Tyler Wirth set a school record in the 800 in 1:54.58. Then placed fourth in the high school boys mile at the Penn Relays in 4:19.58. Here is more from his interview:
Other sports you play: I played soccer freshman and sophomore year, but (now) cross country.
Favorite sports teams: I’m a big Steelers fan and Yankees fan.
Athletes you admire: Currently, probably JuJu Smith-Schuster. Antonio Brown kind of was thrown out the window, so.
How do you feel about Brown leaving? It was a lot of drama and I think JuJu’s going to step up and fill that role. It’s a big loss.
Anybody else you admire besides JuJu? Through history, as a distance runner, obviously Steve Prefontaine and then also Jesse Owens.
Favorite food: That’s a tough one. I’m going to go with salmon.
That seems like a healthy choice. Is there a junk food choice? My go-to junk food would probably be Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos.
Three people you’d like to have dinner with: I mentioned Jesse Owns and Steve Prefontaine before, and the third would probably be Elon Musk.
You like his technology or just him in general? I’m a big pusher for alternative energy and his whole thing with that is really great, with the whole solar city.
You broke a record this week. Is that something you’ve had your eye on for a while? Always looking up at the record board, I was wondering how many I could get. I always thought I could definitely grab two, that 1,600 and 800, and the 3,200 was kind of just out there, and I guess that’s still up in the air. But I was able to get the 1,600 last year, which, I was very happy. I tried for the 800 last year at the Jack Roddick Invitational and I was .4 seconds short of it, but I knew I could do it. I just didn’t get another opportunity. And then this year, that Jack Roddick meet again was very windy. I didn’t get that opportunity. At our league meet, it was kind of perfect timing — a good distance away from Penn Relays where it was a chance to kind of get some speed in my legs, get a good, hard effort. It started to rain, but it was always the plan to go for it. We went for it. My coach was giving me the splits and everything. I didn’t run it exactly how I wanted to, but I ran it, I guess, perfectly.
Is that a normal race for you? Aren’t you more of a distance guy? I’ve always been more of that mile, 800 guy. The 3,200, I’ve just been running more for workouts. I’ve actually run a decent number of 400s this year, too, to try to get my speed going.
How’s that working out? It’s pretty good. I really think that I’ll be able to break 50 (seconds), maybe in a split, because I won’t really get a chance to run an open 400 again. But that would be a pretty cool accomplishment.
Did you enjoy yourself? It was an incredible experience. It was a little, I guess, chaotic. … We went down the day of. My coach got there about three hours earlier than I did to kind of scout out everything. But we’d both never been down there before. Didn’t know any idea what was going on and had to go through an athlete entrance that was a ways away from the stadium. And then we thought we had everything figured out and then I start warming up and a thunder storm rolls in and a tornado watch. We get evacuated (to) inside a building. I probably should’ve already checked in, but I didn’t because we were evacuated. I had to keep moving around while we were sitting there and had to keep snacking, which I’m not very good at — I usually get very nauseous before I run; can’t calm my nerves. My coach was kind of trying to be calm and relaxed, while I was like “We need to get there. We need to check in and everything.” … About 30 minutes before my race was when they evacuated everybody, so then we had to make our way over there. Had no idea where to go once we got in the stadium. Figured that out and then we thought we were good. I go to warm up and I get back from warming up again real quick and some guy tells me that the boys mile is on the track. And I’m like going crazy because I think I missed it. I grab my spikes, I run over and then I get stopped by a lady. She’s like, “What are you doing?” She starts yelling at me. And then she kind of calms me down and says they haven’t called the boys mile yet, so some guy working there didn’t know what he was talking about. Scared the life out of me before I had to run. And then I kind of calmed down and regrouped. All the nerves were out of me by then because I was in a panic and I kind of was able to finally relax again. It was pouring rain, which I was actually OK with. The rain helped keep the hair out of my face. I needed a haircut that I didn’t get this week, so that was kind of funny. But then I was just kind of looking forward to doing it from that point on. I had to run in the rain to break that record, so that rain feeling was kind of nice. Everybody else was complaining about it, all the other kids there. I was just kind of like “Why not?” I just ran a race in it and I liked it; it’s not that cold or anything. Because of the rain and the weather, the race was slow, which I was fine with. I’d never felt that comfortable during the race. I basically ran the whole entire thing in Lane 2 just to make sure I didn’t get boxed in, because obviously, I’m the smallest kid there by about a head. I’m getting little elbows and pushes from behind, which is usual and stuff. But I kind of just stayed out of that and wound up being in a good place, jumping from about eighth place to fifth place, fourth place going into the last 800 meters. I made a push. I was kind of mad, because earlier in the race, the announcer was speaking and stuff and going through the names, and the other PA kid got announced and talked about. He was kind of the star in the beginning of the race that they were talking about and I’m just running right next to him wondering if they’re going to wind up saying “Hawley, PA. Wallenpaupack” And I made a move and the guy finally said my name and I was like “That’s pretty cool,” and (then) I was like “Aw, man, I still have 600 meters to go.” I just was able to hold on.
So, they’re announcing this like it’s a horse race or something? Oh, yeah. They’ve got all the cameras around the track. They’re streaming it onto the big screen, which was pretty cool. They’re announcing it, they’re talking about the kids. It’s a four to four-and-a-half minute race. They’re talking about some of the bigger names in the race, so that’s why I was like, “Oh, I’m not going to get mentioned. I’m not a big name. I’m the 15 seed in this race out of 16 kids.” I was still lucky I got accepted. And I kind of just had nothing to lose. The race was slow, which I definitely did not want it to be slow. The best chance I had was if it was going to be consistent, and then I wound up running a 58-second last lap to put myself in fourth place.
Do you think that’s a result of the 400s you’ve been running? It’s definitely from that, but also, that 800 gave me the confidence that I can do that. That 800, when I broke it, I was basically 57 (seconds), 57 (seconds). Usually, to run that fast — when I ran the 1:56 and missed it by .4 seconds last year, I think I was a 56-59. I just didn’t think I had that in me to run that second lap of that 800 that fast and I was able to. That kind of put it in my mind that I could do that for a mile.
Is that a Wallenpaupack thing, where you’re able to talk to the guys whose record you have? I mean, I haven’t really talked to other kids at other schools about it, but it’s definitely something special, I think, coming from the Wallenpaupack side. I’ve met some of the better distance runners in the history of Wallenpaupack. They’ve come out to see me run, which has been really cool. Not all of them have records, but there were, Kevin Sives, he ran at Penn Relays when he was in high school. He actually saw both, when I broke the 1,600 and I broke the 800, he saw both of those. He ran at Villanova and he’s a really cool guy to talk to and he still comes around. It’s a pretty cool experience and I’m sure if other guys from Wallenpaupack have that opportunity, I’m sure they would (enjoy it), too. The 3,200 record holder is Corey Smith. He’s called (track coach Mark) McHugh a couple times and talked to him.
You’re going to major in architectural engineering and you said you liked Elon Musk. Is that part of it, green design? Yeah. I’m in an engineering program at Wallenpaupack. I was doing a project one year and it was designing solar homes. It was homes completely based on the idea of solar power and making it self sustaining. I loved that project. I went completely overboard on it. And then I did more research into it. There’s not an exact major to build solar homes. Architectural engineering was that major that would be close enough. So that was the major I decided to try to do.
Are you good at drawing? No. I mean, I’m OK at drawing. The good thing is, the Penn State program is more art based, while the Cincinnati program is more mechanical based, computer-drawing based. That’s where it was also a big plus with the whole going to Cincinnati idea.
I think we covered everything. Did you see Avengers: Endgame yet? Yes.
How was it? I haven’t seen it, so don’t spoil anything. I’m not going to spoil it. I’m completely for not spoiling. I saw it Thursday night before Penn Relays. It was kind of iffy if I wanted to go or not, because I wanted to get a good night sleep. I’m very happy I went. It was very good. There’s some holes in it, but that’s the thing with all movies.
If you could be a superhero, who would you be? Captain America. I’ve always been a Captain America fan.
Not The Flash? I’m not a DC guy, so. …