As an underclassman at GMVS when Keck was a senior, I have a couple short memories of him I’ll pass along here:

Keck was two years ahead of me at GMVS, a senior when I started as a sophomore in the fall of ’85-86. Before I’d even met him, I saw this huge Hulk of a man strolling across campus and remember asking, “Is that one of our coaches?” No, that’s a student. His name’s Keck, someone said. I asked for his first name, but they said, “Don’t bother. Just call him Keck.” He truly towered above me, and I feared he’d be another cruel senior who liked beating up on underclassman, but the first thing he said to me was, “Hey dude, nice Cinelli cap!” Holy crap. A senior complemented my cycling hat. He was as kind and friendly as they get, and I felt like, “Hey, maybe this school’s gonna work out just fine.”

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Once I ran into Keck in the gym, and as I was wrapping up a set of squats, Keck walks up and said, “You all done with that?” I nodded yes, as Keck walked up to the rack. I was quite pleased with myself that the strong-as-an-ox Eric Keck would be squatting the same weight I was, even if just a warm-up set. But nope: he yanked it off the rack started benching with it instead. Did maybe 25 in a row—with the same weight I’d barely been able to squat 12 reps with.

The next memory was in the winter. It was just another average day of slalom training, and I was maybe the third one down a freshly set course on Inverness. But as I got halfway through the course, there was already ruts, and at least have the gates were broken. Not just knocked down, but plastic Breakaway gates snapped in half. It was like a team of Samurai swordsmen jumped out of the trees and completely decimated it. I asked my coaches at the bottom, “What the hell happened?” and they all said just one word in unison: “Keck.”

Sometime later that winter a tradition started at school: we had “Reuben Tuesdays.” The school chef would whip up a ton of incredibly tasty Reubens for our feasting after a tough morning of training, and we’d all compete to see how many we could eat. I could manage about 5 or 6, but Keck set the school record of I think 16. It must have been eight pounds of food. All wolfed down in a quick “feeding” before afternoon classes started. I often wonder what would happen if Keck had dared to take on a Hot Dog Eating World Championship run. 

Last memory: I was a fresh recruit on the cycling team, and Keck was one of the ringers who would later go on to help GMVS secure the New England Prep School Championship. I was pretty light in 10th grade, so I could out-climb Keck pretty easily, but God help me if he was anywhere near me when we got to a sprint finish. I was comfortably ahead of him in a training ride, but as we sprinted for the line, somehow he roared past me, sounding like an 18-wheeler that sucked me up into its wind vortex, and I remember seeing something I’d never seen before: his entire bike frame was flexing side to side with each downstroke of the pedals. He had so much horsepower, the damn frame looked like it was about to snap. I didn’t even know that could happen to steel. But sure enough, even though he dusted me, he tossed out a “Good sprint, kid” to me as we both spun down cooling our legs. 

He was never the type to rub his success in your face. He needed you to feel good about the outcome, too. Make sense to me he became a teacher. And a father. And a policeman. And a minister. There was no glory in it if others couldn’t share in the fun, too. 

Miss ya, Keck. Look after us up there. 

—Mark Radcliffe
New York, N.Y.
GMVS

This letter was submitted in response to the article American Downhiller Eric Keck, as remembered by friend, teammate Steve Porino. Have some thoughts on this? Send a letter to the editor. If it’s good, we’ll publish it.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Mark,many thanks for your heart touching
    Article.When we celebrate life, Eric an all his
    Goodness is at the top of the list.His larger
    Than life presents was real, the Hurt is proportional to his being.If ever in Vermont look me up. Love Tom Keck

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