Assistant Sports Editor
BENNINGTON -- There he was, the newest member of the cross country team, full of promise and one step ahead, even as a sophomore. You could catch Marc Brandmeyer, but it would take a set of wheels and plenty of persistence.
"Before you could ask if he wanted a ride home, he'd be running home," said Jim Dulin, the Mount Anthony Union High School coach. "He had perfect form. He just ran everywhere."
Call it foreshadowing.
Three years later, Vermont's best high school distance runners grew to know the feeling.
Whether it was with the chill of winter in the air or on a sweltering track in June, Brandmeyer made the state's most grueling races his own masterclass. Emphatic victories of more than 20 seconds in the Division I cross country and 3,000-meter outdoor track championships bookended his standout senior season and left no doubt of his prowess.
That body of work -- three seasons of championship-caliber excellence -- has earned Brandmeyer his latest accolade: The Banner's Student Athlete of the Year for 2012-13.
And the Patriots' distance-running ace, the school's first individual cross-country champ, has the type of resume that should stand the test of time.
Seven school records have Brandmeyer's name beside them, including the 3,000 and 1,500 (indoor and outdoor), the outdoor 3,200 and both 4x800 relays.
"He broke records of 25 years. That's not going to happen again anytime soon," said MAU track coach Kathleen Newton. "You could coach for 20 or 25 years and never have another kid like that."
As the cross country season turned into one win after another -- eight in 11 races before taking sixth at New Englands -- nothing seemed out of reach. The tone was set for the rest of the school year.
"It was such a great story. It was like riding on the space shuttle," Dulin said. "It just kept getting better and better."
The list of athletes to edge Brandmeyer during his senior season was a short one. Two of them turned in state-record times to do so. But the Bennington harrier, who left last week for basic training with the Army reserves and will run Colby-Sawyer next year, showed his mettle time and time again.
His time in the state cross country championships at Thetford was the fastest in all three divisions. His 3,000-meter crown came on a blazing, 90-degree day with the rest of the field, including state record-holder Malcolm Plunkett, wilting more than 100 meters behind him.
"I think he's a little tougher than some kids," Newton said. "Mentally, I think he was able to handle things better than some of the kids he ran against.
"Even if he didn't have the greatest race he was always in the ballpark [of his best time] by a few seconds."
From his first days of competitive running -- "It was like some running clone appeared," Dulin said -- his natural, fluid stride set him apart. By his final outdoor season, he had morphed from a quiet, observant member of the team to a champion who led by example.
And when it comes to remembering Brandmeyer, both Newton and Dulin marvel at the same thing -- and it's not that smooth stride or ferocious final kick.
"I think what stuck with me the most is he was the kind of guy that would always shake everyone's hand at the finish line, always go out to cheer teammates on," Dulin said.
Cross country, indoor, outdoor, always.
"That's not always the case with someone that has that talent," Newton said.
The example has rubbed off on at least one Patriot. Andrew Brandmeyer said seeing his brother's work ethic and focus, after getting him to become a runner, inspired a new dedication as a junior last season.
"I ran a lot better this year," Andrew Brandmeyer said. "[As a sophomore] I didn't care as much. But I started training with him, trying to stay on him as long as I can."
Dulin said he expects Brandmeyer to be even better when he returns from basic training with several months of military discipline behind him. He and Newton each agree that his future running at Colby-Sawyer for coach Lyndsay Bisaccio, an MAU grad, presents an ideal landing spot.
"I'm really proud of him, where he's at and what he's become," Newton said. "I know there's more good stuff to come from him."