Brinkman signs to run at Kentucky Wesleyan

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Northeast Dubois senior Pierce Brinkman signs his letter of intent to run cross country and track at Kentucky Wesleyan College. Looking on in the front row are mother Gretchen, father Ryan, brother Preston and brother Parker. Back row from left: Northeast Dubois cross country coach Ben Gessner, assistant cross country coach Celeste Hochgesang, track coach Leslie Denu and assistant cross country and track coach Gary Bair, Pierce's grandfather.


Neither Pierce Brinkman nor some of his family members would’ve thought this day was possible back when he was in seventh grade, but here we are.

The two-time semi-state cross country runner for Northeast Dubois signed his letter of intent Wednesday to run cross country and track at Kentucky Wesleyan College — a far cry from the days of when he placed last on the team when he first began running in junior high.

“I was chubby and not very fast, and I would never think this would happen,” Brinkman said.

Brinkman went to his grandfather, Gary Bair, who is the assistant track and cross country coach at Northeast Dubois. Bair recalled his grandson asking him what he had to do, and Bair showed him the way. It wasn’t easy for the now college-bound runner, but he fell in love with running as a means to his clear his mind and get the stress of the day off of him.

His parents, Ryan and Gretchen, told of when Pierce would wake up at 4:45 a.m. every day, lift weights, work out, jump rope and put in 6-to-10 miles of running every day. Ryan told the Herald that Pierce once spent 365 days of running — regardless of the conditions outside.

Pierce knocked at the door of making to semi-state during his sophomore cross country season of 2018, but he missed out from making it by one second at that year’s regional.

“The year leading to junior year, I trained as hard as I could, and I was finally able to make it to semi-state,” Pierce said. “I would run anywhere between seven and eight miles just about every day. I would do speed training about three times a week, and focus on hills and the track.”

Making it to semi-state his junior year was what he was proudest of, and he made it back there as a senior in 2020. However, he suffered a hamstring tear during his senior semi-state meet, though he’s been doing everything he can to get better and ready himself for college. Pierce believed he could’ve made it to state, but he was in so much pain and just tried to do the best he could.

“It was kind of disappointing I couldn’t make it to state, but I was just proud ended up the weeks prior advancing and winning the Blue Chip for the second year in a row,” he said.

Pierce said the University of Evansville, University of Indianapolis, Bellarmine University and Brescia University were also options, but Kentucky Wesleyan won out. He intends to be a pre-physical therapy major.

“I chose Kentucky Wesleyan mainly because of the coaches and the atmosphere of the school,” Pierce said. “They really made me feel like I was part of the team when I visited. And I feel like the coaches are someone I could talk to, and they care about how I do and how I feel.”

Those who spoke to the Herald on Wednesday see good things continuing to happen for Pierce. Jeeps cross country coach Ben Gessner thinks his former top runner will excel in the classroom, work hard and be a good leader as a runner

Bair also sees a bright future ahead for his grandson.

“Cross country with Pierce may be even a better fit because the longer the race, the better he gets,” Bair said. “So, I think he’s going to be a very good 8k (runner), which is what they’ll run in cross country down there, and I think he’ll be very good at that distance.”

Pierce knows he has the endurance, but he plans on eating healthy and wants to work on speed before he officially joins Kentucky Wesleyan.

“They’re going to be getting someone that is very dedicated to running, loves running, will put in the time and the effort and is all around going to be respectful and caring to the other members of the team,” he said.

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