Brian Gertzen’s ’07 teammates are so devoted to him that they offered him $1,000 to stay at Yale for one more year before graduating. They just aren’t ready to let the senior runner go.
Over his past three-and-a-half years as a Bulldog, the redheaded runner has earned the loyalty and respect of his team — but not to the exclusion of a friendly dose of light-hearted irreverence.
The first thing roommate and teammate Brian Hanak ’07 said about Gertzen was that he had a wrinkly scalp, but he later followed up with a testament to Gertzen’s reliability and versatility.
“He’s not a cross-country runner. By his own definition, he’s a middle-distance runner,” Hanak said. “But this season, he’s been by far our most consistent cross-country runner.”
And this sentiment seems to run unanimously across the tight-knit team. Several teammates called Gertzen the toughest guy they knew, and even more of the runners spoke to his overall consistency and work ethic.
Teammate Jared Bell ’09 recalled the 2006 Giegengack Invitational as proof of Gertzen’s ability to perform under any conditions. Gertzen was throwing up before their crucial distance medley relay, but when the time came to perform, he still ran an extremely fast race.
Even head coach Daniel Ireland spoke highly of these qualities.
“He’s really good about showing up with the right mindset day in and day out, regardless of what’s going on in his life,” Ireland said.
Add this to Gertzen’s remarkable lack of major or persisting injuries and the so-called “stallion” should be pretty much unstoppable in his upward climb.
The Eli’s dedication has earned him multiple All East honors as a member of the IC4A scoring outdoor and indoor 4×800 meter relay teams, the number two spot for the Bulldogs at last season’s NCAA Championships, and the top Yale finish at this past September’s Paul Short Invitational.
And Gertzen has only begun to excel. His recent performances have set high expectations for his move into the track season.
“We’re looking for him once he gets to track to step up and be one of the better milers in the conference,” Ireland said.
This success could be due to the fact that Gertzen simply loves what he’s doing and finds a sense of fulfillment from running.
“When I’m doing a workout, and it’s the same thing for a race, I feel like I’ve pushed my body to a new level and gone as hard as I could, and there’s just a sense of accomplishment,” Gertzen said. “Feeling totally untouchable after doing something like that is one of those things that makes it fulfilling and worthwhile.”
He also said spending three hours at practice with “guys who are like family” is something that he looks forward to each day. He cannot recall a dull day at practice given the wide range of characters on the team. They love to rag on each other, he said, and it is a rare moment when the guys let something jab-worthy slip by unnoticed.
And it is just as rare that Gertzen lets a teammate slip by unnoticed. Jake Bruene ’09 said he especially appreciated this trait when he first joined the team.
“On my first-ever run with the team, he held back and ran with me, because I couldn’t keep up,” Bruene said.
Ireland noted that the younger runners look up to the senior and said he sets a good example through his attitude and his toughness.
“Gertzen is the one guy, no matter what, who just gets it done,” teammate Connor Kilpatrick ’08 said. “He’s the one person on the team that everyone has the most faith in to get the job done. Whatever it is, he’ll do it.”
Out of his running shoes though, Gertzen is a different character. Along with his strong loyalties to South Jersey and Wawa — Gertzen talked excitedly for nearly a month about his New Jersey flag before it was shipped to him — the Linwood native is known for his love of pork roll, a rare taste from home that New Haven has yet to offer. Kilpatrick said that Gertzen ardently protects the precious meat and “gets mad if [people] have too much.”
When asked to think of one great Brian Gertzen story, his teammates were briefly stumped, because as thrower Jeff Lachman ’09 described, “his whole life is just one fluid story.”
Perhaps one could sum it up by saying that Brian Gertzen appeals to all types. His teammates said that he is considered “more legend than he is man,” and the ladies, one of whom called him a “great make-out,” would tend to agree.