Running Doesn't Rule Conrad's World

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Martin Conrad is not going to read this feature-and the story is about him.

Conrad stars as a member of both Cal's cross country and track teams, is the president of his fraternity-Delta Tau Delta, is a double major in history and political science and is in his fourth year on an Air Force ROTC scholarship where he currently is the Detachment 85's logistical support squadron commander.

Time to read the Daily Cal? I think not.

Conrad is too busy balancing his time between ROTC, sports, academics and his presidency.

Conrad is in charge of maintenance, logistics, safety and transportation as part of ROTC activities which consume about 10-15 hours a week.

"I've always had a desire to serve the country," Conrad says. "I've gotten a good education and have had good opportunities growing up here. It's an opportunity to give back."

Conrad has given back a lot to the cross country team this fall.

He walked on the cross country and track squads in the fall of 1999 and has since been running his way up as one of Cal's top distance runners.

"He is like a poster boy for us," Cal cross country and track coach Tony Sandoval says. "He came out to see what college running is all about and has emerged on the top."

Conrad has led the Cal men in three of the five meets he has entered this season

These top finishes include claiming first in the Berkeley Firetrail Challenge and 22nd at the Pac-10 Championships earlier this month, recording his personal best of 24 minutes, 44 seconds in the 8000m at the championships.

"It's kind of unusual (for a walk-on), but very admirable as far as I'm concerned," Sandoval says.

Conrad hopes to lead the men's team at the NCAA West Regionals at Stanford Saturday.

If he doesn't qualify for nationals, this weekend will mark the end of Conrad's collegiate cross country career.

The top two teams receive an automatic berth. Cal finished 11th last year.

The top-four individual finishers not on the two scoring teams will also qualify. Conrad finished 77th with a time of 34:03 at the 2001 Regionals.

If he does not make it, he won't have a problem keeping himself occupied.

After Conrad graduates in May, he is committed to four years in the Air Force, in which he hopes to participate in the military's World Class Athlete Program in the steeplechase. The program is geared to train athletes for the Olympics.

"If I make the team as soon as I try out, I'll be training for the 2004 Olympics," Conrad says. "If later, maybe the 2008 (games)."

To make the squad, Conrad must beat the 8:50 cutoff.

"I only have to improve six seconds, but it is still six seconds to improve," Conrad says, referring to his second-place finish and personal record of 8:56 in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2002 Big Meet.

It seems fitting that he should take that route to his athletic career.

Conrad's military roots grow deep into his family with his father serving 20 years in the Navy.

In addition, his maternal grandfather was in the Navy for 25 years while his paternal grandfather served as a Marine in World War II. Martin's brother is currently on an Air Force ROTC scholarship at MIT.

The Long Beach native grew up as a boy scout and is a youth volunteer when he's home.

Conrad has traveled to Thailand, volunteering at the World Scout Jamboree, and also teaching kids archery at the National Jamboree on the East Coast two years ago.

Beyond his Olympic dreams, Conrad says his future may also involve law school and his 3.65 GPA should give him a good shot at that.

"I know what I'm doing in the next four years so there's no rush to take the LSATs," Conrad says. "I'm also open to the opportunity of coaching later in life."

But for now, Conrad is focused on being a student athlete and extending his cross country season an extra week to nationals.

The regionals consist of a 30-team men's and women's field and is a qualifier for next weekend's NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

Along with Conrad, the men will feature Carlos Carballo, Kevin Davis, Jon Balzer, Eric Roberts, Abadir Barre and Craig Lee.

The women will be sending their top seven for the first time in three years. Their lineup includes Bridget Duffy, Lindsey Maclise, Abby Parker, Maja Ruznic, Lache Bailey, Sophia Marquez, and either Mary Faia or Katie White.


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