No slowing down

Pinho rebounds from heat stroke to earn All-America honors

Springfield College senior Jack Pinho, a Prospect native, points to the sky in memory of his late father, George, after finishing fourth in the 1500 meters to earn All-America honors at the NCAA Division III outdoor track and field championships in La Crosse, Wis. on May 26. -SPRINGFIELD COLLEGE ATHLETICS

After qualifying for the NCAA Division III 1500-meter finals by just three-hundredths of a second last month, Prospect native and Springfield College senior Jack Pinho collapsed at the finish line.

It was nearly 90 degrees in La Crosse, Wis. — 17 degrees above average for that area at the end of May — and Pinho succumbed to the heat.

“I passed out as I crossed the line from a heat stroke and managed to find myself in the athletic training room in an ice bath with trainers trying to get my body temperature down,” said Pinho, who added that he’d never had such a reaction in his running career.

The situation looked bleak for Pinho, the indoor track All-American who had to race again two days later if he wanted to earn the more difficult feat of becoming an outdoor track All-American.

“In my head, I knew my body would not be ready to go on Saturday to do the same thing all over again, but I had no choice,” Pinho said. “I didn’t come all the way there to throw in the towel. I hydrated and stayed off my feet for the next day and a half to give my body the best opportunity to go up against the top guys in the nation.”

On May 26, Pinho felt he had recovered enough to give it a go in the finals. Just two days after suffering a post-race heat stroke, Pinho managed to capture a fourth-place finish in a time of 3 minutes, 54.22 seconds to earn All-America honors.

Pinho ran a closing lap of 57.03 seconds to finish behind national champion Isaac Garcia-Cassani of Geneseo (3:50.21) and two others.

“I ended up outkicking more than half of the heat to finish fourth in the country, behind three previous All-Americans — two of which were reigning national champions from indoor or last outdoor season,” Pinho said.

That moment of exhilaration when Pinho crossed the finish line — this time completely under his own power — was captured by a Springfield photographer and showed Pinho pointing skyward in memory of his late father, George.

“I was speechless,” Pinho said. “I threw my hands in the air and pointed to my father for another amazing opportunity I was granted by going to Springfield College.”

Pinho credited the work done by assistant coach Anna Steinman for helping him transition his indoor success into the more competitive outdoor season.

“(Steinman) challenged me to not settle,” Pinho said. “Because of my past success from indoor I’d have a target on my back and people would be racing to beat me. That made me work even harder knowing that. Coach Steinman did an incredible job getting me into some of the fastest races on the East Coast (at Princeton and Swarthmore), giving me more opportunities than most athletes to get a qualifying spot in order to make the top 20 in the nation.”

His time at the Swarthmore Qualifying Meet in May, a blistering 3:47.90, smashed Springfield’s school record by more than four seconds and earned him a spot in the national competition.

That national championship race was the final outdoor race of Pinho’s collegiate career, but he has eligibility remaining for cross country and potentially one final indoor season. He recently earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and will remain at Springfield as a graduate student in the athletic administration program.

Yes, there may still be a little bit more to write of Pinho’s story that saw him go from walk-on to All-American.

“I did believe I could accomplish all of this because my family back at Springfield believed I had it in me the whole time,” Pinho said. “The difference between other runners and I was that I didn’t wait for my moment like the rest. I went out and took it. Nothing is given in this sport, and if I learned one thing in collegiate track, it’s that anything can happen if you never settle.”