* Galen (left to right) Topper, Colin Peattie and Nolan Topper all announced their commitment to NCAA Division I universities this weekend
- - -
Much had been taken away from the talented trio from Bellarmine College Preparatory (CA) School over the past year, including a spring track and field season which could have yielded great success at the California Interscholastic Federation Championships.
But all three were smart enough to know that opportunities would come their way eventually. And all three were talented enough as distance runners to be recruited by NCAA Division I programs.
They continued to train and recover over the offseason months, with Nolan and Galen getting stronger by the day, while Colin nursed an injury before jumping back into training.
And so that trip to Utah came at a perfect time, and in a perfect moment. With the biggest decision of their lives looming, they co-opted the deliberation process, weighing together the pros and cons of each institution they were considering.
On a phone call with MileSplit last week, each revealed what led up to their decisions.
"We had many conversations about college, and where we would end up," Peattie said. "It was really helpful. We were able to sort though the whole process together because we had each other."
"Colin pretty much hit the nail on the head there."
By October, each were confident in where they ultimately landed.
On Sunday, Peattie, a Foot Locker Nationals finisher in 2019 who ran 4:09 for 1,600m and 9:09 for 3,200m as a sophomore -- in May, he was also No. 7 on MileSplit's ranking of the top 50 recruits in the Class of 2021 -- committed to the University of Virginia, adding to what already looks to be a stacked class for the Cavaliers.
The brothers -- Nolan, a Foot Locker Nationals finisher and a 9:09 3,200m runner; and Galen, with personal bests of 4:29 and 9:30 as a sophomore -- chose a place not far from where they resided, pledging to Stanford University.
"There were some weeks where we had 16 hours worth of calls," Nolan said. "It was a hard decision but we narrowed it down. ... While I wasn't able to get a good feel for other schools, we've been to Stanford so many times and we've done workouts on the track. So it was a school we had a really good feel for."
"And coach (Ricardo) Santos was a really, really organized coach," Galen added. "He called us every two weeks to check in. We had regular calls and had a good relationship. So when he asked, we were both ready ... the decision was probably not that difficult."
Peattie's decision was an unlikely one, though. He revealed that the first time he even spoke to a coach from Virginia was in July.
But from that moment on, he said, all roads led to Charlottesville.
"For me, I had a feel for the type of team that they were building out there and I knew I wanted to be a part of it," said Peattie, who joins national-level recruits Justin Wachtel, Nathan Mountain, Andrew Jones and Jackson Braddock as fellow commitments. "I was lucky enough to see the campus and it blew me away, the whole atmosphere."
The Toppers, meanwhile, had studied Stanford long and hard even before reaching high school. Both had wanted to enter into a robotics program at Bellarmine, not thinking scholarship opportunities in athletics would ultimately exist.
But then as each proceeding success came in cross country and track and field, Stanford's head cross country and distance coach, Santos, eventually came calling. It wasn't that hard of a choice for either -- especially considering the pandemic had eliminated official visits.
Residing less than four miles from campus, the brothers understood both the allure and reputation of the Cardinal better than most, both in its academic prestige and athletic tradition.
"When the opportunity presented itself for us to go, it was hard to turn down," Nolan said.
"Stanford has always been my dream school," Galen added. "I never really though I was good enough to go as an athlete, but really this year I kind of saw it as a place of the future."
At the very least, the Cardinal are betting on the ceilings of both runners, too.
Both recently completed threshold 5K time trials on the track, finishing in identical times of 14:55, and the duo also ran sub-4:20 1,600m efforts. Recently, Nolan was seventh at the Desert Twilight Invitational in a career best 15:13.17 for 5K, while Galen was eighth in 15:14.90.
* Peattie's 4:10 in the preliminaries from the 2019 CIF State Championships
- - -
Peattie, meanwhile, is still building base mileage following an injury to his right leg. He finished 22nd at Desert Twilight in a time of 15:32.76, adding "it was kind of for fun to be in that environment, considering I'm not time trialing or doing any crazy workouts."
As his fitness gets back to 100-percent, so will his impact.
And Peattie has a very high potential success rate, too. As a sophomore, he was top 50 in the U.S. in the 1,600m with his 4:09.99, and within California's top 20 runners in the 3,200m with his 9:09.17.
In cross country, he also owns a 5K personal best of 14:54.40 from the Foot Locker West Regional, and went 15:06.80 at Woodward Park to close out his junior season. He was 22nd overall at Foot Locker.
One last positive? He has 52-second 400m speed.
But as he reviewed his decision, Peattie also said he was as much intrigued about competition in the ACC as he was about building a culture with the Cavaliers under renowned head coach Vin Lananna.
"Virginia reminded me a lot of what we have here at Bellarmine; our entire cross country team is seniors. We're like a family," he said. "These kids I hang out with on Fridays at lunch and they're my best friends. Virginia will be similar. We have five distance guys in our class and we're going to go to war with each other. That brings me confidence that I've made the right decision."
The Toppers know they will have to work hard, and run well, to have opportunities at the varsity level at Stanford. But that elite-level standard was what primarily drove Galen towad Stanford in the first place.
"My goal is to help the team as much as I can, whether I'm running unattached or not. I'm just super grateful that I'll get to train with those guys."
"The last guy on the team is just as important as the first," Nolan said, "and having teammates like Thomas Boyden and Robert DiDonato from Foot Locker, that will give us some sense of familiarity and welcome."
Of course, the trio's high school career isn't over just yet, though.
The main course awaits in 2021 as the start of the California cross country season begins.
As one of the nation's top returning teams -- Bellarmine was a preseason No. 4 pick by MileSplit and currently sits at No. 5 in the team standings -- the Bells are looking to win their first CIF Division I championship in school history.
Personal accomplishments aside, that's what's driving Peattie and the Toppers in the coming year.
"That's what we're living for," Peattie said. "We're going for that title."