Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 12, 2007

Saying Goodbye: Central lake mourns star runner Shay


Professionally, Shay won five USA Track and Field road racing national championships and was among a handful of contenders to win a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.

Friends said Shay found solace outdoors, fishing and playing his guitar.

Barry said Shay was a role model to students at Central Lake and always visited the school when he was in town.

He said Shay's message was a simple one: "Set your mind and heart to be the best that you can be."

Shay often spoke about the "three Joes" who influenced his running career -- his father, Notre Dame coach Joe Piane and professional coach Joe Vigil (pronounced Vehill). All three spoke at the memorial.

Joe Shay, whose voice was barely above a whisper, read an essay about conquering fear that his son wrote for his application to Notre Dame.

He also said Ryan was a prankster who was both tenacious and tender-hearted.

Joe Shay said his son continuously read marathon biographies, looking for secrets that would help him gain an edge. After Ryan read a book about Steve Prefontaine, an accomplished runner who also died prematurely, he told his father that he felt connected to the former University of Oregon star.

"He said, 'Finally, somebody who understands me,' " Joe Shay said.

Shay said his son was "now in heaven" and had "a new training partner."

Piane and Vigil both said their relationship with Ryan Shay was more like a father and son than a coach and an athlete.

"We talked about everything," Piane said.

Piane said three words come to mind when he thinks of Shay: "focus, discipline and sacrifice."

He said between Shay's freshman and senior years at Notre Dame, he "went from being a kid who wanted to run fast to a steadfast teammate."

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