it was going to be really easy again, and it just blindsided me. And, then, that’s it. You can’t recover. It was an easy class, too—the history of mathematics.”

Bahret recovered just fine after a knee injury sidelined him for a couple of weeks during the cross country season and, ultimately, derailed his bid to gain a spot on the USF team that ran down the national title at the NAIA championships.

He has thought about that setback. He has drawn on his success in athletics to put it behind him. In sports, he has learned not to overthink everything, to react. He has come to be known as the definition of a competitor.

“Danny is a lot like all of the kids that come from Minooka High School and their cross country and track program—they’re very hard-working individuals,” USF coach Jeff Barker said. “And they’re very passionate about what they do.

“So, when Danny shows up, he always brings a very strong work ethic. If you ask him to do something, he does it and he gives everything he has, which is really important, especially in a sport like running.

“Because you have to be passionate about it and you have to work hard. Because distant runners—they’re made. They’re not born. There has to be a lot of work, especially at the collegiate level and with what we have in our program.”

Barker sees Bahret’s best days looming ahead of him, not lost in some rearview mirror clouded with images of would’ves and could’ves and should’ves and the regrets that are born out of an untimely injury.

“Hopefully he’s going to grow and develop into more of a leader in these next two years,” Barker said. “And, with his athleticism and the gifts he’s been given, I think he can be one of our top guys here in the future.”

To help pay for his college expenses, his car insurance and part of his health insurance, Bahret is flipping burgers this summer at McDonald’s off of Ridge Road and I-80 in Minooka, a part-time job and humbling experience. He has fun with it, though, and he reminds himself just how good a Big Mac can taste at the end of each and every day.

He is healthy and he is calculating—again. Here, think secret sauce. It’s not only the stuff that made Mickey D’s famous but also the stuff distance runners live on, the stuff that fuels them to push their minds and bodies to new personal-best achievements.

“Oh, yeah, I definitely want to next year win nationals and actually be running,” Bahret said. “We won nationals—but it was a little less sweet for me because I thought I could have been out there and I could have scored for the team.”

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