Like plenty of prep football programs, the Longwood (Fl.) Lyman High football team was looking for a way to kick off spring practices with a bang. That’s when the school’s football coach got an idea by looking at his own team’s mascot.
As covered in detail by the Orlando Sentinel, the Lyman football program officially started its 2013 spring training program with a unique set of sprints, pitting the fastest Lyman High Greyhounds against actual greyhounds.
In the end, the Lyman coaches set up seven races between the team’s fastest players at different positions and greyhounds at the Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club. The event was a chance for the Lyman football program to help raise funds for the Kennel Club to help retired Greyhounds, all while getting the offseason practice sessions started in a way that could help inspire an energetic push forward.
Lyman coach Jeff Gierke told the Sentinel that the one-of-a-kind race series was initially the idea of the Sanford-Orlando track manager in 2012. While that manager has moved on, the idea he planted stuck and Gierke followed up, setting the stage for a $1 entry fee man v. dog invitational in 2013.
To even up the odds, the track had the dogs run 200 yards while the human greyhounds raced 100 yards. That distance edge was mitigated by the dogs running on their home surface, with the football players racing across a grass and pavement path adjacent to the dirt track.
In the end, the humans did better than one might have expected. Three of the Lyman players emerged victorious, making the dogs 4-3 series winners but the humans the stars in the eyes of public perception, none moreso than 300+-pound offensive lineman Brock Merritt, who stunned his greyhound counterpart to emerge with a narrow match race victory.
“I’m 6-6 and weight 305 pounds and I usually run about a 5.2 or 5.1,” Merritt told the Sentinel. “When I started out I thought I had it, then I heard the thing coming up behind me and I kicked it into overdrive because I got scared and thought I was going to lose. I was like, ‘Man, I don’t think I got this.’ But I just pushed through and I got it.
According to his teammate and quarterback Jared Reimel, the race was a wholesome yet surreal experience for all involved.
“Coach Gierke said, ‘We’re racing a greyhound,’ and I tweeted him back and said, ‘Who’s running it?’ and he said, ‘You are.’ There’s really no mental preparation for it. You just know these dogs are so much faster than you and you just put your head down and try to run as fast as you can because you know if you look back it’s over.
“It’s kind of like in a football game, you know, where you take off on a big run and you can just feel this thing coming up out of the corner of your eyes and it just passes you. That’s the only way I can think of describe it; I was just surprised that it came up out of nowhere.”
No matter what comes in the fall, at least now the human greyhounds will know that they’ve run with the best and held their own, all while helping a good cause.