Athlete Spotlight: Taconic cross-country runner Brandon Pelkey

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Fresh off a sixth-place finish at a soaking wet Berkshire Individuals meet, Taconic senior Brandon Pelkey came by The Berkshire Eagle offices to talk about the Braves cross-country season, last year's basketball state finalists, some go-to spots in Pittsfield and what to expect next weekend at Northfield Mountain for the Western Massachusetts championships.

THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE: What was your experience at Berkshire Individuals this year?

BRANDON PELKEY: I think this was probably the worst conditions, you really had to stay warm beforehand, but the experience was unbelievable. Being able to run consistently in those conditions was really a plus. I was really focused and calm.

EAGLE: What are your expectations for next week's Western Mass. meet at Northfield?

PELKEY: Senior year, I've never made states before. That's one of the last goals I want to accomplish. It's a tough course, but I've been preparing for it. I run up at the state forest every week in the summer, imagining Northfield. Because I know the hill is horrible. It's like running up a whole mountain. But I'm ready for it.

EAGLE: Tell us about your start in running.

PELKEY: It goes back to freshman year. I didn't see myself running, but the first month of captains practice, my brother Trevor, who was the top runner as a junior, kept asking if I wanted to go. So I went and showed up in basketball shoes. The first run was five miles, but my brother stayed back with me every step of the way. I just kept asking him when that run was going to be over. Without him, I would have never developed a passion for running.

EAGLE: What's your favorite course to run out here, and your least favorite?

PELKEY: I loved Lenox last week, that was actually just my second time ever racing on it. Lenox was the first course I ever raced freshman year. I finished in 22 minutes. I'm not a big fan of Mount Greylock's. Mostly might have been conditions this year, but I don't love the way its set up. I never used to like Reid either, but it was our home course this year and I started to love it.

EAGLE: What's your ideal course layout?

PELKEY: I like woods, soft ground. Give me some hills, because that gives me an opportunity to pass people.

EAGLE: What is getting Taconic pumped up for your races?

PELKEY: My co-captain Zabion Powell and I got really into pre-race speeches. We take turns every other week. It's mostly telling the guys that we put in the work, nothing to lose, just go. This is what we train for. We'll have to have a big one before Western Mass, because it's all on the line.

EAGLE: What community races outside the cross-country season do you like?

PELKEY: I always do the Fourth of July race downtown. It's really hot usually, this year was horrible, but I use that to test my limits and see where I'm at. I also run the Run for Troops race in Dalton.

EAGLE: As a city school student-athlete, what's your view on some schools being allowed to start runners in middle school? Do you feel you would have benefit from that?

PELKEY: Absolutely. Sometimes I do think it's a little unfair, but I think PHS and us are the only schools that can't really do it. Maybe there should be a different race, because by the time those kids are freshman, it's like they're juniors, but they still have four years left. But with teams like Greylock, it's more about coaching and they have an amazing coach. We have an awesome coach as well with [Paul] Phelps.

EAGLE: How's your experience in the new high school?

PELKEY: It's really nice. I know a lot of kids don't like that there's no cellphone service in the school. But I don't mind it. That allows me to focus more on the work. The gym is a little bit small, especially for basketball, but the locker room is nice and big.

EAGLE: What was the secret to your basketball team's success last year?

PELKEY: Just working extremely hard. I think we just pushed each other so hard in practice, communicating more towards the end of the season. We've played in the summers together, focusing on certain things we need to work on. Everyone is a basketball player, and we've been playing together since middle school. We have probably 12 seniors, and the chemistry is just really tight.

EAGLE: What's your favorite Halloween costume?

PELKEY: Probably Spiderman, I was a big fan of Spiderman when I was little. I'm a fan of those early movies, Tobey Maguire.

EAGLE: What's the best Thanksgiving side dish?

PELKEY: Stuffing is nice. Maybe some mashed potatoes, those always seem to hit the spot.

EAGLE: What's the go-to spot in Pittsfield?

PELKEY: Patrick's Pub.

EAGLE: What's your dream ticket?

PELKEY: I don't know that I have a dream concert or anything, so probably basketball games. Big Celtics fan. I would go to every single game if I had the money. Baseball I'm a Red Sox fan, but don't watch it as much. I'm a Cowboys fan for football, though.

EAGLE: What's your pizza order?

PELKEY: Just straight cheese from Pizza Works in Pittsfield.

EAGLE: You win the Powerball, what's your first purchase?

PELKEY: Definitely pay off my brother's college tuition at Siena. I'd love to set my parents up so they could retire, too.

EAGLE: What are you looking to do next year?

PELKEY: I just came from a college visit at Framingham State, but I'm looking at Fitchburg, Westfield and Western New England. Talking to a few cross-country coaches, looking to run in college and major in criminal justice.

This interview was conducted, edited and condensed by Mike Walsh.

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