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Rockland County has been home to a rich vein of 800-meter champions, from Paul Nowicki and Mike Hagon to Jeff Van Wie, Paul Joyce and others. In the early 1990s, that royal line of succession passed through the portals of Clarkstown South, where Mike Schroer earned and proudly wore the vestments of two-lap greatness. His high school exploits were but the first step in a career marked by collegiate and open success that brought him farther than any other Rockland half-miler to date.

At South, Mike was dubbed “the wild mongoose” by Coach Ray Kondracki for his wiry 6-foot-1, 150-pound frame, ground-eating strides and untamed racing style. He eventually refined the rough edges and catapulted to national prominence, winning the 1992 national indoor scholastic 800 title in 1:52.55, at the time the second-fastest clocking ever in New York State. He also was the national outdoor bronze medalist in 1:51.78, a six-time State runner-up in the 800, 1,000 and 4×400 relay, and the fastest U.S. schoolboy in 1992 indoors in the 600 (then-County record 1:21.09), 800 (1:52.55) and 1,000 (2:29.8).

Moving on to Georgetown, Mike claimed Division I All-America status no less than eight times. Keynoting a powerful Hoyas squad that swept an unprecedented four straight IC4A indoor crowns and six Big East titles, Mike ran on the 1997 Penn Relays-winning 4×800 and the school record 4×400 (3:04.96). He also advanced to the quarterfinals of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 800 and clocked a personal best of 1:47.86, fastest by a Rockland collegian outdoors.

A Run to Glory as Pro & Masters Racer

Act Three of the Schroer athletic story played out over the ensuing four years, when he chased times and records as a professional runner. How good was Mike as a pro? Good enough to make the 800 semifinals of the 2000 Olympic Trials, arguably the world’s best track meet outside of the Olympics themselves. Good enough to author a 1:46.54 outdoor 800 in 1999, faster than any Rocklander has ever run. And good enough to place fifth in the 2000 U.S. indoor nationals and run a 1:48.23 split on the second-fastest indoor 4×800, 7:14.78, as a member of the Reebok Enclave track club.

After a nine-year hiatus, Mike returned to the track world with a flourish in 2010. Competing in the age 35-to-39 Sub-Masters category, he won the 2011 U.S. indoor and World outdoor championships and sheared his 800-meter time down to 1:53.1 on a relay leg – just missing his goal of running as fast as he did at 17 years old. “I was extremely happy that I only slowed down four-tenths of a second in 20 years,” he quips. He also sped a 1:54.7 split on a 4×800 unit that set a world record, 7:55.67, for the 35-39 age group, and turned the quarter-mile in 50.4, not all that far from his all-time best split of 46.3.

Initiation Into Track, Good Vibes at South

Mike’s initiation into running was humbling, to say the least. He joined the cross country team at Felix Festa Middle School and consistently finished last in his races, “but I loved being outdoors,” he says. Then he and friend Jason Shanahan signed up for the spring track team at South and “the rest is history.” Mike was imbued with a hardy work ethic from his dad, Richard, and positively influenced by varsity teammates such as Melvin Keyes, Tom Sullivan, Mark Davis and others. “I saw the ‘perks’ that went with being good so I wanted to become better. Those guys really showed me when to have fun and when to work and that you could be successful doing both in the right time. I really got on board when I found out that I had a chance to go to Penn Relays my sophomore year and I really got going.”

Mike’s memories of his track experience at South are fondly recalled, accented by the inseparable bond he developed with teammates. “They made track so much fun that it was by far the best part of the day,” he says. “I could not wait for the bell to ring so I could get changed and out on the track.” The recollections of that era are many: the Friday night pasta parties before big meets; the non-stop card games with his best buddies; the on-the-track successes like the 4×800 team “coming out of nowhere” to place fourth at the ’91 spring States; the three runner-up finishes at the ’91 indoor States and South’s 4×400 dominance his junior and senior years; and, of course, the continual support of his mom, Trish, who attended all his races.

But two accomplishments stand out above all others: his indoor national 800 crown 20 years ago in March; and South’s 1991 spring County championship, the team’s first under Coach Kondracki, then in his fifth year at the helm. “He deserved it because I feel at that time that was the highest award for a coach to show what a tremendous team [he] had built,” Mike says. “Being able to put aside individual glory for a team effort was developed by Kondracki and has served me tremendously all these years.”

Applying Lessons Learned to Coaching Assignments

That notion of sacrificing for the greater good and other values learned under Coach Kondracki were put to use when Mike decided to enter the coaching ranks himself after completing his collegiate and pro careers. At the Potomac School in McLean, Va., he turned an underachieving track team into the dominant program in the league, winning five outdoor league titles in seven years (2001-2008), one girls’ state team championship and two runner-up finishes, and earning 2007 Coach of the Year honors for boys’ spring track. In cross country, he coached a male and female individual state champ and a girls’ All-America performer, and in indoor track piloted a girls’ state team champion and runner-up. In addition to “building programs out of nothing,” Mike considers his proudest achievement to be instilling “that love of running into anybody that walked onto my track.”

He followed up his Potomac tenure with a successful two-year stint as assistant coach at the Seoul American High School in South Korea, where his then-wife, Amy Ross-Schroer, an Army medical doctor, was first stationed after her residency. [They are no longer married.] Mike became the first assistant coach to win Far East Coach of the Year honors in cross country.

Mike and his family returned stateside in June 2010, settling in Columbia, S.C. By that time he was five months into his rejuvenated career as a track athlete, this time on the Sub-Masters level. “I always made sure to stay in decent shape so I could rabbit workouts for my athletes that I coached,” he says. “Plus I always wanted to be able to show them what an ‘old’ man could do.” While in Korea he received a call from a friend who was assembling a 4×800 squad at the Colonial Relays in Virginia that April. Since he had planned a house-hunting trip in the southeastern U.S. the same week, he agreed to get into race shape and wound up snapping off a 1:54.7 relay carry, far faster than the 2:01 he was asked to run.

Heading West to California

After a three-year stay in South Carolina, Mike lived in Alabama for six months, then moved to northern California, where he currently resides in the town of Arcata. Mike serves as senior risk analyst (a fiscal officer position) in the Human Resources department for the County of Humboldt. He earned an MBA from Humboldt State University (now Cal Poly Humboldt) in 2016. Prior to that, Mike received a master’s degree in teaching, with a focus on secondary education, from American University in 1999, and a bachelor’s degree in history and government from Georgetown.

Mike has dabbled in Masters track events over the past 10 years, competing mostly in relays like the 4×200 and 4×400, and performing in high-profile meets such as the Penn Relays and the indoor and outdoor Masters nationals. He is looking forward to his 50th birthday on April 29, when he’ll be eligible for the next age category. If he resumes competition he would likely run the 400 and 4×400, hoping to latch on with his former club team, the Dallas-based Southwest Sprinters.

Mike has two children, Elizabeth, 19, and Sebastian, 14. His mom, Trish, moved to California from Rockland a few years ago and lives just minutes away from Mike. His father, Richard, lives in North Carolina.

Now a member of both the Clarkstown South and Rockland County sports halls of fame, Mike Schroer takes his place among the all-time greats in Rockland track and Rockland athletics. Congratulations, Mike!