Ryan Shay: 1979 – 2007

03 Nov 2007 Posted by

Shay_RyanThe USA today decided on its three-man marathon team they will send to Beijing in 2008, but the tragic news from the Olympic trials in New York City today is that of the sudden death Ryan Shay. Initial reports state that the 28 year-old 2001 NCAA Champion (10,000 m) collapsed around the five-mile mark and was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 8:46 AM.

Shay was building on an already impressive running career. His list of plamares include:

  • 2001 NCAA Champion (10,000 m)
  • 2003-04 USA Half-Marathon Champion
  • 2003 USA Marathon Champion
  • 2004 USA 20 km Champion
  • 2005 USA 15 km Champion

Personal Best times included:

  • 3000 m : 7:58.5
  • 5000 m: 13:35:08
  • 10000 m: 28:26.91
  • Marathon: 2:14:08

Shay was also a nine-time NCAA All-American runner, and clearly a true champion. Although his marathon times would not have won him a big city marathon, he proved again and again that he had what it took to win races when it counted, as evidenced by his repeat title as the US Half-marathon Champion in 2003-04, and also by his numerous conference titles in the Big East.

Shay at trialsThe elite American men are a relatively small bunch, and his peers expressed their sadness after the trials today. Eventual winner Ryan Hall, shown on the line to the right of Shay, said,

“You never expect to hear anything like that and for it to be my good friend’s spouse, it cut me through the heart. He had such great heart.”

In an eerie and strange event from early in the race, the ambulance that carried Shay to the hospital passed the leaders at around 10 miles. One wonders how it could have shaken the competitors to know that their fellow runner was in trouble. Hall has dedicated his Olympic training to Shay’s memory.

Currently the cause of Shay’s death is unknown, and an autopsy is scheduled for later Saturday. Although his coach, Joe Vigil, said he was unaware of any health problems, sudden death is a risk during exercise and does occur even in apparently healthy and young atheltes, albeit very rarely. The cause of sudden death during exercise is almost always cardiac-related, and reports so far are that Shay received CPR on the way to the hospital.

We are stunned by this tragic loss, and here at The Science of Sport we send our deepest condolences to Shay’s wife Alicia, and his parents and seven siblings.