By Victoria Lyons
Inhaling and exhaling deeply as he crossed the finish line, a smile flashed across Rider graduate Christian Gonzalez’s face when the realization that he ran a sub four-minute mile washed over him.
The atmosphere that day at the Boston University Terrier Invitational was unlike any other that the Rider University graduate had ever experienced.
“It was what every runner dreams about,” Gonzalez said. “The entire crowd was standing up and cheering when they realized that there was a good chance that multiple people would break four minutes.”
As Gonzalez was bearing down the final straightaway, he knew it would be close when the clock came into view.
After finishing the race, a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders as he saw the results flash across the scoreboard.
“I saw my name with 3:59.98 next to it,” Gonzalez said. “That was one of the greatest feelings in my entire life. I was pumped up and so relieved that I finally broke through the barrier.”
Gonzalez was milliseconds short of his last collegiate mile at the Columbia Last Chance meet, earning a time of 4:00.84, which is the Rider indoor record.
It was not easy leaving Rider knowing how close he was, according to Gonzalez.
However, at the Terrier Invitational he got to prove to those who have been with him throughout his running career at Rider that he was capable of a sub four-minute mile.
As he heard the roar of the crowd, he became aware that most of those people were his former Rider teammates.
“It was a really special moment,” Gonzalez said. “I felt like I was still wearing my Rider singlet.”
Rider track and field Head Coach Bob Hamer coached Gonzalez throughout his four years.
“Breaking four minutes in the mile has been a realistic goal of Gonzalez’s for the past two years,” Hamer said. “It is very rewarding to see young people commit to a goal and put in the commitment, dedication and work to achieve that goal.Christian is a special talent and I was very excited to share in that moment.”
A coach is someone who works with another person towards a common goal, which is the coach-athlete relationship Hamer and Gonzalez had.
“To break four minutes in front of Coach Hamer was really special because he was the one that really made me believe this was all possible,” Gonzalez said.
Coming a long way from his days competing on the Franklin Township High School track and field team, the Somerset native now runs for the New Jersey-New York Track Club (NJ*NYTC).
NJ*NYC Head Coach Frank Gagliano is a seasoned coach who has mentored numerous Olympians, according to Hamer.
“Christian is in a good environment with a great coach, and he will be able to fulfill his potential,” Hamer said.
When it comes to the differences between training with the NJ*NYTC and Rider, Gonzalez now has an elite group of teammates to train with.
“There are multiple sub four-minute milers and collegiate All-Americans who have been very successful,” Gonzalez said. “We push each other to our limits every day, and we are all working together towards our goals.”
In his career as a Bronc, Gonzalez had many highlights.
He earned All-East Honors at the 2010 NCAA East Regional and went on to be the Co-Most Outstanding Performer at the 2011 Indoor Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Championships.
Longer than a sprint and shorter than a marathon, the mile is unlike any other racing event because of the balance of speed and stamina that is required.
Over 50 years ago, not only was the sub four-minute mile considered impossible, but it was also thought of as deadly because of the extreme strain put upon the runner’s body.
Hamer recalls the anticipation as he waited for the time to come up on the scoreboard.
“All I remember is seeing the three come up and then letting out a big scream and jumping in the air,” Hamer said.
Although Gonzalez was a special talent to mentor, he also had many of his former Rider teammates at the Terrier Invitational to share in the moment.
“I was real happy,” said junior Greg Wesh. “He was so close and it was about time. You really couldn’t have asked for a better teammate to have.”
Achieving a sub four-minute mile is only the beginning for Gonzalez, who is striving for bigger accomplishments. The Rider graduate’s main goal is to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in June 2012, subsequently going to London as a part of the U.S. Olympic team.
“No matter what happens I want to get faster, get my name out there and keep chasing my dream of someday running in the Olympic Games for the win,” Gonzalez said.