By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Absegami senior distance runner Daniel Do knows all about hard work. He sees examples of it every day from his parents. Both of his parents fled from war-torn Vietnam back in the 1970s. His father has spent more than 30 years working with the FAA, and his mother goes to work every day as a casino worker. When you have parents with that kind of work ethic and determination, there’s no such thing as a day off.
Do has been ultra-competitive for much of his life, although this edition’s Old Cape Recycling Scholar Athlete didn’t really get involved in sports until middle school, and even then it took a gym class bet between friends to see who was faster to spark his interest in running. But, once Do got a taste for athletic competition, it became an unquenchable thirst.
“Me and a couple buddies were betting who could run a faster mile. I took it as a competitive challenge,” Do said. “I didn’t really start playing sports until about seventh grade. I tried football, but that didn’t last too long. I started hitting my stride in track in seventh grade. Going into high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I tried cross country and it’s really worked out.”
Do has become a three-season runner, competing in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, all the while maintaining a grade-point average of better than 4.0 and vaulting into the top five in class rankings.
“He came in his freshman year and established himself as a strong two-miler,” said Absegami track coach Keith Landgraf. “His sophomore year, he lost his spring season to injury. Last year, he broke that 10-minute barrier in the two-mile and used that momentum to train hard for this year in the cross country season. He was undefeated in the 3,200 last spring in the Cape-Atlantic League.”
Do began to make a name for himself as a junior, finishing fourth at the CAL cross country championships. He then advanced through sectionals in spring track last year. He had high hopes for a big senior season in cross country, but after winning the Atlantic County title he had to deal with bronchitis and missed the CAL championships. He returned for sectionals and made it through to groups. This winter, he made it all the way to the indoor Meet of Champions in the 3,200 meters.
“Running sort of came naturally to me. I felt pretty good about my strides early on. Coming into high school and seeing how good everyone was, I wanted to be like them, too. I did some research to improve my form. Getting to the Meet of Champions has always been my goal, and I’m really proud of myself,” Do said. “I think I really hit my stride junior year. My first two years I had to deal with some injuries. What really helped me was changing my training plans. Before, I used to do too much and that wore my body down. Now, I focus on quality over quantity and that’s really helped me.”
Do is at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to distance running because he’s only about 5-foot-5, which means a much shorter stride length.
“He does a good job of adapting. We’ve gotten his stride as long as it can be. If he tries to stride any more, it would actually be counterproductive. So, now we just have to work on additional speed through frequency,” Landgraf said. “When we go into the weight room, I know I can focus on other athletes because he has his list of things he needs to do and I know he’s going to do it.”
Do has adapted well enough to make it to the MOC, a goal he’s been chasing down for three years.
“This is really awesome. I’m really proud and humbled by the experience, and I’ve been trying to appreciate this moment,” he said. “This is something I’ve been working toward since my freshman year.”
Do admits he wasn’t all that driven as a student when he was a freshman, simply because academics came so naturally to him. But as he has gotten older, he’s realized he has to put in a lot more effort — and he’s done so. He’s already been accepted into Rutgers’ Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy.
“Coming into freshman year, I wasn’t really that focused on school because it came naturally to me,” Do said. “But I try to stay disciplined with my school work, because that’s how I was brought up. Halfway through freshman year, I saw how well I was doing and started taking school much more seriously.”
“These types of kids really have the time management down. When we go to a track meet, it could be as long as six hours, so he’s got his textbooks there and he’s studying and using that time,” Landgraf said. “They get work done there because they know they still have to sleep at some point. You’re not going to be a good athlete if you’re only sleeping four hours a night.”
Do doesn’t have a whole lot of time to relax. He’s taking five advanced placement classes as a senior and is preparing for spring track.
“The schedule is pretty rigorous, but I’m holding on pretty good,” Do said. “Senior year, after doing this for three years, that’s when you start hitting the wall a little bit. Sometimes you just want to put everything down and relax for a little bit. My body is pretty wiped out, and all the class assignments are piling up, but I manage.”
Do said he hopes he has made an impact at Absegami through the example he’s set, and his love for the sport of running.
“Definitely (I’ll remember) making all the friendships I’ve made here,” he said. “One of my goals has been to make an impact with the guys I run with. I love this sport, and I want to bring that passion to the other guys.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN