Runners Q&A: Sterling Sharpe

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Runners Q&A: Sterling Sharpe
Greensboro Day School senior Sterling Sharpe during the fall cross country season (all photos courtesy of Allen Sharpe).

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Sterling Sharpe has experienced success in the water, on his bicycle and on foot. And this fall he won a state cross country championship competing for Greensboro Day School. Sterling is featured in a Q&A format in today's Runners profile.

Age: 17.
Residence: Greensboro.
Family: Mother, Michelle; father, Allen; brother, Hudson. Grandson of the late Eddie Bridges, founder of the N.C. Wildlife Habitat Foundation, a former Elon track and field athlete and a member of the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame and North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Notable: Triathlete, E3 Endurance. ... Fifth place in 15-19 at USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Milwaukee in August; qualified for world championships and for junior national team (declined both invitations). ... Was a top-five triathlon nationals finisher six years in a row. ... Four-time all-conference runner, one-time conference champion, two-time all-county runner at Greensboro Day School. ... On GDS swim team. ... Has won multiple Trivium Racing triathlons. ... Undefeated in E3 Endurance's Junior 7.03 Triathlon Series.
Other interests: Video games (Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, Madden, FIFA, NHL), fantasy football.
Why it's running over swimming: "To be a competitive swimmer, it takes an abnormal amount of your life to do it. The schedule for year-round swimmers is something I could not comprehend ever going back to. They'll wake up at 5, they'll go to practice from 5:30 to 7. They'll go to school. And then they'll come right back after school for an hour of weights, another two hours in the pool, and then they'll eat dinner. And by the time they even get their homework done, it's 11 o'clock and they have to go to bed. They have no time to really enjoy themselves. When you're running, you're able to socialize a lot more with your teammates and your friends. And every running practice is very different in the way you can run vs. in a swim practice, it's just down and back. It's you in the pool. And you're staying on that black line and just going over and over and over and over again."

RS: You're a runner and a triathlete. How did you get started?

Sharpe: "I started in triathlon when I was 4. I started doing that because my dad would run 5Ks everywhere and I'd always want to hop out of the stroller, just run it with him. And then I did swimming lessons with a little swim instructor back then. The first team I was really on was a triathlon team (E3 Endurance, coached by Coach Matt Clancy). I've done that ever since. Since I've seen a lot of success in it, I've kind of just kept doing it for all this time. ...

A young Sterling Sharpe at a triathlon. 

"My love for running and triathlon stems from my love for being competitive. I love to win. And I love to see progress and really work hard toward a goal. And being able to do that and show my effort everywhere I go, that's probably my biggest reward for going out and competing."

RS: Tell us about winning the NCISAA Class 3-A state cross country championship this fall, a 16:04.80 5K at Hagan Stone Park.

Sharpe: "I felt horrible the whole way until the last mile, and something just clicked. The whole race, George Lawson (a Forsyth Country Day School freshman) took it out front, and I've raced against him all year. He's a really, really, really fast freshman. He always keeps me on my toes. And he just took it from the gun. I was like, 'I gotta go get him.' It was a great sprint at the end.

Sterling Sharpe on his competitive nature: 'It's all about your mentality, being the dog on the day.'

"He had about 10 seconds on me with a mile and a quarter to go. And I've made it down to about five or six with 1K to go. We came out of a big hill in the trails, and we were running next to a road and I could see him, 60 or 70 yards in front of me. Had to go chase him down. That was probably the hardest I've ever run in my life. I caught him at 200, sat on his heels, and I knew from previous races I could outkick him. I waited to get around the last tree and just let the hammer down and didn't look back."

RS: Can you describe what a typical week of training might look like for you?

Sterling Sharpe completing the first leg at the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee.

Sharpe: "If I'm going into – I'll say the summer for example – it's more of a Monday, Friday, Saturday, I'm doing triathlon work. Swimming, biking, running. Getting about four or five miles in the water and logging about 80 to 100 miles on the bike. And then throughout the week, I'm running and going to power classes and filling out the rest of my schedule with about 40 to 50 miles of running through the week. So my mileage isn't crazy on any one of the three; it's just trying to keep myself in a good balance."

Sterling Sharpe during the second leg at the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee.

RS: Who has inspired you the most as an athlete?

Sharpe: "One would be my parents showing up to every race and sometimes running more than I do to get around the course cheering me on. I remember trying out for the basketball team in middle school; I wasn't good at basketball. I remember getting the talk from my mom on 'do what you're good at, stick to what you're good at and work on it and that's what'll take you far.' That was one of my biggest motivators to keep running and swimming and doing all that so I can really be my best athlete.

Sterling Sharpe has succeeded in swimming, cycling and running, and he credits others for their pushes.

"The other one would be my girlfriend, Lucy Eggleston (an All-America triathlete in 2021). She has one of the best work ethics I've ever seen. She'll push me to go to practice and get me out of bed so I can actually go do the work I need to do to be the best. She and Jake Adler have some of the best work ethics I've ever seen. They'll outwork me every day of the week. They're the people that push me to always keep going and push me to put in more effort every single day."

RS: How has Matt Clancy helped you develop as an athlete?

Sterling Sharpe with his coach, Matt Clancy of E3 Endurance, after a victory at the YMCA Wilmington Sprint Triathlon in September.

Sharpe: "He's like a second dad at this point. He's just been there forever. He's done so much, from giving me workouts to life advice to just making me work harder every day. He pushes everybody to no end and really gives them great advice to get to their best performance and best fitness. He's been in the game for a long time, and he really knows what he's doing. He's just a phenomenal coach for me."

Sterling Sharpe with Matt Clancy in Sharpe's early days of triathlon. 

RS: Tell us why your Wildlife Habitation Foundation cap is so special to you.

Sharpe: "I've been wearing this cap for years now. It started out as a comfort thing, me just wearing the hat because I liked wearing hats when I was maybe eighth grade, freshman year.

Sterling Sharpe, shown after his victory at the NCISAA Class 3-A state cross country championship, races in a North Carolina Wildlife Habitat Foundation cap as a tribute to his late grandfather, Eddie Bridges.

"When my grandfather passed away (May 2021), I started to wear the hat pretty much everywhere I went, a way to remember him. I wear it in every triathlon, in every cross country and track race I can. Just means a lot to me. It always gives me like a little chip on my shoulder to go out and try harder.

"Natural competitiveness takes you places you can never imagine, just having that sheer willpower to go out and win and try to be the best person on the day. I've seen athletes who are nowhere near where they should be on a race day. But that race day, they'll show up and give the best guys a run for their money. It's all about your mentality, being the dog on the day. ...

"He came to all of my events. He loved watching them. He would always come out and support me at triathlons and track races and things of that nature. He was a sprinter, so he never really knew how to run long distance. So he wouldn't give me any running motion advice, but he's like, 'You can get him. Why didn't you push it here or here?' He really tried to give me the best advice to get better. He was great for that."

RS: What do you want to do next?

Sharpe: "I want to go to college. I want to run. I've been talking to High Point a lot. I've been looking at Elon and N.C. State, just exploring options. But I really do like the team at High Point and spend a lot of time with the guys there.

"I have no idea what I want to do major-wise. I just want to be successful, whatever I do, and go out, make a living and enjoy myself

RS: What have you learned about yourself through all of this athletic competition?

Sharpe: "That I and anyone else can do so much more than they say they can. And if you're tapping out, then you're lying to yourself. Everybody has another gear. Everybody can do better than what they're at. And everybody can improve."

Sterling Sharpe will graduate in the spring from Greensboro Day School.