The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

Waldrop Moves Beyond Running Into Academia

In 1974, Tony Waldrop, then a senior at North Carolina, set the world and NCAA record for the indoor mile at 3 minutes, 55 seconds. In 2002, he was named to three ACC 50th Anniversary teams -- men's cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.

But now the six-time All-American has hung up his spikes and is running a different race.

Waldrop now is working in his second year as the vice chancellor for research and graduate studies at UNC. Before that he had worked as vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"Running had so dominated my life that I felt as though I should take a break," Waldrop said. "Now that break has spanned longer than I thought it would.

"When I was running, it affected when I ran, when I ate, and what I ate. I ran through weekends," Waldrop added. "All of that governed all of the rest of the things I was going to do."

As a Morehead Scholar at UNC, his primary focus was academics, but athletics weren't neglected. He became an All-American in cross country as a sophomore in 1971 and finished 11th in the NCAA that year.

But, despite this success, Waldrop considers cross country his worst sport.

"I still enjoyed the challenge of running longer distances," Waldrop said. "But as I ran, I found that I enjoyed the competition of the shorter distances."

In indoor track and field, Waldrop was named an All-American twice, in the mile and the 1,000 meters, and in outdoor track he was an All-American three times throughout his career in the 800 meters, the 1,000 meters and the mile.

Also, in Waldrop's senior year, he ran 10 sub-four-minute miles during the outdoor track season en route to claiming the 1974 ACC athlete of the year award.

After graduating, Waldrop continued his commitment to running by acting as a graduate assistant from 1975-1978.

"The big advantage of running under Tony was that we could train with him," said Ralph King, who also was named t the 50th anniversary team. "We did a ton of fast intervals and fartleks. He'd really kill you on the workouts."

King said he always doubted Waldrop when he said he was through running.

"When we arrived as freshmen, he said he was done with competition," King said. "But you could tell he was in such good shape. We always questioned it when he said he was finished."

After graduating from North Carolina with a degree in political science, Waldrop continued his education at UNC, attending graduate school for a master's degree in exercise science. He then capped off his academic career with a doctorate in cell & molecular biology.

Although these degrees don't appear to have too much in common, Waldrop said they all focus at one point and have very much to do with each other.

And little by little, Waldrop's commitment to intellectual achievement helped him to move up in the UNC system, finally obtaining his present role.

He no longer considered himself a runner. He considered himself a competitor.

But so great and so goal-oriented were the achievements of Waldrop, present cross country coach Mike Whittlesey had Waldrop shoot the gun to start the race this year at the UNC Challenge on Sept. 14.

"For me in a way it was kind of silly, because I don't consider myself a runner anymore," Waldrop said. "Since I don't run, (the experience) was kind of embarrassing to be the one starting the race for someone else."

But neither this incident, nor setting the record for the indoor mile, which still stands in NCAA record books, stands out first in his mind.

What does stand out is a race that also happened in 1974 in which he finished eighth. His race performance distracted all the media hype about running consecutive sub-four-minute miles and gave him a chance to reflect on why he ran in the first place.

Foremost in Waldrop's mind was competition with himself. He didn't do it for the media attention, and he didn't do it for anyone else.

Instead, Waldrop concentrated on discipline, commitment to a goal and focus -- all traits that have helped him succeed off the beaten path.

"Despite all the successes throughout his life," King said, "he's really just a normal, down-to-earth kind of guy."

Not a runner, but an achiever.

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.



Comments

The Daily Tar Heel's 2023 Rivalry Edition

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive