Honor Roll No. 5: Elliot Heath

During the months of June and July, we are releasing the 10 winners of this award, one by one. Our previously announced members of the Honor Roll are swimmer Austin Staab, volleyball's Alix Klineman, soccer's Christen Press and football's Andrew Luck. Our fifth announced member of The Bootleg's 2011 Honor Roll is runner Elliot Heath.

In a June 3rd article we released the 30 finalists for The Bootleg Honor Roll award for the 2010/2011 school-year.

The criteria are as follows: Each academic year, The Bootleg's Honor Roll will recognize the top ten Stanford student- athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational. While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents. Finally, these honorees' performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well as their school pride, the famed "Spirit of Stanford."

Here's to the distance runners. Their sport, as the cliché goes, is your sport's punishment. With top NCAA runners logging 140 miles per week, that's an awful lot of self-flagellation, and an awful lot of boredom to boot.

Thinking about a hamburger? Forget about it. Each extra pound of fat costs you 2.5 seconds per mile, so five pounds will cost you over a minute in a 10K, a lifetime and a half.

And an offseason? What offseason? Fall is cross country, winter is indoor track, spring is track. Come summer, put in the serious mileage you couldn't during the school year with all those pesky competitions in the way. Rinse, repeat and pass enough classes to earn a Stanford degree along the way.

So why run? Maybe it's just the endorphins talking, but runners say no activity is more intimately connected to life itself than running:

"About 2.6 million years ago, our forebears started eating meat and marrow, rich sources of protein and fat that perhaps eventually fueled the growth of larger brains," narrates Discover magazine."[Researchers] Bramble and Lieberman find it conceivable that endurance running helped hunters pursue prey to exhaustion. … During a chase, Liebenberg noted that the men maintained speeds of around 4 to 6 miles per hour, for anywhere from two to six and a half hours, and traversed up to 22 miles of terrain. These stats fall well within the performance range of the world's fastest competitive marathoners, who set a pace of roughly 12 miles an hour to cover 26 miles, albeit under far less harsh conditions."

With more sweat glands, less hair and no fur, humans are better able to dissipate heat than any other animal. We couldn't run faster than a kudu, but a group of bushmen could chase it for 20 miles in 100 degree heat until the antelope dropped dead of exhaustion. The resulting protein allowed our brains to grow and evolve, and here we are today, talking about NCAA cross country and track.

In a different time and place then, senior Elliot Heath would have made for one heck of a bushman. He would have hunted with great strategy: he graduates Stanford with a 3.57 in mechanical engineering. This past season, he was named the Pac-10 Scholar Athlete of the Year in cross country and an Academic All-American in track.

Heath also possesses the lungs and legs to outlast the most determined of animals. In cross-country, he won Pac-10s in 2011 and was the 2010 Pac-10 Athlete of the Year. He graduates a seven-time All- American, with many of those honors in track, where he ranks fourth in school history in the indoor 3K and outdoor 5K.

The coup de grace came this winter, when Heath took home the national title in the indoor 3K. He stayed with the pack for the first 2,600 meters, then swung wide and dropped the hammer on the final lap. The resulting 8:03.71 won by nearly a second, helping the Cardinal men to a fourth-place overall finish in indoor track. (The .94-second margin of victory is impressive. In the same race, just two-tenths of a second separated second from fourth, fifth from sixth, or seventh from tenth.)

So perhaps he's more evolutionarily perfect than the rest of us. Without a doubt, he has one more NCAA Championship to his name than just about all of us, and for that and so much more, we salute Elliot Heath as the fifth announced member of our 2011 Honor Roll.

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