by Joyce Lee, Sports Reporter
photo illustration by Kaila Hanna
Philip Batler, ‘16 graduate and now a ‘20 graduate of Brown University, is leaving behind an iconic track and field legacy. As a sophomore at South, Batler was indoor divisional state champion in the 300-meter dash and, a year later, placed second in the 300-meter dash at the New England Indoor Track and Field Championships.
At Brown, he competed in the short sprints during both the winter and spring track seasons. His events included the 60- and 200-meter dashes for indoor track and the 100- and 200-meter dashes and 4×100 meter relay for outdoor track. At Brown, he holds top-10 all-time records in three events: fourth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.78 seconds, ninth in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.90 and 10th as part of the 4×100 relay with a cumulative time of 41.34.
Flashback a few years to 2015 and 2016, Batler said he had one goal: to run Division 1 track. The route to Division 1 was not easy, but Batler learned to navigate the process.
“You have to learn how to market yourself,” said Batler. “I was not good at that, and I think I missed out on some opportunities because I didn’t know how to present myself as a valuable asset to coaches.”
Batler said he would advise his younger self to consider more than a school’s reputation and prestige when weighing colleges’ offers.
“I wish that someone, especially thinking back to what I was like as a student at South, had told me to pay attention to more than just the name,” he said. “Really focus on what you think your experience is going to be like.”
He said he evaluated the team dynamics at the schools he was considering to ensure he would be motivated to help the team and compete once at college.
“I remember Steve McChesney, the girls cross country and track coach [at South], said that you’re going to have a lot more fun if you run for a team where from the minute you’re on the team, you want to be able to contribute,” Batler said. “I’m really glad that I took that advice.”
Batler said that he has, in fact, connected with the team social environment and with his teammates, who come from a range of backgrounds.
“You’re thrown into this ocean, coming from a pond, and there’s really no way to prepare for that. But I think I got really lucky that my sport is track, which really doesn’t discriminate against race or socioeconomic status,” he said. “There are so many different types of people, and it makes for a more enjoyable social experience.”
Batler said his transition from dominating high school competition to facing stronger collegiate opponents was tougher than he expected.
“It wasn’t until my absolute last race of the season [freshman year] that everything clicked, and that was the first time I got a compliment from my coach all year,” he said.
The pandemic cut Batler’s senior year short, forcing him to miss his final track season in its entirety.
“I was really looking forward to this last season, where everything was going to culminate. I was going to run really fast, and then it just didn’t happen,” he said. “Taking time to look back at all the hard work I put into it, all the friends I made, it’s not like I didn’t accomplish anything, and that’s more than satisfying enough to me.”
Batler said his skill stems from experience and friendships rather than an athletic family. He said his successes made his hard work worth it.
“I love that pain that you get from a workout, where your lungs feel like they’re about to pop because it means you’re working hard and it means you’re doing something productive and you’re working toward your goals,” he said. “That euphoria from the hard work is what kept me going.”
The Boston Marathon is Batler’s next athletic goal. He said that the shift to distance running will be a long journey, but one he’s looking forward to.
As he moves onto the next phase, where he said he hopes to work in art education and art museums, Batler said he will take the lessons he learned from track with him.
“You can have the best race of your life, but if the person in the lane next to you has an even better race, then you’re going to lose,” he said. “That’s why you have to focus on yourself and be proud of your own accomplishments.”
Despite major life changes, Batler said that one thing will never change.
“As long as I can still move my feet, I’ll be running.”