July 7, 2006
College Park, Md. - It was a scorching hot day on the track at the University of North Carolina in the spring of 1974. Al Carey, a senior distance runner on the University of Maryland track team, lined up for the lone heat of the mile run along with a few dozen Atlantic Coast Conference competitors. The sun's rays bounced off the asphalt and right into the runners' shoes, but Carey and his teammates were on a mission to bring the Terps their 19th consecutive ACC outdoor track title.
When the race was over, runners from Duke and North Carolina took the top two spots, but they were followed closely by Carey in third, his roommates Tony Garner and Kevin Conheeny in fourth and fifth, and then-Terp freshman Rusty Rankin in sixth. "For it to be the roommates like that was really special," remembered Carey. "Plus, we grouped ourselves well enough to outscore them." The Terps would extend their title streak, a remarkable run that eventually reached 24 straight ACC outdoor track titles.
Carey, a Long Island native, was recruited to join the Terps for the 1969-70 season. Despite being heavily recruited by several other schools, Carey fell in love with the College Park campus the first time he visited, and accepted the Maryland offer despite the fact that they could only afford to give him a half scholarship for that first season. Carey spent five years at College Park, redshirting one season. By his senior year, the government major had an internship lined up on Capitol Hill when a recruiter for Proctor and Gamble called. They were interested in Carey, at the time the president of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity chapter on campus, for his leadership skills. "They were looking for leaders," remarked Carey. "They said they'd teach me the business part later."
Carey took the position and Proctor and Gamble and began working his way up in the business world. During those 20 years after graduation, Carey had few opportunities to visit College Park, but that changed in the mid-1990s, when he began recruiting business students on campus for the company. Soon thereafter, Carey moved onto a new position at PepsiCo, and was instrumental in the contract that brought Pepsi products to campus.
As his business contacts with the University continued to grow, Carey became involved with the Board of Trustees and served on the Dean's Advisory Council for the School of Education. His attention never strayed far from the track, though, and he pushed for clearance to raise money to help newly-installed Coach Andrew Valmon improve the Terrapins' track program.
At the time, the track team had only two scholarships to offer to potential athletes. That, Carey realized, would not be enough to field a strong team. Once he got the clearance he needed, Carey immediately began providing money to build the track team's coffers. Now, the team has 7.5 scholarships with which to build an exciting team. "The University of Maryland gave me great opportunities to achieve in my life," said Carey. "I want to help provide some of those leadership opportunities for the team today."
Currently the CEO of Frito-Lay North America, Carey has still been able to attend a few Terps meets, and likes what he's seen in recent times. "They have an outstanding coach," Carey said of Valmon. "I saw them at the Terrapin Invitational this season, and it's remarkable what huge strides they've made in the past two years. I think the scholarships are helping that."
The Atlantic Coast Conference may never again see the dominance of Terrapin Track and Field in the 1960s and 1970s, of which Al Carey played a small part. But he's playing a big part in making sure that the Terps of the 21st Century have every opportunity to rewrite the record books and once again become a force on the track.