Rory Quiller ’08 was a three-time All-American pole vaulter who became Binghamton Division I’s first national champion when he won the NCAA title during the closed season 2008. Bearcat also competed in the Olympic Tests the same year, coming out in 14th place in the preliminary competition. Quiller graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2007 and earned an MBA at BU in 2010. He enrolled at the BU Hall of Fame in 2013.
What initially pushed you in the field of sports?
My father for over 40 years was a Division I field coach, so … he thought athletics in general offered a lot of educational value and gave a lot of good lessons. We were in sports, not necessarily on the track and field, but any sport you could imagine… Being very much on the track, and given his profession, had a natural attraction to go that route. Undoubtedly he had an experience to give me and my brothers, all following the field and the field.
Would you describe your interest in the sport, as you said, a natural attraction, or was it something you were better at than the other sports you played?
I loved going to the track and spending time with my dad [and my brothers] on the runway. I liked his individual aspect while still contributing to a team. But [choosing] The pole basket in particular was more than I was not fast enough to become a sprinter [and] I wasn’t strong enough to be the distance runner, so I found one that was very technical and probably rewarded the hard work more than any other event. There was little self-reflection towards pole vault because I was not athletic enough to do any of the other things.
Do you still remember the feeling of going to the Olympic Trials and winning the NCAA title as well?
I remember them relatively well, along with the tides and other ebbs of my career. It is never what people expect because some of my biggest disappointments are in the biggest meetings and some of my biggest successes are in the biggest meetings … I think they all contribute in the way that how I look and handle things now as a coach and as a dad, but I remember those situations well. I am grateful for the education they gave me. Olympic rehearsals, it is frustrating not to create a team when you go there twice and try, but not everything shines with those memories.
You can talk about [Binghamton head coach] Mike Thompson and his role in your career?
It’s hard to exaggerate what [Thomspon] aimed at my career and me as an individual as well. I hesitate to call him a parent figure or something, but he was critical of my development as a pillar driver. It immediately gave me an opportunity that not many Division I schools gave me outside of high school. Moreover, he believed in me and took the time to gather that methodical approach to take us to a higher level. Psychologically, I think he fits in perfectly with the type of person I was. I knew he cared a lot about what I did, so he knew the time to push me when he felt my attention start to wander, but even more he knew not to get in the way of things, as if I was not doing well a meeting, he knew I had it harder than anyone else … Now I recruit for another school and people ask me, “What do you think of this school or this coach?” or whatever, and it all has to do with how you fit into a program. To me, Thompson was the perfect fit.
Do you still continue with BU athletics?
I’m not big on social media or anything, but I have my own small Twitter account with 100 followers that explodes into “Mackay” or “Schaffer” and obviously when [Jesse] Garn and Eric [Holt] were there, Keishorea [Armstrong]With I try to keep up with those things quite regularly, reading some press releases and results. I’m still on the field and on the field, you know, still on the training side of things… I go around the office talking to our distance coaches talking about “14th in the national team? Would you believe that? ”And those things make me very excited about where the program is and how [Binghamton cross country head coach Annette] Acuff and Thompson are doing.
What were some of the key lessons and values that the sport of athletics gave you?
There is no greater teacher than the “friendly fields of strife.” There is nothing that teaches accountability [and], which relates at least, hard work to success. Some of those things are just cooked with field and field. One of the correlations I reached was my inner motivation and how this could affect my athletic success. It made me feel like I could do things that are not necessarily “sexy” things, like [Karsten] Warholm tore his shirt after breaking the world record … that guy does a ton of other things before you get to that point, and there are a lot of things people don’t want to do. I am not claiming to be anywhere near that level, but only on a smaller scale, what lent me success was that I was disciplined. I had some sleep time. I made sure all the things that went into my body were not just empty calories and alcohol and I tried my best to stay focused on things off the track and give my full effort on the track as well. I think thankfully it was reinforced by the early success that further perpetuated that cycle … It stems from what you do in your life as a father, man [and] an employee, and starting to realize that if I can help a little on the one hand, then maybe this will help the company improve, you know? There are many lessons out there. I enjoy my educational trip to Binghamton, but one of the biggest components of that education was the track and the field.
As a coach, what general advice would you give to college athletes based on what you have learned and what you see?
I’m very lucky to be here at an institution here at [United States] The Maritime Academy that shares my sense of professional athletics and what pursuing and aiming for athletics should be. You can not miss a Diamond League event, [Olympic] Judgments [and] The Olympics, and many of those stories are about mental health – this person struggling with depression, this person facing disaster. The thing I try to give to my athletes is that you need to make sure you are well rounded – you are not allowing yourself to be defined as a pole driver or sprinter. You have to be versatile enough to survive when you are no longer that thing. I always try to be a good teammate or be a good student. You are trying to take the lessons you have learned and apply them to other points in your life, so that when the track is not part of your life, it does not cause an identity crisis. I think I see him a lot in athletics. What is really good about being in an institution like that [United States] The Maritime Academy is that there is a certain time you are doing athletics, then make a higher call to serve your country … If you are trying to improve yourself and be versatile, then I think it would help a lot in the aspect of mental health issues you sometimes see with athletes.
What are some of the biggest conclusions and discoveries you have made since graduating from college to this point?
I continue with BU athletics, and you know [redshirt senior Lou DePrez], they will compare it to [Tommy Lister Jr.] AND [John] Peterson, and this is a strange comparison, but it is only natural in athletics. People will compare Monique Hacker with Brian Hamilton to me with Keishora [Armstrong] . At the end of the day we want to try to find a “ranking”, and what I found after collegiality is that you can relate to this. At the end of the day, the things that have influenced me most collegially [are] the things people do every day that are more influential than the trophy you have in your closet. There is sometimes a stressor in a championship, but the lessons you learn … Speaking of my younger brother, about whom I think the world, the best man at his wedding got married last summer. When I had kids, he was my number one. He would sacrifice for my children. If this is not the greatest thing to do for someone, then I do not know what është [That’s] the thing I think we should celebrate… What matters is, “What lesson did Jesse Garn learn from being a high-caliber athlete and how will this affect him as a person when he needs to help someone in need with spine against wall? “This is something like a father that I came to learn and appreciate. This is a society I would like us to celebrate more – people doing selfless things that I think are deeper than a national title or an Olympic team or something.
How would you describe your life now?
I feel very lucky. If you ask me when I was in college, “Oh, do you want a family?” I would have said, “Ah, I really do not care.” … I have to say, having children and being married to my wife and being very happy… is very satisfying and I can not believe I am lucky to have that family and have a job that suits my passion that I can follow and jump in hem I feel lucky and humbled. It all comes back to being a dad now, watching my dad die in 2012, thinking when I was younger, “If I could win something, it would be good,” at least for my dad. I thought when I was younger, but then I had kids and seeing my eldest daughter doing soccer coaching now, you sit there and realize it’s not just about achievement. It’s about watching your child do something they are passionate about and enjoy. This was the thing that made me open my eyes to my father seeing me win national. He did not care that I won a national championship. He cared that I succeeded in something I was passionate about. I think all of this is coming home now as a dad.
Quiller became a rod arch coach at the Navy in 2012, defending his athletes in multiple podium cleanups in Patriot League races. His current profession is as a physical discipline instructor at the United States Naval Academy. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife Mandy, his daughters Kira and Lacey and his dog, the Bronx.