After strong start, Gateway’s Brady Sundin builds confidence for invitational, championship meets

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Sunday, September 26, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Brady Sundin didn’t have the 2020 cross country season he had hoped.

“It wasn’t ideal,” said Sundin, who finished the season with what he said was a less-than-desired 108th-place finish in the Class 3A boys race at the WPIAL championships at White Oak Park.

“I think I had overtrained from the summer, and it caught up with me. That was my fault.”

But with that in mind, he refocused his efforts in the offseason, fueled his determination with a solid track and field season in the spring and built on that over the summer to where he has established himself as a major player.

“I really tried to make sure I didn’t overdo anything in my training,” said Sundin, who overcame a bout of Lyme Disease and a recovery break to prepare for the season.

Sundin showed his stuff in the preseason by dominating a scrimmage that included defending WPIAL Class 2A team champion Greensburg Salem.

He then made his mark at the season-opening Gateway Invitational at Boyce Park. He led the Gators with a runner-up finish in the boys varsity race with a time of 18 minutes, 24.94 seconds.

“It was nice to get into competition,” Sundin said. “We had the scrimmage before that, but there weren’t too many teams there. Our course is probably the toughest out of any course in the WPIAL. It really prepares you for other races on other courses. It was a good feeling to run well there.”

Sundin then tested his mettle at the Red, White & Blue Invitational at White Oak Park, also the site of last year’s WPIAL championships.

He placed 17th overall in a time of 16:44, far less than the 18:30 from WPIALs last October.

“It was a good jump for me, and it gave me a lot of confidence,” Sundin said. “My start getting out wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I just got caught up in a pack. But I was able to recover and finish well.”

The WPIAL championships will return to Cal (Pa.) after covid restrictions last year prevented them from being held on campus.

“That (White Oak) course gets tight once you get past that first 600 yards,” Gateway coach Tom LaBuff said.

“He was probably in the 60s at the half mile. At the mile, he was still there because he couldn’t get past anybody. He’s not a particularly fast runner, but he can run forever at a 5:30 pace. That helped him recover and gain ground. Seventeenth with that quality of a field; it was a good run and by far his best time on that course. But for someone who has aspirations like he does, it’s natural to not be satisfied.”

Sundin said that while he is looking forward to seeing how he can do against the competition at WPIALs, he is not looking past opportunities right in front of him.

The Bald Eagle Invitational at White Oak Park leads into the Section 4 championship meet at Northmoreland Park against Armstrong, Central Catholic, Fox Chapel, Indiana, Kiski Area, Plum, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills.

“Courses like Northmoreland and Cal U are wider, and he will have more of an opportunity to get out,” LaBuff said.

“They are also a little less flat and downhill at the starts. He’s got some up and down where he can move by.”

Sundin, who is garnering collegiate interest from the likes of Saint Vincent and Point Park, said he draws inspiration from his uncle, Brian Sundin, a Gateway graduate who also ran for LaBuff in the early 1980s.

“We talk a lot about my running, and he’s probably the reason I got into running,” Brady Sundin said. “He’s been a great influence. He’s always cheering me on at races.”

LaBuff said Brady Sundin himself is a great influence on his Gators teammates.

“He’s taken on a role of being a leader,” LaBuff said. “He encourages everyone to run their best. He sends them comments on Strava (running app) when he sees they have had a good run. Brady has a lot of talent, a lot of heart and a lot of endurance. He just loves to run.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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