May 29—SHIPPENSBURG — There were days when running alongside the best in the state felt out of reach for Alex Holbrook.
Exeter’s junior was hesitant when he first returned after his accident. He barely broke 5 minutes in the mile and it took a while to see much improvement.
For a fierce competitor, one who measures himself in medals and records, those were tough times.
“I was extremely scared,” Holbrook said. “I didn’t know how to push myself. I always held back.”
That version of Holbrook was long gone when the PIAA Track and Field Championships arrived this weekend. He was the only Berks boys runner to compete in both the 1600 and 3200.
It was the final moment of his breakout season. The latest step in an extraordinary recovery.
Holbrook was struck by a car while training for cross country in June 2019. He suffered a fractured leg, broken wrist and was told by his surgeon he wouldn’t run competitively again.
None of that deterred him.
“He didn’t miss a beat,” Exeter co-coach Drew Eckel said. “He’s better than ever. You wouldn’t know he screwed up his body so much. It’s great to see someone persevere.”
Holbrook finished the Class 3A 3200 in 9:38.62 and placed 20th. He clocked in at 4:28.90 in the 1600 and finished 20th again.
Although he wanted to leave with a medal, it was a remarkable effort given the circumstances.
Eckel remembers when Holbrook first returned to Exeter’s track. It was before he could walk much less compete. He was pushed around in a wheelchair and moved on crutches that day.
About six months after he was rushed to the hospital, he ran in an indoor meet. That started the climb back.
The breakthrough, the most memorable moment from this season, came when Holbrook ran the mile in 4:18.66 at the Whippet Invitational in April. It boosted his confidence. It showed him greatness was within reach.
“He continued to work; he continued to push himself,” Eckel said. “More than anyone I’ve ever met, he wants this for himself. It’s unbelievable how much he’ll do to achieve it.”
The previous two weeks brought a medal haul for Holbrook, who was second in the 3200 and third in the 1600 and 800 at the Firing Meet. He was fourth in the 3200 and 1600 at districts. That’s five top four finishes against the best in the area.
Saturday’s result will be another log thrown onto Holbrook’s motivational fire. He wants to break 4:10 in the mile and 9 minutes in the two mile as a senior. Those are all-time great numbers.
After what he’s been through he’s not afraid to aim high. In the minds of some he wasn’t even supposed to get this far.
“A lot of people thought I wouldn’t be able to do it,” Holbrook said. “I wanted to prove people wrong. I always had a goal. My dream was to run in college. I wasn’t ready to give that up.”
Holbrook said he hangs his newest medals and takes down the old ones at the end of each season. The ones from this spring were put on display before the PIAA meet.
It’s a miracle there were any at all.
“I’m very happy with the season,” Holbrook said. “I’m very satisfied. I achieved all the goals I wanted. There’s really nothing more I could ask.”