THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — If you were to ask a runner why they choose to run, majority of them will say that they chase a feeling known to most as a “runner’s high.” If you were to ask Cal Lutheran freshman and new cross country team member, Dillan Barmache, why he runs, you’ll hear a different story.
Native to Woodland Hills, Barmache has been running since he was 14. After starting off in a local track program with his brother, called the Cheetahs, he found his love for running.
“Ever since, it has become a steady part of my life. It has been a calming force that keeps me focused,” Barmache communicated through his message board.
Barmache has a nonverbal form of autism that doesn’t allow him the complete control over his motor functions, and running is the one thing that gives him that feeling he lacks.
“I cannot always get my body to act in a way that I intend and I make impulsive motions that pull me in directions I do not choose,” Barmache said.
Though Barmache is different from your average athlete on a daily basis, when he steps into practice or race mode, he is just like everybody else.
“When I run, I feel in control for long stretches of time. I do exactly what I intend to do and I do it well. I do not often feel that sense of controlled accomplishment and so running becomes the time where I move exactly how I intend,” Barmache said.
There to help push Barmache to excel in both the classroom and on race day is the Cal Lutheran cross country coach, Brett Halvaks.
“Although it has only been a month, I can already see how passionate Dillan is when it comes to running and academics,” Halvaks said. “I’m really excited that I get the opportunity to work with Dillan and I hope I can be there to make him the best runner he can be over the next four years.”
A member of the honor roll and earning excellence in AP Psychology in high school, Barmache entered Cal Lutheran with plans to excel in the classroom and major in psychology.
“I have been feeling the ups and downs of this major transition coming to college, but one thing that this campus has provided is a warm sense of acceptance. Everyone I met has been wonderful,” Barmache said.
Halvaks explained, “I strongly believe that Dillan has become just another one of the Kingsmen, he is not treated any different and we love having him as a part of the team.”
In addition to his teammates, Barmache also had to get to know another new team member. Running with him this year is someone who is no stranger to collegiate distance running, Cal Lutheran Cross Country and Track alumnus, Dan Tustin, who will act as Barmache’s guide in races and at practice.
“When I met Dillan, I realized that running was more to him than just a hobby or something that he did just for fun. It’s such an important part of his life and it means more to him than almost anyone else out there on race day,” Tustin said.
Being an alum, Tustin will be able to offer advice to Barmache about not only running, but about Cal Lutheran as a whole.
“My goal was always to find a partner who was an alum of the program if possible,” said Halvaks on his decision in hiring Tustin. “We are very fortunate that Dan has been able to work with Dillan as he knows the CLU Cross Country program, was a team captain in our program and has coaching aspirations himself.”
Tustin, who has knowledge on going into a first collegiate race, also helps to push Barmache to maximize his athletic potential.
“He is pushing me to get better and since he knows the routine so well, it is like having my own personal coach to help me,” Barmache said.
Since the start of the season, Barmache and his teammates have completed the Mark Covert Classic and the UC Riverside Invitational.
“It felt great to run for the first time as a college athlete,” Barmache said. “I was not nervous or anxious at all- I just felt focused.”
As for season goals, Barmache hopes to get his average mile down to around - seven minutes and is getting faster every day. After his second race, Barmache beat his own personal record and improved from his 36:37 time by two minutes (34:13.2).
“He executed the race plan him and I talked about earlier in the week perfectly and ran even faster than I was hoping for him to,” Halvaks said. “This was a great race for him and I can’t wait to see how much he improves throughout the rest of the season.”
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Feature by Alexa Barnes, Sports Information Student Assistant