by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Brian McGovern remembers very vividly how his high school track and field career got started.
Let's just say the recent 2014 Tallmadge grad had what you would call an interesting experience.
"My earliest memory was indoor track my freshman year," McGovern said. "Coach Srow [Tallmadge head boys track and field coach Mike Srodawa] wanted to get me in the mile. When I noticed my name on the board, it said John McGovern."
So how did this happen?
"Srow had no clue who I was," McGovern said. "He thought my name was John."
Let's just say the 'John McGovern' era lasted just one meet.
That's because Brian --not John -- McGovern had a track-and-field career for the ages at Tallmadge.
He owns the school record in the 800-meter race and finished sixth at the Division I state meet in that event in 2013 and 2014.
Yes, just about everyone knows McGovern's first name these days.
Well, sort of.
"Srow still calls me John sarcastically," McGovern said. "We've had a lot of fun with it."
McGovern, who also goes by the nickname "Gingey" because of his red hair, plans to keep running on the collegiate level.
He recently signed to continue his academic and track and field careers at Columbia University in New York City.
At one point, a school like Columbia, which finished sixth at the 2014 Ivy League Heptagonal Track & Field Championships, never crossed McGovern's mind.
"I remember Srow asking me if I looked into the Ivy League," he said. "I thought I was too stupid for the Ivy League."
It turns out McGovern, who finished in the top 20 in his class, was plenty good enough.
Still though, it was a difficult choice for the talented teenager. McGovern also had his eyes on the University of Pittsburgh.
"I went out to Pittsburgh and got to know the team," McGovern said. "Their coach is a phenomenal guy."
So what changed?
For starters, the fact that Columbia was an Ivy League school certainly intrigued him. And of course, the bright lights of New York City didn't hurt either.
"The fact that they offered to fly me out there for free made a big impact," McGovern said. "It was a fantastic experience."
McGovern plans to run for the indoor and outdoor track and field teams.
He also said he plans to train with the cross country team.
"I'll probably be a mid-distance guy," McGovern said. "I could go as low as the 400 or go up to the 1,500. I'll do mostly 800, though."
McGovern, who also ran for the Blue Devils' cross country team, was known for going full speed all the time.
"Brian will outwork anybody out there," Tallmadge head cross country coach Jeremy Huth said. "He was definitely talented. The success he had in high school is all a credit to him."
Huth first met McGovern during freshman orientation nearly five years ago.
"I noticed he had red hair and I've always known that red heads can be good runners," Huth said jokingly. "That night I talked to [2014 Tallmadge graduate] Pat [Ferguson]. I told him, 'Hey, I got you a teammate that can really help you.'"
Huth believes McGovern can run faster on the collegiate level.
"He has a little hitch in his stride," he said. "I'm sure a college coach can work with him on his form. If he can fix that, he can drop at least two more seconds."
McGovern didn't become a state qualifier overnight.
He certainly wasn't among the elite his first two years in high school. Fortunately for McGovern, that changed drastically during his final two years.
"Brian is a very strong runner," Srodawa said. "He came into his own his junior year. He's a great kid and a good leader that leads by example. He's extremely laid back. That will be a benefit to him. He's focused and he doesn't let stressful situations affect him like it does other kids."
Such a calm, cool personality will be needed at Columbia.
With running, studying and the sights of New York City occupying his mind, the challenges ahead appear very difficult for McGovern, who plans to go into accounting or finance with a minor in Hispanic language.
But the outgoing senior is certainly prepared.
"The curriculum is very difficult," McGovern said. "I'll have to balance academics and athletics and it's going to take a lot of time. But I can handle it. I'll be fine."