Gabe Proctor’s journey to national titles in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Pueblo, Colo., began 13 years ago.
In 2000, United Methodist pastor Jim Proctor and his wife adopted Gabe and his younger sister and brother, Sam and Joanna. Jim Proctor moved his family from Vermont to Corinth, Maine, in 2010, after Gabe graduated from high school.
“We had an empty nest; we raised a daughter and sent her off. We were living in a big house with a bunch of empty rooms so we decided to fill some of them up,” said Jim Proctor, who currently serves the Corinth United Methodist Church.
Gabe Proctor played many sports in high school, but it was the summer before his senior year when he decided to become a full-time runner.
“He was an average, above average athlete at a small school, he played basketball and soccer and he was pretty good, but before his senior year he decided to focus on running and began to train on his own intensively,” Jim Proctor said.
“He competed in the state championships indoor for the two mile, and came in second. That was pretty amazing.”
Gabe Proctor credits his high school coach for getting his running career on track.
“I had a coach who helped out at Hanover near Dartmouth, that’s where I started my training senior year. Basically in that short period, my high school coach Jeff Johnson turned me into a great runner,” Proctor said.
Johnson helped Proctor get the attention of Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kan. The news was great for Proctor, but the distance between Vermont and Kansas was concerning for his family.
“One day my dad got a call and they said ‘we’d like to give your son a running scholarship’,” Proctor said.
““To be honest, our first reaction was ‘why Kansas’? We were less excited about location and very excited about the opportunity,” Jim Proctor said.
Gabe Proctor then made a connection to Division II Western State Colorado University when the school’s cross country and track distance coach Jen Michel was traveling to a meet.
“We were travelling through to a meet at Oklahoma State and I contacted the coach about a place to run in the area on campus. I met Gabe there,” Michel said.
The transition between the community college to WSCU was rough, according to Proctor, but it was a much better fit for him.
“I can’t say enough about [Western State]. I really took off when I came to Colorado. The training was a lot more individualized and focused on me. What they were doing was setting me up to be successful,” Proctor said.
“They weren’t just running me into the ground to make the coach look good,” he added. “That’s what I felt like when I was at the junior college. It was madness, they just were not setting me up for the next level at all.”
After the first season, Proctor dedicated himself to improving his times. He logged 100-mile weeks on a consistent basis, and was among the team leaders in mileage logged.
“I just got super confident in my training, I put in the work, and I knew I could beat anyone in a race. I just had that winning mentality and attitude,” Proctor said.
“I think the motivation was that I was so close when it came to national championships whether it was indoor track, cross country or outdoor. I was so close, I was there,” he added.
“Athletically he is a team leader in terms of running mileage, he’s been able to handle higher mileages,” Michel said. “He won the NACAC championships, being the top from the American, Canada, and Mexico and Caribbean nations.”
At the Division II national outdoor track championships in Pueblo, Colo., Proctor was one of the favorites to take home the title in the 5,000 and 10,000. After spending two years at the junior college and three at WSCU, he took to the track for his final collegiate races.
He finished first in the 5,000 in a time of 14 minutes, 27.77 seconds, but the 10,000 was his primary focus and a preseason goal of 28:30.
“At indoors he performed well and knew come outdoor he would be one of the favorites. The 10K was the priority in outdoor,” Michel said.
“Indoor going into nationals, I was sick I got bronchitis, and came in second. But when outdoor came I knew I was going to be one of the guys to beat. I was just there, I put myself in position to win,” Proctor said.
When he crossed the 10K finish line, he won his second national championship, but fell short of his goal, finishing in 30:03.07.
“My personal best was in California earlier that year to qualify for nationals; I ran a 28:58. I crossed that line at nationals with a time of 30:03 and I was like ‘Gee. I’m honored I have a national title but this isn’t fast. This isn’t fast at all,” Proctor said.
Proctor is grateful for having the chance to win, but it is the fast times that will get him to where he wants to be, not the national titles.
“There are a lot of national champions who run slow times and they can’t get into any clubs because they don’t have the time, so what good does a national championship get you? That’s the kind of mentality I had,” Proctor said.
“At the end, I’m very grateful. I’m in a good situation. My biggest goal was to run under a 28:30 in college, and it’s disappointing I didn’t run that but I have more chances in the future to run that,” he added.
The national championships have his brother Sam Proctor, a recent graduate and member of Class D state champion soccer teams at Bangor Christian, getting some recognition around town.
“It’s pretty cool. Everybody is always talking at school or on the streets about it,” Sam Proctor said.
Proctor’s future plans include getting accepted into a track club to continue training and prepare for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2016.
“At this point, I have four clubs lined up. I was accepted to a track club in Boulder, I’m going to visit one in Colorado Springs and California, and Zap Fitness in North Carolina. I’ll decide within this month which one I’ll go to,” Proctor said.
“My next goal is to go to Olympic trials in 2016. Whatever club I do decide on, I’m going to stay there and get coaching and keep improving. At this point I just need to be consistent in my running, keep my focus and have good luck so that I don’t get injured.”
Jim Proctor said his family will provide 100 percent support.
“We’re the kind [of parents] to not push kids into things but to support them with the things they choose. Gabe’s goals are exciting and very important to him and that makes them very important to us,” Jim said.
“For him to accomplish a significant step along the course of his dream, that was obviously very rewarding for him, and we’re with him on it. He’s not done yet accomplishing what he wants to accomplish, but that’s obviously a very big step.”
Proctor will be back in Maine to compete in the Beach to Beacon 10K race in Cape Elizabeth on Aug. 3.