After running the 800-Meter leg of the Distance Medley Relay for Amherst College at the 2019 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships, Ralph Skinner ’16 propelled his team to a fourth place finish and All-American honors.
At Andover, Skinner captained the Boys Cross Country team and was a four-year member of both Andover’s Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field teams. Skinner played an integral role on the Boys Cross Country team, setting precedents for years to come, according to teammate Sam Tobin ’18.
Tobin wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “His results spoke for themselves. When I think of grit, I think of Ralph. His [Upper] year, he ran an incredible [800-Meter] time with several strained muscles and, I believe, a lost shoe. I tried for years to match that level of determination, and every time I stepped on the line for an 800, I thought about that race.”
bout that race.” Skinner was elected Captain for the 2015 Fall season. Despite suffering an injury the summer before his Senior year, Skinner returned to running at the end of the season and led the team to a two-point victory over Phillips Academy Exeter. According to Skinner, this close victory is one of his favorite Andover memories.
Skinner said, “I think for cross country when we beat Exeter my Senior year it was a really impressive race both as an individual and as a team… We hadn’t beaten them in five or six years, so we finally snapped a streak and we beat them by two points on the home course, so that was pretty special. We beat them a couple years in a row after that and so I feel like that was, not necessarily a turning point for the program, but definitely a step up.”
On the track teams, Skinner excelled in the 800-Meter and 1500-Meter Races, also earning points in the 400-Meter Dash, 4×400-Meter Relay, and the Long Jump. According Coach Patrick Rielly, Skinner’s athletic ability and knowledge about racing significantly added to the strength of the Andover running programs.
Rielly said, “Ralph is an exceptional athlete. Whatever the team needed, Ralph gave us. In track, he ran every event from the [400-Meter Dash] to the [Two-Mile Race], and in between running events, he often longjumped. He always answered the call for [Track & Field] and [Andover] Cross Country… He has a genius for racing, both from his strong instincts and from his deliberate study of running. Ralph was always able to maximize his advantage in a race, and I loved seeing his brilliance in action.”
According to former teammate Holden Ringer ’17, Skinner is a humble and caring leader whose guidance contributed to the development and later success of both teams.
Ringer said, “The man never got as much athletic credit as he really deserved, and you’d never know because he was such a humble guy… I know he would have wanted to win a championship while he was at Andover but he did everything he possibly could to help the team achieve that goal, and although it didn’t happen for him, he set the precedent as a leader that allowed the track team to win a title in 2017 and a cross country title in 2018.”
Skinner attributes his passion for the sport and decision to run at the collegiate level to his Andover coaches and positive experience on the Andover teams.
“I never planned to run in college at all. I wasn’t thinking about that until, I guess, [Upper] year. So having such a positive experience on the Andover team made me realize this is something I’d love to keep doing for another four years, and I also had such good coaching from Coach [Rebecca] Hession, Coach [Jeffrey] Domina, Coach Rielly, the Coach [Rachel and Sean] Hylands, they were all really supportive of me and kept me motivated. So, I feel like Andover really taught me to love the sport,” said Skinner.
Skinner’s title of All-American comes after a long journey of recovery and only reaffirms his teammates respect for him, according to Ringer.
Ringer said, “Skinman showed me a lot about humility and being deliberate. He pushed through injuries at Andover and this season to become an All-American. I wish I could be half the runner that Skinman is and a quarter of the amazing person that he is. I’m glad me and him are still good friends because he has gone above and beyond earning my admiration.”
At the NCAA Championships, Skinner ran the third, 800-Meter leg of the Medley Relay.
Although leading up to the race Skinner felt a high pressure to succeed, once he was handed the baton, Skinner’s adrenaline kicked in and he was able to give his best effort.
Last year, Skinner and his Medley Relay team competed in the national championships and ended up placing ninth, just missing the eight-team cut-off for an All-American title. According to Skinner, returning this year and receiving this honor was joyful moment and culmination of the team’s hard work.
Skinner said, “I was elated… Going into this year, I think having that experience from 2018 we had somewhat more confidence, but there was still in the back of our minds that fear that we would miss out and be the ninth team again. I got to watch one of my best friends bring home the baton on that last [1600-Meter] leg, and I was just so happy and proud of the team coming in fourth. And it was great to get on the podium and see all my coaches, my teammates, and my dad in the stands cheering me on, so that was awesome.”