Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Track Heroes: A Memorial...

There are probably not many of you who read this blog that have ever heard of or have known My Track Hero in this special edition of the series. He was not an elite athlete, Olympian, or collegiate runner, but his inspiration still fuels my fire for the love of track & field as much or even more so than every other athlete I have featured in My Track Heroes series. The man I am profiling this week was a dear friend, not only to me, but to just about anyone who had ever had the chance to meet him. In every part of his life, he lived with an infectious smile on his face which he spread to every person in his presence.

Robert Kyle Burnside, known by his middle name Kyle, was probably one of the biggest goofballs you could ever meet. No matter where he was or what he was doing, he could make you laugh. This especially was true in every track practice I had ever experienced with Kyle. Whether he was cracking jokes, playing pranks on the coaches, or leading the team in warm-ups wearing nothing but bright pink booty shorts and a tank top that was far too small, Kyle was spreading laughter each and every day. But when it was time to come down to business, time to run, that is exactly what Kyle would do, run like the wind.

Being a year older than me, I had not had much of a chance to get to know Kyle before our high school years together. I had known he and his twin brother, Darren, in middle school but had not started to bond with either of them until my freshman year. It was during this year that I had the privilege to train alongside Kyle for the 800. Man, was he fast?! Instantly, Kyle had taken me under his wing during our long distance training sessions and taught me so much just from being able to watch and compete by his side. With flawless running form and a crazy long stride, Kyle took to the track like a bird to flight. Kyle aided my coaches in teaching me everything I needed to know about the sport, I had been running for years before hand, but made amazing strides under the sophomore’s tutelage. Of course, the teachings did not come without a price. Being the new guy in the long distance crew, Kyle and our friends would always give me a hard time and joke around with how small I was or how I was the fresh meat for our coach, Nicole, to pick on. On several occasions the distance crew would pick me up and place me into the empty trash cans or lockers in our gym before practices would be begin; I would then have to sit and listen to our pre-workout announcements from my seat in the garbage can. I took it all in good stride and Kyle and our friends would later laugh about all of our pre-workout hi-jinks as we kept tradition with other freshman.

As we ran through our high school years, Kyle and I both started running the quarter mile. In a 400 meter race Kyle’s senior year, the first race of his that whole season, Kyle went down with an Achilles tendon tear with only 110 meters to go in the race. Our entire team was so excited to see just how fast he could run the quarter and was on track for a sub 50 second time. Our team became intensely quiet and worried about our good friend when he went down in that race. As Kyle was assisted in walking back to our team, he turned to me and said with a smile, “Well buddy, looks like you and my brother will have to lead the team to state. I’ll be rooting for you.” By “the team” he was mainly talking about our 4x400 meter relay team and I knew. The four of us who were supposed to be on it that year were like brothers. Unfortunately, we missed out on our chance at state by two places. At Kyle’s graduation that year, he told me he would still be rooting for me the next season. Nearly every day I had seen Kyle after that he would ask me if I had broken 53 seconds in the 400 meter yet. When that happened he would ask if I had broken 52. Then 51. Then 50. My senior year, our 4x400 meter team made it to the state championships in Eugene and Kyle was probably the most excited person as I told him we had made it to TrackTown USA.

If you were to ask any teammate of Kyle’s that ever had the good fortune of being able to compete alongside this incredibly gifted, hilarious, and good-natured young man about a memory they have shared with him on or off the track, a smile will instantly pop up and they would have too many from which to pick.

Robert Kyle Burnside was too early taken from this world, his friends, family, teammates, and every one else who had the amazing opportunity to meet him by a car accident on August 2, 2010. Ever since that tragic day I have wanted to celebrate the memory of this dear, dear friend of mine and have just not been sure how to do so. To immortalize him in this blog series and spread his memory to all of you track & field fans out there has given me the perfect opportunity. Everyone who has ever known Kyle miss him more and more as time goes by and I know he is looking down on us and wishing the best for us all. I can still hear him asking how my 400m progress is coming. The next time I win a race will be for him. You are truly missed and loved by us all Kyle. You were a great friend and even greater inspiration.

Robert Kyle Burnside, 21, was born in Portland, Oregon, on December 1, 1988. He is survived by his parents, Rob and Ann, his sister Tara, brother Darren, and grandparents Joan Burnside, and Darrell and Bev Keating, and many loving aunts, uncles and cousins and friends. He was preceded in death by his grandfather, Robert Dean Burnside. Love ya, Kyle. Thanks for helping me come to love a sport that has been one of the biggest passions in my life.

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