Fairfielder Runkel leads Loyola to national championship
Jonathan Quick isn't the only former Avon Old Farms goalie to win a championship this spring.
Fairfielder Jack Runkel backstopped Loyola University (Md.) men's lacrosse to its first national championship with a 9-3 win over the University of Maryland on May 28 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Loyola -- led by Runkel's five second-half saves and a staunch defensive effort -- shut out Maryland in the national championship game's second half. The Terrapins did not score in the game's final 40:40.
"To shut a team like Maryland out in the second half is crazy," Runkel said. "We played an awesome game and didn't give them any opportunities."
Runkel went to Fairfield Country Day School and is a 2010-graduate of the prestigious, boys-only boarding school in Avon. His brother, Sam-- also a Fairfield native-- presently is a midfielder at Avon Old Farms.
Jack did not start for the school's lacrosse program until his senior year, yet still led Winged Beavers' to a Founders League championship.
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"He developed immensely as a goalie his senior year here," Avon Old Farms varsity lacrosse coach Skip Flanagan said. "He was a major factor in us being the Founders League champion."
After playing in just one game as a freshman, Runkel enjoyed a meteoric-- and unexpected -- rise in 2012. The sophomore goalie did not start the season as the Greyhounds' starting goaltender.
But it was at halftime of the Greyhounds' fourth game when -- trailing 4-2, at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky.-- Loyola coach Charlie Toomey felt compelled to make a goalie switch and put his sophomore backup in the game.
"We felt he was a calming presence," Loyola coach Charlie Toomey said. "He's just a kid that kept growing."
The rest was history, as Loyola rallied to beat Bellarmine and Runkel proceeded to go 16-1-- only an overtime loss at rival Johns Hopkins kept the Greyhounds from an undefeated season-- with a .556 save percentage
and 7.30 goals-against average.
Yet it was Runkel's calm, communicative, nature that eased the Greyhounds ascent through the NCAA Tournament. Runkel stopped a season-high 15 shots in Loyola's 7-5, semifinal win over Notre Dame in the
Final Four in Foxborough.
"He played with a sense of composure," Toomey said. "He was the youngest guy on the field, but he was a natural leader."
Despite appearances, Runkel admitted he was naturally nervous,
especially in the Final Four and championship game.
"If you don't have nerves in that situation, you're not human," he said.
Runkel's former high school coach echoed Toomey's statements about Runkel's leadership abilities, but did not limit them to the lacrosse field. Flanagan cited Runkel's visible stance as a resident advisor.
"He was a leader at our school," Flanagan said. "He set the tone for much of the school at Avon by way of a quiet, effective demeanor."
According to Flanagan, Runkel was also an
avid rooter of Avon Old Farms' other sports -- including the school's
legendary hockey program.
"He was one of the most spirited supporters of their team," Flanagan said. "Despite his stance as one of the school's best athletes, it was never below him to vocally and visibly root for other teams."
Runkel admitted he would like to take on a stronger leadership role as a junior.
"I just want to be a leader to the younger guys like the kids older than me were," Runkel said.
"I think that's something, being a leader and a
mentor the same way those guys were to us."