Saturday, July 9, 1994
Valley Edition
Section: Sports
Page: C-14

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: ERIC REYNOLDS; Injuries Put Premature Wrap on Running Career;

By: JOHN ORTEGA
TIMES STAFF WRITER

VENTURA


As an account manager for a financial company in Westlake Village,
Eric Reynolds doesn't fancy himself an author.

But should he decide to write a book, the topic would be easy: No one
is more of an expert on high school athletes trying to live up to other
people's expectations.

The 29-year old Ventura resident was the most-highly recruited high
school distance runner in the country as a senior at Camarillo High in
1983. He chose UCLA, but a multitude of injuries prevented him from ever
tapping into his vast potential in college.

Herb Potter, Reynolds' primary coach in high school, attributes his
protege's injury woes to increased training mileage at UCLA, but Reynolds
disagrees.

Reynolds says his mileage--approximately 60 miles a week--changed
little in college. Rather, numerous factors, ranging from coming back
from injuries too soon, to running frequently on pavement, to physical
characteristics such as high arches and tightly strung muscles and
Achilles' tendons, made him susceptible to leg and foot maladies.

"I did everything I could to try and beat it," Reynolds said. "I took
time off. I worked out in the pool at UCLA. I did a lot of (cycling). I
went through who knows how many different kinds of shoes.

"I went to four or five different podiatrists and wore several
different pairs of (inserts), but nothing worked. (The injuries) were
just something that would always reoccur."

Despite undergoing surgeries on his left shin and his right knee, and
suffering "three or four" stress fractures during his college career,
Reynolds doesn't blame anyone for his woes.

In fact, he has fond memories of UCLA.

He points out that there he met his wife, the former Nancy Brown, made
a lot of friends and received a free education.

Perhaps most importantly, the injuries helped him become "Eric
Reynolds, the person, instead of Eric Reynolds, the distance runner."

Although the phenom label weighed heavily on Reynolds in his senior
year at Camarillo, he had earned the distinction.

After running 10 minutes 5 seconds for 3,200 meters as a freshman, he
timed a superb 9:00.71 to finish ninth in the 1981 State championships as
a sophomore.

As a junior, he ran poorly in the 1981 Southern Section 4-A Division
cross-country championships due to an illness, but bounced back to finish
sixth in the Kinney West regional and third in the Kinney national
championships.

In track, he lowered his personal best to 8:52.92 in the 3,200 to
finish second in the State championships behind Harold Kuphaldt (8:51.99)
of Fair Oaks Bella Vista.

Which set the stage for Reynolds' senior year.

Mike Smith, who took over Camarillo's cross-country program in 1982,
recalls vividly words veteran Simi Valley Coach Jim McCullough said about
Reynolds at a preseason coaches meeting that year.

"You know, you could coach your whole life and never get a kid like
that," McCullough said wistfully to Smith.

"Jim was one of the most respected coaches around so when I heard
that, I realized just how good Eric must be," Smith said.

Nonetheless, Reynolds exceeded Smith's expectations during an
undefeated cross-country campaign that was capped with victories in the
Southern Section 4-A Division, Kinney West regional and Kinney national
championships.

Reynolds' 14-second victory margin in the national championships is
the third-largest in the 15-year history of the meet.

"The amazing thing about that year is that Eric was never really
challenged," Smith said. "He could have run faster, but he basically ran
every race alone after the 1 1/2-mile mark."

Although he wasn't quite as dominant during the 1983 track
season--Reynolds was beaten by Jeff Cannada of Greenway (Ariz.) High in a
two-mile in the Sunkist Invitational in January--he posted some superb
times.

He ran 8:54.75 or faster five times in the 3,200, topped by a clocking
of 8:44.0 to place sixth in the open two-mile--which is 18 meters longer
than the 3,200--in the Pepsi Invitational at UCLA.

The time moved Reynolds to fourth on the all-time national high school
performer list behind Jeff Nelson of Burbank (8:36.3 in 1979), Craig
Virgin of Lebanon, Ill. (8:40.9 in 1973) and Steve Prefontaine of
Marshfield, Ore. (8:41.5 in 1969). The effort also underscored his
ability to maintain an even pace--he ran 4:22 for each mile.

"Eric just did not fatigue the way a normal human being fatigues,"
Smith said. "He had the most unusual physiological makeup I've ever seen.
There were runners on the team who were faster than Eric over (400
meters), but they didn't have the cardiovascular capacity that he did. He
was amazing."

Reynolds went on to win the State championship in 8:54.75--his 9.91
second margin of victory remains the largest in meet history--but he was
"totally burned out" when he won the 3,000 in the Golden West
Invitational a week later. He concluded the season with a disappointing
third-place time of 9:01.52 in the two-mile in the International Prep
meet.

By that time, running had become less enjoyable to Reynolds. He had
basically trained by himself for the last two years of high school
because there was no one at Camarillo who could keep up with him.

"That was very hard and there was pressure too," he said. "People just
weren't expecting me to win. They thought I should be breaking some
record every time I stepped on the track. If I didn't set a (personal
record) every race, they thought something was wrong."

The burned-out feeling was followed by something even more ominous:
injuries.

Although he trained lightly for six weeks after the International Prep
meet in order to recharge his batteries, he hurt his left shin in August
and the injury forced him to redshirt his first year at UCLA.

"That was the most frustrating time to me," he said. "When I went to
UCLA, it was a completely different environment than what I was used to.
I went from being someone who everyone on the Camarillo campus knew to
nobody knowing who I was at UCLA and nobody caring if they knew me.

"The other athletes on the team were older than me and many of them
weren't real accepting because they looked at you as someone who might
take their spot," he said. "So it was just very, very lonely the first
couple of quarters."

Reynolds underwent surgery on his shin in the summer of 1984, but he
never went longer than three months after that without an injury
interrupting his training.

UCLA Coach Bob Larsen figured that with Reynolds' talent, he could be
a very good college runner if he could get his training mileage up to
even 50 miles a week on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, that never
happened.

"It was very, very frustrating," Larsen said. "Because he wasn't just
a good athlete, he was an extremely talented athlete."

After failing to shake injuries for three years, Reynolds appeared
healthy in the fall of 1987, his senior year. But after being the No. 1
runner on the Bruins' cross-country team for the first half of the
season, he pulled a hamstring and that injury was followed by a stress
fracture in his leg.

"Besides my freshman year, that was the only other time I got really
frustrated," he said. "I was so close to being all the way back."

After graduating from UCLA in 1988 with a degree in economics,
Reynolds ran 29:58 in a 10,000-meter road race in Camarillo that summer,
but never seriously contemplated another comeback.

"I knew that in order for me to ever be serious again, I would have to
get my injuries problems taken care of," he said. "But after five years
of trying unsuccessfully, I just didn't see that happening."

Shortly thereafter, he began work as a real estate agent for a
Northridge-based firm owned by Syd Leibovitch, a teammate of Reynolds at
UCLA and a former standout at Chatsworth High.

He worked there for five years before starting at Hamilton Financial
Corp. nine months ago.

Although the job requires him to spend a lot of time on the road in
Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, it has allowed
Reynolds and his wife to move from Northridge to Ventura, which is closer
to his parents in Somis.

Somis, a small agricultural-based community, is where Reynolds lived
during his glory days at Camarillo High. But he does not dwell on those
times.

"I'm very proud of what I accomplished in high school, but quite
honestly, what I accomplished in high school has no effect on my life
now," Reynolds said. "There are a few people in Camarillo who still
recognize my name, but other than that, I don't talk much about it."



PHOTO: Eric Reynolds, 29, works as an account manager for a
financial firm. He graduated UCLA with a degree in economics.
PHOTOGRAPHER: JILL CONNELLY / For The Times
PHOTO: Eric Reynolds was a highly recruited distance runner as a
Camarillo High senior.