Nebraska distance runner Trevor Vidlak is starving.
Not for food, but to excel on the track.
“My coach tells me never to be satisfied,” Vidlak said. “A good distance runner is a hungry distance runner.”
The quiet demeanor of the junior from Lincoln Northeast masks a voracious appetite to improve. Though he ran the second-best 5,000 meters in Nebraska history last weekend at the Frank Sevigne Invitational, Vidlak was disappointed that he placed second and that his 14:13.62 didn’t meet the 14-minute goal he’s been chasing.
“He’s got this confidence factor that at times makes him shoot out some times that I say, at times, be more realistic,” distance coach Dave Harris said. “Rather than run four minutes, let’s run 4:06 and then 4:04.”
Harris isn’t trying to stop Vidlak from aiming high. He wants him to keep building toward next year, when he thinks Vidlak will see big results in cross country and indoor and outdoor competition. That’s why he encouraged Vidlak to redshirt indoors last winter and in cross country in the fall, so he’d be in a better position to contribute this season and next.
“I think it was a very good decision. He’s very excited about his running and the fact he has another year,” Harris said. “That’s been part of the plan, to get him to the point where he is the best runner in his fifth year. He’ll be stronger with more endurance and more racing experience, and we should be able to achieve some really good marks.”
Vidlak already is one of the best feel-good stories on the track team, Harris said.
After focusing on basketball at Northeast, Vidlak didn’t think about a track career in college until his times improved his junior and senior seasons.
NU coaches saw something in Vidlak, so they asked him to walk on. Competing at the Division I level might once have been a stretch, but Harris has seen that same promise starting to blossom.
“This is your typical Nebraska kid that is making good now,” Harris said. “This kid is working to be the best he can be.”
Harris has had to say something to Vidlak only once about his training, in September. Vidlak had cut back in the summer because he was redshirting, and Harris reminded him that if he wanted to improve, he had to put in the work.
“That’s the turning point,” Harris said. “He started doing the work, doing the mileage. Any endurance athlete like this, you have to put in a great deal of time. The people that put in the time are going to be better.”
Vidlak said he’s raised his mileage through the years from 50 miles a week to between 90 and 100 miles this season, and he’s seeing results.
Vidlak ran 8:11.58 in winning the 3,000 meters in the non-invitational race at the Razorback Invitational. Then last Saturday, he put up the 12th-best time in the country in the 5,000 and the second-best in the Big Ten. He’s also eighth in the conference in the 3,000.
He won’t run the 5,000 Saturday when Nebraska hosts the Mark Colligan Memorial at noon at the Devaney Center indoor track. Vidlak is running the mile and the 800 so he can work on his finishing kick.
He wants to do everything he can to help Nebraska win the Big Ten indoor championship Feb. 22 and 23 in Geneva, Ohio. Few distance runners besides senior captain Tommy Brinn have contributed points, and that’s what Harris said it may take for NU to claim the title.
Vidlak will run the 5,000 and either the 3,000 or the distance medley relay. He’s turned the corner, his coach said, and is ready to tackle the heavyweights in the Big Ten.
“When I got here, I didn’t want to be someone who just came to practice every day,” Vidlak said. “I wanted to be someone who contributed to the team, and Nebraska definitely helped me get to that place I wanted to be.”
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