Doug Robinson: BYU runner has quite the underdog story

Published: Wednesday, May 19 2010 1:43 p.m. MDT

This sounds like a made-for-Disney underdog story. You know the one.

The kid gets cut from the team. He works as a custodian to support

himself, and he trains on his own. He sees his old teammates on training

runs around town, but he's not allowed to run with them, so they just

wave in passing.

You know where this is going, right?

The kid comes back and shows them all.

It's cliche, but it's Jon Kotter's story,

every bit of it, and now the kid — a senior law student at Brigham Young

University — is one race away from competing in the NCAA track

championships. He can achieve that with a top-12 finish in the NCAA

Regional track and field championships in Austin, Texas, in two weeks.

If recent weeks are any indication, he is up

to the challenge. At the Cardinal Invitational in California, he placed

fourth in his section of the 5,000-meter run, with a time of 14:00.00. A

month later, he returned to Stanford for the Payton Jordan Invitational

and placed seventh in the 10,000 in a field of college and professional

runners. His time of 28:48.33 makes him the third-fastest in BYU

history at that distance. That's no small feat at a school that has

produced Olympic distance runners Doug Padilla, Ed Eyestone, Henry

Marsh, Paul Cummings, Jason Pyrah and Josh McAdams, to name a few.

\"He's had a nice career,\" says Eyestone, now

BYU's distance coach. \"I'm really proud of him. Especially considering

he was a walk-on and we cut him.\"Kotter was a good but unspectacular runner at Alta High School,

placing third and fifth in the 3,200- and 1,600-meter runs,

respectively, at the state track championships. That drew no interest

from college coaches.

Kotter served an LDS

Church mission in Rome and ran just twice during the next two years,

which was one too many. During his second run, he tripped and fell to

the asphalt, breaking both elbows.

He returned from his

mission in January 2006 and tried out for BYU's cross-country team that

fall. Collegiate teams are limited by the NCAA (read: Title IX and the

federal government) in the number of athletes they can retain on a

roster, even if they want to run without a scholarship. When Kotter

failed to crack the top 20, he was cut from the team. Rules forbade him

even from practicing with the team.

\"I took a few days to

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