Updated: Jul 5
Alan (Al) was my best friend before I met Beards. Al grew up in Lennox and we met when he was a 7th grader and I was a senior and we were both running on the Lennox cross country team. I don't remember much about Al during my senior year of cross country until the second to last meet. It was the Regional meet to qualify teams and individuals for the State meet. Only the varsity (top 7 runners) get to run. Al was no where near the top 7 runners on our team so he was there at the meet supporting the varsity. As our varsity team was completing our warmup, Al appeared and was very excited and enthusiastic about the upcoming race. I remember him saying to all of us, "I wish I was running today, I'd give anything if I could run with you guys!" It kind of made me laugh inside thinking how this little (5 foot nothing) 7th grader wanted in on the action. I purposely took the time to thank him for coming out to support us and encouraged him to keep training as he had a lot of potential (doesn't everyone?) and someday he could make the varsity team.
The next spring I was injured early in the year and when I started to build up my miles for the upcoming track season, Al would accompany me on my easy runs. I remember he would be dying, hanging on to the pace and I would run just slow enough not to drop him. He was pretty much my only team-mate who would run with me in the "off" season. We would chat about everything under the sun, but mostly our mutual love of rock and roll. Hard rock and roll. The next summer as I was preparing for my first year in college, Al was once again my regular training partner on long easy runs. Often, I'd run 5 miles on my own and pick him up for another 5 miles. In 1975, at the age of 13, he ran his first of many Jack 15's. A 15.2 mile road race ran every June. In his 9th grade year we trained together whenever I was home from college and in the summer. He would do long 20 mile runs with the Bills brothers and myself. His passion and enthusiasm for running matched mine. He indeed had potential and did make varsity! He was Lennox's number one runner at the state cross country meet in 1976 as a Freshman. For Christmas that year we flew out to Oakland, CA and stayed with my Grandmother so we could train in nicer weather. His family then moved into Sioux Falls, SD from Lennox and Al and I kept training together. He would absolutely be hanging on for most of those runs, but he was getting stronger and stronger. I recall him saying to me "Dun (he always called me Dun) you don't know who I suffer to hang on to you". At this point we had each been "adopted" into each others family. He started his Sophomore year at Lincoln high school in 1977. That team was known for all the great runners it had. Coach Rich Greeno knew how to bring a large group of motivated runners together and bring out the best in them. Al ran his first race for the Lincoln high school cross country team in the fall of 1977 at the Bristol road race. That race was a 4 mile road race that coach Greeno would use to establish who his varsity runners would be for the start of the season. I was running SDSU's first cross country meet of the year at the St. Cloud Invitational in St. Cloud, MN, the same day. I was fortunate to win the St. Cloud race. When our team returned to Brookings later that night I found out that Al had also won the Bristol road race that day, finishing as Lincoln's number one runner as a Sophomore. I went to bed that night more excited about his performance than I was of mine! Al had a great running career for Lincoln HS. Being part of multiple state championship teams. He would eventually run a marathon (Fiesta Bowl - Phoenix, AZ) in 2:42:19 in 1979, after his senior year of cross-country, the fastest ever run by a South Dakota high schooler. He sent me a letter when I was injured and feeling sorry for my self that absolutely made my day! (It's on the website) Two motivated runners from Lennox, SD, were living their dream.
That's Al - front row - kneeling far left. Me next to Coach Bormann.
At the Sioux Falls, SD airport on our way to California for Christmas 1976.
Bristol Road Race 1977 High School 4 mile. 4th Dave Frazee, 3rd Jan Cain, 1st Al, 2nd Brian Fendrich
Al and I would pretend to be famous international runners when we would be out training. He was Nick Rose the famous British runner. Al actually resembles him.
Al's free time was spent skateboarding. That dude could do anything on a skateboard!!
I received this letter from Alan after I had sent him one where I mostly complained about being injured and getting "out of shape". I thought he would be compassionate and understanding. Boy, was I wrong!! The note to "Fish" (Randy Fischer my dorm room-mate) said with my massive weight gain he had better take the top bunk!!!
Al, my best friend and training partner, was my best man at our wedding on May 31st, 1980.
Alan enrolled in Grossmont Junior College in California in 1980 and ran cross-county for their team that fall.
He died in a traffic accident in February, 1981 in California where he and his family had moved to in 1980. Because of his passion, dedication and enthusiasm for running Coach Greeno started giving an award to a single Lincoln cross country runner every year who exemplified those same characteristics on his teams. It's known as the Alan Straatmeyer award and is a coveted honor to receive. I'm lucky to have had two "Best Friends" in my life - Al and Beards.
Alan headstone reads: Son, Brother, Runner