If you have high expectations, you can go far -- even set national and world athletic records.
That's the message U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun brought to the high school athletes who were among some 250 people gathered this morning at the Red Dog's Dog Days workout program.
"There is always someone who says you can't do it. But look for those who believe that you can," the 2nd District Republican congressman said.
Ryun, a three-time Olympian and former Kansas University athlete, took part in the morning workout at KU's Memorial stadium.
"Where were you 40 years ago?" Ryun said, laughing into a bullhorn as the gathering took a break.
He explained how lonely it was for him to get up and train when he was in high school at Wichita East during the early 1960s.
Ryun said that as a youngster growing up in Wichita, he wanted to be a baseball player. But when he tried out for the team, he was cut. He experienced similar results when he went out for his junior high track team and basketball team.
So when he went out for cross country in his first year in high school, his goal was to make the team and get a letter jacket.
But his coach, Bob Timmons, thought he could go further. Much further.
In his fourth race, Ryun won the mile run, with a 4:21 clocking at a Kansas City track meet. It was his first win.
As the bus headed back for Wichita, Timmons brought Ryun up front to speak to him privately.
"He said, 'I think you can run faster,'" Ryun said.
Timmons wanted him to break the national high school record for the mile, which at the time, was 4:08 at Wichita East.
"So I thought, how do you go from 4:21 to 4:08?" Ryun said. He couldn't understand how could trim his time any further.
But Timmons didn't stop there.
"He said, 'You could be the first high school boy to run the 4-minute mile.'"
"When I went to the back of the bus, I realized Coach Timmons was going to demand a lot out of me," Ryun said. "And he was going to have expectations for me to exceed what I didn't possibly think I'd be doing."
The next year, as a junior in 1964, Ryun went to a race in Los Angeles, Calif.
"That night, I ran 3:59 for the first time," Ryun said. "I said, Coach, I went along with what you said. And my life changed."
He went on to qualify for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. As a senior, Ryun won his third state high school mile title with a time of 3:58.3, a mark that stood for 36 years.
He went on to set world records in the mile, 1,500 meters, half mile, 800 meters and medley relay.
Ryun encouraged the high school athletes at the Dog Days workout to listen to people who are positive.
"Each one of you has a very special talent," he said. "It's just a matter of thinking outside the box."