OGDEN -- Amazing. Driven. Leader. Example. Hero. Spiritual. Fast.
Ogden High School senior Mike Buckley's friends and coaches use all those words to describe the leader of a successful cross country and track team. He has helped his team win two state titles in the last three years.
And he's done so against some of the odds.
"He is a kid who came from really underdog circumstances and I have watched him work harder than anyone else to meet his goals," said an emotional Alydia Barton, one of Buckley's coaches. "He's really an example of the American dream."
Last week, he took the next step along that dream and signed to run at Weber State University after he completes his two-year mission for the LDS church.
Buckley knew from a very young age he wanted to go to college, but he also knew he would need a scholarship to make that dream a reality. He thought he may achieve it playing soccer, but he was wrong.
Buckley, the oldest of six children, ran his first race for Mount Ogden Junior High when he was in eighth grade. Buckley said he ran because of all the cute girls on the team.
He ran for the cross country team for Ogden High as a ninth-grader and was doing well enough to run varsity as the fifth man.
"I knew I was pretty good, but I wanted to quit so I could play soccer," Buckley said.
He decided to quit after that first high school cross country season, but decided to run track to keep him conditioned for soccer. As the season progressed, he realized he couldn't do both sports, and do them well.
"I'm the kind of person that if I do something I'm going to do it the best I can," Buckley said.
When he told one of his track coaches of his decision to only run track, the coach was a little worried.
"I didn't know for sure what he was capable of yet and I worried about him putting all of his eggs in one basket," Barton said. But as she watched him put all his efforts into running, she knew he has made the right choice.
Buckley recently ran the mile in 4:25 a couple of weeks ago at the Olympic Oval and ran 9:28 in the 3,200 at Simplot Games in Idaho last week. Both are impressive times at the high school level.
He finished second at the 4-A state championships last fall and ran fifth at Nike Southwest Regionals earning a spot to run at Nike Nationals last December.
Buckley is only the second boy from Ogden High School to earn that recognition.
In addition, he holds the record for the fastest time run at his home cross country course at Mt. Ogden Park.
Don Hall, one of Buckley's other coaches also saw potential in young runner as a ninth grader. He laughs when he talks about Buckley and two of his buddies.
"I have always called them the three freshmen," said Hall, who admits it has been wonderful to watch the three do so well.
Hall said Buckley is successful not only in running, but in life.
"He is the consummate student athlete. He is academically solid. He has a good work ethic and works hard in the classroom and when he runs," Hall said.
Buckley really put the pedal to the medal this summer when he ran 1,001 miles to prepare for his senior season. As for grades, he has a 3.9 GPA and plans to go into pre-med at WSU to hopefully become a doctor.
Buckley loves his sport, but admits it is hard work, always.
"Running is what I like to do. Not who I am," Buckley said.
While he likes beating records and doing well, what is most important to him is being an example to others.
"I want to live my life in a way and accomplish things to be an example to my brothers and sisters and teammates," Buckley said.
He also is quick to give credit to everyone else -- his coaches, his teammates and one of his greatest examples, former teammate Jordan Cross.
Cross graduated last year and helped Buckley all along the way.
"We thought when Jordan made all those records last year they would stay, but Mike has come along and beat them. Now he will be chasing them in the track season," Hall said.
"He has exceeded all of our expectations," Hall said of Buckley.
Teammate and one of Buckley's best friends, Justin Sheets is also proud of his friend's success.
"We have always been there for each other," Sheets said. "We set goals and it's great to see that Mike has been able to do it. He is a leader for us and is always pushing the younger guys to do better and they listen to him."
Hall is sure there will be more records when track season starts next month and Buckley smiles shyly as Hall talks about it.
"I think it will happen," Hall said.