Many runners keep up with their spacing, their pack, or track timing at certain checkpoints throughout a race. The dynamics of cross country running—something that otherwise seems overly simplified and linear in nature—are the ebb and flow of the pacing from start to finish. Not only do runners have to be physically talented, but they have to train the mind to become part of that rhythm. It can make the difference between falling behind or recording a personal record, or even winning a state championship.
Tyler Fox got close in his junior season, finishing seventh at the GHSA State Cross Country Championships in Carrollton, Ga., on Nov. 4. He was trailing only Michael Malkowski of Milton in the third pack to came down the straight-run; three more were right on his tail.
His goal was a top-10 finish going into the meet, and he managed—on one of the toughest courses in the state, with plenty of peaks and valleys—to exceed his own expectation.
Naturally, he was asked about what strategy went into his career-best finish. He grinned for a few seconds.
“I can’t tell you,” Fox said. “I zoned out, especially down the stretch. It happens, but it also kind of helps because you get into this mode where you’re barely thinking, everything is physical, and it takes your mind off the pain.”
Fox admits that not all runners have as simplified as an answer for that particular question, but he sees it as a sign that his ability as a runner has come naturally. His tall, lanky build suggests he’s well-molded for the art of running. His transition from a 49th-place finish at state as a freshman to that vaunted top-10 trek proves his dedication over the years. There hasn’t been that many.
Fox says he didn’t take running seriously until his freshman year of high school, a year after he was mandated by his parents Krista and Mark to join cross country as a way of conditioning for basketball. Fox, who played baseball and hit the hardwood from an early age, originally had aspirations of excelling in hoops.
“I got into running and decided I really liked the people,” Fox said.
FCN: What does it mean to you that you were named the FCN Boys Runner of the Year
Fox: It’s pretty special. I definitely didn’t expect it going into the season.
FCN: You made a big progression from your freshman season until now. How?
Fox: A lot of practice and training. Early mornings, out in the cold, running more than you’re used to, moving faster, going longer. It’s really that simple.
FCN: What obstacles did you have to overcome, if any, to get to where you finished at state this year?
Fox: I sprained an ankle mid-season, right after finishing seventh at the Battle of Atlanta. After that I had to work that much harder to improve from week to week and get back to full strength in time for state.
FCN: You hit a personal record this year.
Fox: Yep, at 15:49. That was at the area meet.
FCN: Were there any runners who came before you that helped you to where you are now?
Fox: Jonathan Schwind. He was great. Freshman year I got into that top group of runners pretty quickly, so I became pretty good friends with him and some of the upperclassmen and they rubbed off on me for sure.