Though he is just 16-years-old, Ryan DelBene has already established firm plans when it comes to following in his dad's footsteps from both a career and recreational standpoint.
Like his father Randy, Ryan hopes to one day become a dentist. Academically, the younger DelBene is certainly on course. The honors student is ranked first in his class at Girard High with a 4.3 GPA.
As for the recreational part, let's just say that if DelBene continues at his current pace, he will be the one blazing a path for dad to follow.
Though just a sophomore, DelBene has already established himself as one of the area's top distance runners. After he turned in an impressive performance at the Division II district track and field meet as a freshmen, DelBene has his sights set on a trip to the Division II Ravenna regional this spring. His current personal best time in the 1,600-meter run is 4 minutes 47 seconds, while earlier this week at Salem he established a personal best in the 3,200-meter run (10:36).
DelBene has been running since the age of 7, when he participated in his first road race with his dad.
"My father had me run one of the local races, and I loved running right from the start," DelBene said. "I love the feeling of competing against other runners, and I've made some great friends through the sport. I have great teammates, and I have a lot of very good friends from other schools who I've gotten to know through running."
DelBene enjoys track so much, in fact, that he has chosen to put more time into running at the sacrifice of another sport. Last fall, DelBene was a wide receiver and defensive back for the Girard football team. He also plays basketball, and was a point guard for the Indians' cagers this past winter. However, next fall DelBene will skip football in favor of cross country.
"It's very tough giving up football. I love the excitement of Friday nights," DelBene said. "But I have strong goals in running and cross country will help me achieve those goals. The distance runners in track mostly all run cross country in the fall, and I think they had an edge on me because of that."
DelBene's ultimate goal is to establish a new 1,600-meter school record. The current mark of 4:27 was established by Mike Yankey, a 2001 graduate. Ironically, Yankey is helping DelBene in his quest to achieve the goal. Yankey has been attending Girard track meets on a regular basis this spring, and he often offers up advice and strategy. The two will likely train together in the future.
"I heard about Ryan several years ago, and when I watched him run at the first meet this spring I was really impressed," Yankey said. "The thing about Ryan is that he is always giving everything he has. It's rare to see someone as dedicated and determined as he is. He's the hardest worker I've ever seen."
"Just over the past month I've noticed a big improvement in Ryan. Not only does he run well, but he's a very smart runner. He's very smart when it comes to race strategy, and he's only getting better."
Yankey noted that the two "often joke around about whether or not he can break my record," but in reality he believes that DelBene is very capable of achieving his goal.
"With his work ethic and ability, there will be a lot more people taking notice over the next two years," Yankey said.
DelBene first caught the eye of area track enthusiasts when as a seventh-grader he was clocked at 5:10 in the 1,600. One year later, he ran a 4:55 at the junior high State Track Meet. After breaking the 4:50 barrier as a freshman, DelBene knew that his high school athletic career would revolve around running.
DelBene's typical day of training often consists of a six to seven mile run beyond the workout that takes place in practice. He also credits Yankey and Girard track coach John Spano for "teaching me that there is more to the sport than just the physical aspect."
"Coach Spano is a tremendous coach and teacher. He goes beyond the running aspect. With him around I'm always learning something new that will help me once I get into a race," DelBene said.
Though college is still two years away, DelBene already has hopes of a competitive running career beyond high school. He believes that if he achieves his prep goals, he can continue running at the next level. Either way, he says that he will stay involved in the sport he has grown to love.
"It's funny because in other sports the athletes have to run as a punishment. But I love to run. I love the daily challenge, and I don't see a time when I'll give it up completely," DelBene said.