YAKIMA, Wash. -- As meeting places go, it might not seem especially romantic.
But it worked for Brian Potucek and Alicen Maier.
“As far as actually becoming familiar with each other,” Brian recalled, “a lot of that happened just sort of crossing paths in the Nicholson Pavilion training room. We’d both had injuries, and we spent a lot of time there.”
Lest you think this might be a misery-loves-company story, however, it’s not.
Because the two people who frequented the aforementioned facility, which over the years has seen its fair share of pain and strain, have moved beyond college friendship at Central Washington and are enjoying life as Brian and Alicen Potucek.
They also will both be inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday.
“It doesn’t really seem possible that it’s been 11 years since I was a student there,” said Brian, a three-time football All-American, during a recent telephone interview from the couple’s home near Tacoma.
Said Selah High grad Alicen, a four-time track and cross country All-American who graduated from CWU in 2004, “It’s mind-blowing, actually. Just crazy.”
Perhaps the primary reason for these where-did-the-time-go musings is that the Potuceks have been very busy.
First there was work, for both of them, with Brian learning the ropes of his dad’s septic business well enough to eventually start his own, and Alicen being employed as a mortgage broker.
Later there has been parenthood, first with daughter Brea (5) and later son Kael (2).
Both enjoy recalling the old days at Central, remembering them fondly even though Brian tore his left ACL in 2003 and his right ACL in 2004, and Alicen ruptured a plantar fascia as a senior.
And it seems of little consequence, if any, to either that they are regarded as among the best ever to compete at their school.
Each, after all, was instrumental in establishing Central at the NCAA Division II level after the university’s long and successful run as an NAIA competitor.
“To be honest, I’ve never really thought about it that much,” said Brian, who excelled both as a pass receiver and kick returner. He holds school records for all-purpose yards (4,948), punt returns (67) and receptions per game (8.5) while ranking second in career receptions (283) and punt return yards (719).
Said Alicen, who holds CWU records in the 800 meters, 1,500 meters and mile runs “I was always so busy with school and running. I never really stopped to think about it.”
Now that time has provided an opportunity to develop perspective, both are justifiably proud of, if not preoccupied by, their accomplishments. And they’re exceedingly grateful for their life experiences at Central.
“Going to Central was a unique and awesome opportunity,” Alicen said, “and now I want it for other people. If someone says, should I stay at YVC or just go to work or whatever, I always say absolutely not. You’re only at this point in your life once. You don’t get that time back.”
And while the college experience didn’t begin overwhelmingly for Brian, it quickly got better.
“I came to Central as a baseball recruit, broke my wrist and then walked on to the football team,” he said. “At first I sort of kept to myself because I didn’t have a lot of self confidence. I spent a lot of time in my room.
“Football changed all that.”
One day, both Brian and Alicen said, they’d like to change their location.
A Clover Park High School grad who has served as an assistant coach at Bellarmine Prep, Brian came to embrace the less-crowded, slower-paced lifestyle Alicen grew up with.
“It’s just different here,” Alicen said, emphasizing that life in Western Washington is not all bad — she has simply enjoyed life more on this side of the mountains. “If I went running around Selah or Ellensburg, people would come up and say hi, or I would,” she said. “Now if I do that, people mostly just glare.
“And over here, if you don’t start moving your car at the exact second the light changes, people will hit the horn or flip you off. On the other side, chances are they’ll just look at you and smile.”
But such is life. And neither Alicen nor Brian is complaining.
On Saturday in Ellensburg, with both sides of their family strongly represented, they’ll become something neither of them planned or hoped for, but are nonetheless richly deserving of: They’ll become Hall of Famers.
Said Brian, with a smile that could be sensed through the phone, “Cool, huh?”