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R. J. Page explodes out of the starting blocks, his muscular arms pumping the air, straining for every inch of gain. It takes him 10.52 seconds to cover the 100-meter dash, but for the sprinter who’s been twice named Most Outstanding Track Performer at the America East Outdoor Championships and once at the Indoor Championships, it seems like a very long 10.52 seconds.
“People always say the 100 or 200 is so short, but for those of us running, it’s really not,” says Page (CAS’13, SMG’13). “It’s even tougher for us sprinters because the tactical aspect is a lot more important than the 800 or the mile. I’m thinking constantly about holding my form, no matter how tired I get, and racing as strong as I can.”
Page has set several BU track and field team records: he holds the best time in the 200-meter dash (21.21) and shares, with teammates, the record for the 4×400 meter relay team (3:08.41), and the 4×200 meter relay (1:24.24), among others. The speed, he says, begins with a mental effort to get in the zone.
“It’s crazy, because a lot of the time you’re competing, you don’t hear anything,” he says. “Before the gun goes off, the only thing I’m thinking about is the sound of the gun, because that’s when I know how to react. It’s very important to listen to the sound of the gun, and because you practice it so much, when you hear it, you know what to do.”
Growing up in Swedesboro, N.J., Page says, he was known as “the fast kid,” but he didn’t start winning championships until his last two years of high school.
“I was always better at basketball,” he says. “I thought, my parents thought, and everyone that knew me thought I was going to be playing basketball in college. Then I had a breakout season my junior year in track and field. I started winning championships, and by the end of the year, I won a state title in the 100-meter dash and the college letters started flocking in.”
Page was courted by Ivy League schools, along with the University of Maryland and nearby Rutgers University. Ultimately, he says, it came down to Columbia and BU. He knew that he wanted to live in a city, but wasn’t sure which of the two colleges to choose.
“I delayed visiting BU because I didn’t know too much about it,” Page says. “Then I came here and I was just amazed. Once I learned more about BU, I discovered how challenging it was academically, and that’s something that I definitely wanted. Also, I felt BU had a great community outside of the athletics department.”
Although injury took its toll during his first two seasons at BU, Page burst onto the scene in his third season as a redshirt sophomore. The year was highlighted by a trip to the Penn Relays, which are the oldest track and field competition in the country, and for Page, an especially sweet event.
“I had been going there since I was a kid,” he says. “Everyone goes there. It’s a big event. I think we took second or third overall in the 4×400 relay and almost broke a school record. But just to compete in that environment in front of my family and friends was special.”
Page has since won the Coaches Award at the America East Outdoor Championships twice and has competed on the national level with some of the NCAA’s best. In February, he took sixth place in the 200-meter dash at the Collegiate Invitational, with a time of 21.52. Despite the victories, Page says, it took some time to fully appreciate his own accomplishments.
“Sometimes until you do something or reach a certain achievement, you don’t know what you’re capable of,” he says. “I think I have a certain level of confidence now. I know that if I continue to work and push myself, I can compete at that professional level.”
Page’s impressive performance is not limited to what his legs can do. He is graduating with a double major, in economics and business administration and management, and has a GPA of 3.49.
“I’ve been challenged here like I’ve never been challenged before,” he says. “Everyone here is smart, and they bring a lot to the table, working with them, studying with them, so I’ve learned a lot from everything the University has to offer.”
In April of last year, Page earned the E. Ray Speare Award as BU’s top male scholar-athlete. “It takes a special person to focus superior effort and talents, and R. J. works diligently to prepare for the challenges that await him,” says Michael Lynch, a vice president and athletics director. “This is a special gift that R. J. has, and the award was well deserved.”
For Page, it was the latest in a string of similar honors. When he graduated from elementary school, he won the award as best scholar-athlete. In middle school, he won the same award. And in high school, he won it again. Page says that despite that personal history, he couldn’t believe it when he learned of the BU award.
“Winning the E. Ray Speare Award at Boston University as top male scholar-athlete is something that I’ll never forget,” he says.
Page, who will graduate in May, already has a job lined up near home, in Philadelphia, with Cigna Health Insurance, in a business technology rotational program. Although he’s excited, he’s not sure if he can give up running just yet.
“When I accepted that job offer in the fall, I realized, OK, this is going to be it for me running, but as soon as I had my first meet this year, I just said to myself, I have to keep running—I’m going to miss it.”