Youth pastor returns to track with former coach to help next generation of MFHS runners

Marble Falls distance runner Bryer Atkinson (front, left) is keeping stride with running buddy Laine Nelikian, youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Marble Falls. Right behind the two are Bailey Goggans and Alex Castelan. The four are in the midst of running 200 meters.

Marble Falls distance runner Bryer Atkinson (front, left) is keeping stride with running buddy Laine Nelikian, youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Marble Falls. Right behind the two are Bailey Goggans and Alex Castelan. The four are in the midst of running 200 meters. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO

Long before Laine Melikian became the youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Marble Falls, he was a member of the cross country and track and field teams at Georgetown High School looking for ways to get better.

At that time, his high school coach suggested his distance runners should train with Chris Schrader, a private running coach.

Today, Melikian and Schrader have teamed up again in an effort to help another one of Schrader’s runners, Marble Falls sophomore Bailey Goggans.

Schrader is the distance coach on the Marble Falls High School track team and head coach of the school’s cross country squad.

Melikian is one of Goggans’ training buddies and undergoes the same workout she does two or three times a week. He has been pushing her in the final weeks of the high school track season where she’s on pace to repeat as the Class 5A state champion in 800 meters and improve on the bronze medal she earned in the 400 meters last year.

One part of their workouts includes running 200 meters 12 times with little rest in between, and Melikian said Goggans isn’t worn out.

“That’s a huge sign of fitness,” he said. “(That) feeling gives you the knowledge you’re coming further along than you thought you were.”

When Melikian was in high school, Schrader’s group ran on Sunday mornings. So Melikian, a sophomore at the time, would join them and soon began to reap the rewards, noting the training he and his teammates were undergoing helped them improve far more than what they thought they could.

He said they had 20 male athletes running five-minute miles. As a junior, Melikian’s his personal best was 4 minutes 40 seconds.

As a result, the Georgetown running program began to build a reputation far outstretching the distances they were running.

“We went from being one of the best teams in the state to, in some instances, being one of the best in the country,” he said. “Our guys who ran under 4:23 signed Division I scholarships.”

When he graduated from high school, Melikian would contact Schrader when he wanted to get in shape. That’s the reason why he connected with Schrader this year about running with the Mustangs and Goggans.

“Running by yourself is a pain,” the youth pastor said. “I wasn’t in the best shape and couldn’t keep up.”

But it took no time for him to get there, and now he wants to do for Goggans what he did for his Eagles team – push her to get better every week.

Melikian called himself “a pretty average athlete,” a summation that would never describe Goggans.

“She’s probably got the most talent we’ve ever seen,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone faster than her in certain events. She has ability others don’t have.”

Part of Goggans’ greatness isn’t only her talent, her training buddy said, it’s also her approach to training. Melikian said she loves every part of it.

The biggest key to success, he said, was understanding how winning isn’t about times but lining up and beating the person next to you. Champions, he added, are as fast as they have to be in order to be successful.

“Running is much more mental than it is physical,” he said. “They love the way it feels to win and to fight for it. (Goggans) is learning that. In high school, she’ll win by four or five seconds. When you run on the next level, you’ll find that winning doesn’t come as easily.”

Though he spends a lot of time with Goggans, Melikian has observed the other distance runners and believes they have a chance to be terrific. That is especially true for junior Bryer Atkinson, who finished fourth in the 3,200 meters in 10:07.26 and qualified for the District 17/18 area meet. Atkinson will run at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 17, at Leander Glenn, 1320 Collaborative Way in Leander.

Goggans will run the 800 meters at 4:45 p.m. and the 400 meters at 6 p.m. She is a member of the 4×400-meter relay team that will race at 7:10 p.m. in the last event of the meet.

“I think we’re on the cusp of something really good happening,” Melikian said. “We’re seeing a program develop – that’s what we want to see, athletes like Bailey happening. As her success goes, the rest of the program goes.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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