Albuquerque Academy’s Curtis Beach is dreaming of gold

The Albuquerque Tribune
May 10, 2007

How do you handle a 6-year-old who is more little blur than little boy?

David Beach and his wife, Jeana King-Beach, faced this parental puzzle about a decade ago.

“He was just hyper,” Beach said of his son, Curtis.

Exhaustion still coats his words.

“He was always hyper.”

Visiting the family ranch, David found the answer to his problem outdoors, in the form of a large horse pasture.

“I told him just to go out and chase the horses,” David remembers. “He’d go run, and an hour later he was still chasing them. It really calmed him. He did better in school. He was easier to handle when he was running.”

Curtis Beach, a sophomore, now chases track medals for Albuquerque Academy.

Be surprised if he hasn’t caught five more – perhaps all gold – by the conclusion of the Class 4A state track meet, which unfolds Friday and Saturday at the UNM Track/Soccer Complex. Beach has qualified in nine events, but, by rule, can only compete in five. After last May’s state meet, Beach wore three golds, a silver and a bronze, earning the boys high-point honor.

He scored 27 points for the Chargers then.

He wants 35 points now.

Five golds.

A challenge to be sure. But Beach’s steadfast love of the sport, his work ethic and genetics make the task seem probable, not just possible.

Sandy Beach-Warfield shares that love.

Curtis’ aunt, bamboo-legged like her nephew, started blowing past the boys as a student at Griegos Elementary.

Longtime track coach Jim Ciccarello happened to see Sandy bounding around the sidelines during a youth basketball game and noticed her talents. He started refining her skills.

Sandy, primarily a distance runner and now an assistant coach under Ciccarello at La Cueva, won her first national title at 9. She added eight more and earned a scholarship to Arizona State, but she fell short of her Olympic dreams.

“He’s going to be the Olympian,” Sandy said of Curtis. “I truly believe that in my heart. He has a focus beyond anything I ever had. He’s always had the love.”

Curtis loved running before he could identify it.

Near the same time he chased horses, Curtis joined a soccer league.

Kicking a ball was OK, but he lived for the constant running. Once he discovered his coach used running as punishment, Beach looked for ways to break rules.

“Well, until he started making me do push-ups instead,” Beach said. “I didn’t know there was a sport where I could just run.”

Once he found track, you couldn’t pry his spikes off with a crow bar.

Beach is known to stop by other area schools to polish his manifold skills.

He has gone to Eldorado to practice pole vaulting.

He phones coaches, asking for a workout.

He surfs the Internet, looking for nearby coaches who specialize in almost any event (at the club level, he’s a decathlete).

“It’s hard to reign him in sometimes,” David said. “We encourage other activities. We do watch his school to make sure he’s doing all he can there, too.”

When he’s not running, Beach is thinking about running. He often visualizes events. His form. His steps. His jumping.

Academy coach Adam Kedge said Beach’s focus is a key ingredient in his success. With it Beach has won national championships at his age group and is a strong candidate to receive an invitation from Team USA for the Junior Olympic World Championship in the Czech Republic this July. But Kedge knows Beach’s fixation could hamper his development.

“He probably wouldn’t admit it, but the stress of it does get to him sometimes,” Kedge said.

To combat any mental or physical burnout, Kedge keeps in contact with Beach’s other coaches. He monitors his workouts.

The smile Beach wears after running makes you think he couldn’t stop. But Beach stays practical. He competes year-round, taking small chunks of time off to stay charged.

After the breaks, Beach will continue his tireless work. He’ll try to improve his throwing events, where Kedge and Ciccarello say he can make the biggest improvement. He’ll also work on lengthening his stride.

Though it remains difficult for Beach to pinpoint his best event, Ciccarello figures Beach could eventually compete at the national level in the 400 hurdles (high school’s equivalent is the 300 hurdles).

Ciccarello says most high school athletes who run the event take 17 strides between hurdles. Beach can take 14 or 15. He hopes to trim it to 13, a technique made famous by legendary hurdler Edwin Moses, in the near future.

Beach’s agility and long legs will help. Those traits run in the family. Beach’s three uncles – Ken, Ron and Roman – and father played college basketball.

“I was really lucky to have the family I have,” Beach said.

But not just for the athletic genes.

“They all work so hard. I learned it from them.”

And from chasing horses.

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