Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Brethren runner among 2008 Olympians.

Most Brethren don't take the verse "Run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Cor. 9:24b) quite as literally as Woodbury (Pa.) Church of the Brethren member Brian Sell.

Brian qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, with a third-place finish in the US marathon trials last November, and he will represent the United States at the Games in August. He had led the 2004 qualifying race before fading the last few miles, so going this time fulfills a dream.

"After that I realized I could do it," says Sell, who turned 30 in April. "I really made it a goal to make it in 2008."

He started running as a way to stay in shape for football, but soon running became the focus. His college career began at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., before he transferred to Saint Francis University in Loretto, where he received a partial scholarship. Now, Sell appears on the cover of Saint Francis’ magazine, part of his newfound celebrity status.

"We’re getting a lot of attention we never got before," says Brian’s mother, Lois Sell, who lives in Woodbury. "A lot of people come up and congratulate us. We’re really happy for Brian."

She said the Woodbury congregation-which includes many other Sell family members, and where Brian’s great-grandfather preached-has been praying regularly for Brian. And about 100 church members and friends traveled to New York for the November race. "They announced that (Brian) had the biggest cheering section there," she says. "We were most appreciative of that."

Brian currently lives with his wife, Sarah (from Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren), and baby daughter in the Detroit area, where he runs with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. When he’s finished running, though, likely in the next year or two, he plans to move back to Woodbury and the church that has cheered him on in his latest endeavors.

"My Sunday school teachers and everyone have written me letters," Brian says. "It’s a big source of support."

His parents and wife and daughter will all make the trip to Beijing in August to do some more cheering. The marathon takes place on Aug. 24, the last day of the Games.

--Walt Wiltschek is editor of the Church of the Brethren "Messenger" magazine. This piece will appear in the July/August issue.

Source: 7/2/2008 Newsline

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