Sports reunion: 4-time running champ

  • Bob Joyce, left, shares a moment on Marco Island with his son Patrick, a former state champion distance runner from Stevenson High School who now works for Reebok International at its headquarters near Boston.

    Bob Joyce, left, shares a moment on Marco Island with his son Patrick, a former state champion distance runner from Stevenson High School who now works for Reebok International at its headquarters near Boston. Photo courtesy of Patrick Joyce

  • Stevenson High School runner Patrick Joyce, center, leads the pack during the early part of the 1992 state finals cross-country championship in 1992. Joyce won the state event in 1991 and 1992.

    Stevenson High School runner Patrick Joyce, center, leads the pack during the early part of the 1992 state finals cross-country championship in 1992. Joyce won the state event in 1991 and 1992. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer 1992

  • Only six runners in Illinois high school history have won back-to-back state cross country and track championships, and Patrick Joyce of Stevenson High School became a part of that elite group in 1992.

    Only six runners in Illinois high school history have won back-to-back state cross country and track championships, and Patrick Joyce of Stevenson High School became a part of that elite group in 1992. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer 1992

  • Patrick Joyce during cross-country practice at Stevenson High School. Joyce now works for Reebok International and travels all over the world to promote running and support Reebok athletes and the company brand.

    Patrick Joyce during cross-country practice at Stevenson High School. Joyce now works for Reebok International and travels all over the world to promote running and support Reebok athletes and the company brand. 1992 Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 5/24/2011 9:15 AM

As Patrick Joyce sat in Stevenson High School's gym for his Aptakisic Junior High graduation in 1989, he became transfixed by the massive banners celebrating each of the school's IHSA state champions.

Before he left Stevenson that day, he nudged his father, Bob, and offered yet another example of the boldness of youth.

 

"Dad," he said, "One of these days I'm going to have one of those banners."

Patrick Joyce didn't wind up with one of those banners.

He wound up with four.

With the boys state track meet taking place this weekend at Eastern Illinois, it's worth a look back at Joyce's record-setting career.

Not only did he become the first runner in 15 years to win back-to-back Class AA cross country meets at Detweiller Park in Peoria, he became the first runner in 15 years to win back-to-back Class AA 3,200-meter races in Charleston.

Joyce remains one of just six Illinois runners to accomplish this distance double-double -- a group that includes three-time Olympian Craig Virgin.

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"It's just such an unbelievable state for distance running," said Joyce, who had to fend off such runners as Hoffman Estates' Maha Martinez and Libertyville's Chris Brown to win his titles.

"I have a lot of great memories."

Joyce's life has revolved around running for most of the 18 years since he graduated from Stevenson in 1993.

He received a scholarship to North Carolina State, where despite an injury-plagued run he earned All-American honors in cross country in 1995 while winning the ACC title. He captured three more ACC titles in track, including a pair in 1998 on his way to more All-American recognition.

After running professionally for adidas for three years, he returned to North Carolina State to secure his master's degree in Sports Administration.

Just when he had settled into a key role raising scholarship money for N.C. State's athletic department, Joyce received a call in 2005 from the man who sponsored him as a professional racer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Todd Klein offered Joyce a marketing job at Reebok International's headquarters in Canton, Mass., near Boston.

When Klein returned to adidas a few years ago, Joyce was promoted to his current job as Reebok's Senior Manager of Global Sports Marketing for Running.

While that's a mouthful of a title, here's what it means: Joyce identifies and signs the runners Reebok sponsors -- and he flies all over the world attending marathons, track meets and other international events to support those runners and promote his brand.

Among the athletes Joyce sponsors is Wheeling High School graduate Jorge Torres, the only runner to win three IHSA cross country titles.

Joyce even met his wife, the former Claire Shearman (an All-American runner at Providence College), while they were working at the New York City Marathon for their respective shoe companies.

"It's kind of cool," Joyce said his job. "I'm on the road a good amount of the time."

In his spare time, Joyce coaches older adults as they train for marathons. He runs short-distance races for fun on occasion, though he has yet to make good on his threat to wear the Stevenson singlet that covered his 130-pound frame as he ran to glory.

And those state-championship banners bearing his name? Joyce has those, too.

"They were changing them out, I guess, and they called and asked, 'Do you want yours?'" Joyce said. "'Sure.'"

• Lindsey Willhite's Suburban Sports Reunion column appears Tuesdays. If there is a former athlete or coach you'd like to see profiled, contact Lindsey at lwillhite@dailyherald.com.