Eddinger’s record-breaking season leads him to All-Area Player of the Year award

Dylan Eddinger came into his final track and field season chasing more than just wins.

He definitely wanted those, and lots of them.

But most of all, Eddinger wanted a state medal and to break the school record in the 800 meters that had remained untouched for nearly two decades.

And when the Boyertown senior sets his sights on something, he gets the job done.

This time he got it done twice.

First, Eddinger captured the bronze medal in the 800 with a school record 1:53.99 at the District 1-AAA Championships, smashing the old record of 1:54.7 set by former Boyertown standout Kevin Heacock back in 1997.

A week later Eddinger smashed his newly set record with a blistering 1:51.19 in the 800 to capture the bronze medal at the PIAA Championships, becoming the area boys’ highest finisher at states.

At districts, Eddinger was also the area boys’ lone double medal winner at districts, also placing fourth in 1,600 with a 4:17.21.

It was quite a postseason for him. He started his medal and records run at the Pioneer Athletic Conference Championships, capturing the gold in the 800 with a meet record 1:55.78, breaking the 27-year-old record of 1:55.8 set in 1988 by Perkiomen Valley’s Kevin Coll. He also won the silver in the 1,600 with a 4:14.71.

For that, Eddinger is the 2015 Mercury All-Area Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

“That was the plan, go to states and break the 800 school record for the outdoor season,” he said. “And I don’t like losing, so winning as much as I could was definitely up there all along.”

That 1:51.19 at states was a surprise, even to him.

“I was thrilled on the inside,” he said. “Even though it wasn’t second place, 1:51, that’s hot stuff. Broke my own record by 2.5 seconds, broke the (Berks) county record by almost three seconds. So I was happy.”

But Eddinger was still irked he didn’t cross second at states, despite the only two ahead of him in the 800 were the same two from District 1, as the three finished in the same order of John Lewis (Cheltenham), one of the fastest runners in the nation, at 1:48.72; Alek Sauer (Pennsbury) at 1:51.00; and Eddinger at 1:51.19.

“I wanted to beat Sauer from Pennsbury pretty badly and I thought I had him,” he said. “But, when you give it your all, it’s OK at the end.”

Shockingly, though, that superb state performance wasn’t even his most memorable moment of the season.

“It was at the Perk Valley/Spring-Ford tri-meet, the very last race of the day, the 4×400. We were in third place, had the last exchange, and I came in and ran a 49.19 and beat Spring-Ford and Perk Valley for the 4×4 win,” he said, the memories lighting his face up all over again.

“That was the most physical race I’ve been in,” he said. “I got the baton, looked ahead of me, and Spring-Ford and Perk Valley were already side-by-side at the 50, bumping each other. They had so much of a lead, I didn’t think I could get it. And then, coming around the back straightaway, it was reeling in more and more and these guys were still bumping each other. I got around the third turn and I’m right there with them. And we won. I threw my hands up in the air, I was so excited that we won that 4×4 that day.

“Everybody at the finish line, everybody in that place was just amazed at what had just happened. It wasn’t about me finishing ahead, it was about the team getting a win. That’s what was important.”

Because Eddinger never had only personal goals, the Bears’ team wins were equally important to him.

He started his standout final high school year last fall when he crossed second at the 2014 PAC-10 Cross Country Championships, only 29 seconds behind Spring-Ford distance standout Paul Power. And that 3.1 mile cross country distance isn’t particularly his thing. The 800 meters are definitely his favorite, with the 400 and 1,600 tied for second.

He also had a terrific winter indoor track season, placing seventh in the 800 with a 1:55.00 to medal at the PTFCA Championships at Penn State in February. He set and reset more than a dozen school records during his high school career.

And track was the last thing on his mind growing up. Ice hockey was his love and obsession, starting at age five with the Pottstown Penguins at the then Hill School outdoor rink. His dad, John Eddinger, a Boyertown grad, had always played it so it came naturally.

“Did Pottstown Penguins for my first couple of years, then went to Reading for a couple of years, then joined an Elite team,” he said. “After my coach left there, I went to play at Boyertown, had a great time playing with those guys. Then the ice hockey coach told me I needed an offseason sport.”

It came down to either track and field or lacrosse.

“I played one season of lacrosse in first grade. My uncle was pretty big into it and I enjoyed it. But I always thought I was pretty fast because I was very fast on skates and in the off-ice atmosphere I’d be the first one done on a lot of drills. So I gave track and field a shot and qualified for Freshman Nationals in the 400 with a 53.22 at the Henderson Invitational my first year.”

And Bears head track and field coach John Zellers instantly noticed the great potential in him and told him so.

“I guess the 400 came naturally with my give-it-my-all experience, and I had a pretty high pain tolerance in hockey,” Eddinger said. “Then the next year the coaches bumped me up to the 800, bumped me up to the mile the next year, and I started doing all three.

“Then the high school ice hockey coach left and I went all track this year. I saw myself having more success in track and field than I did ice hockey.”

Prior to this school year, Eddinger had still also played ice hockey.

“At first, it was a tough decision to give it up completely,” he said. “There was a couple of times I wished I could just go out and skate with the Boyertown team. One time I actually almost did.”

But ice hockey has now become history after all those years.

Eddinger, the son of John and Maria Eddinger, has recently committed to continue his academic and track and field career at Division I’s St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where he will major in marketing.

“Beautiful campus, has one of the best marketing programs in the country, great track program and coach,” he said. “Solid on the distance. It’s just a track program, they don’t have a field team, a couple of jumpers, but no throwers. But solid in the distances. Not far away from home, just far enough.

“It was a big surprise to my parents when I told them I just wanted to be done with hockey and dedicate myself to track,” he said. “But then my dad fell in love with coach Glavin (St. Joe’s track head coach Mike Glavin), fell in love with the campus and its environment.”

Eddinger also seriously considered the University of Pittsburgh, IUP, and Kutztown.

“IUP was almost a 4 1/2-hour drive, Pittsburgh the same deal,” he said. “It’s nice to be closer to home. And I like the urban atmosphere. I think it’s going to be good for my artistic side (ceramics), so I’ll be right next to Philadelphia. And I love food and Philly is all about good food.

”Art is very important to me. Ceramics is just a passion I have. I love making functional pieces, and just enjoying myself on the wheel. I love photography too, which I picked up just last year because my grandfather gave me one of his old cameras and I’ve been loving it ever since. That’s a lot more like personal expression.”

Eddinger was also a student council volunteer and won the Citizenship Award.

Boyertown distance coach Joe McGlinchey has been coaching the Bears distance runners for decades. It takes a lot to impress him. Eddinger sure did, especially this year.

“Without a doubt, Dylan had an outstanding season,” McGlinchey said. “One of the things that really stood out was the fact that he was very unselfish. Even though he had personal goals that he wanted to accomplish, he was the consummate team runner. We loaded him up every dual meet with four events.

“Even at the Shaner meet, when he ran his breakout 1,600-meter race, at a meet of that talent level, we had him also run in the 4×800, the 800, and the 4×400.”

And Eddinger never argued or complained.

“Because he is the consummate team-oriented kid,” McGlinchey said. “And he’s a savvy kid. He knew that the more work he was doing on a day-by-day basis in practice and on a meet-by-meet basis in competition, was going to serve him down the road, improve his performance.

“And if he’d had his druthers at districts, he would have just run the 800. Down in his soul, he is an 800 meter runner and wanted that school record. But his coaches, Jon Zellers and I, decided it would be in his best interest to run both the 1,600 and 800 to double his chances of getting into the state meet. And he ran both because his coaches wanted him to. Dylan is about as far from a prima donna as you can get.

“In hockey they talk about guys who are muggers and grinders. Well, Dylan Edddinger is a mugger and a grinder. He has a fantastic work ethic and was very willing to grid his teeth to race at a high level.”

And multi-talented and smart, McGlinchey stressed.

“The kid is an outstanding ceramicist,” McGlinchey said. “He had a senior spotlight at our Art Expo here at Boyertown and turned out some beautiful pieces of pottery. And his photography is breathtaking. He took pictures of kids for their senior portraits, of their prom. And he loves to cook. He is so well balanced in so many areas. Good on time management, doesn’t fritter away time, is one of those kids that can sit in class, pay attention, pick up the information, and move on.”

Boyertown, of course, has long been known for its standout distance and mid-distance runners, starting with Gerald Karver, who captured the first ever PIAA cross country championship in 1939, and repeated in 1940. In more recent times Jason Weller, Mark Dennin, both cross country state champions, and then Brett Kelly.

“He’s right there with them,” McGlinchey said. “One of the things we joked about during the year was that I would say to him, ‘Well, you’re not exactly on McGlinchey’s Mount Rushmore yet, but you’re on the hillside.’ After he ran his excellent 800 race at states, one of the things he said afterwards, half jokingly but half serious, ‘So, did I make Mount Rushmore?’ I told him, ‘Yes.’ I’ve been blessed at Boyertown with some outstanding talent. This guy is right up there.”

Zellers echoed those praises.

“Enthusiastic, accountable, competitive, hard working, focused, mentally tough, disciplined and confident are just a few words to describe Dylan,” Zellers said. “It has been a true honor to be part of Dylan’s ride of success over the past four years.”

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