During the fall season, CisternYard Sports will feature a weekly story on a different student athlete at the College of Charleston that our sports staff thinks you should know. This week, we highlight Tyler Wood from the men’s cross country team.
Like plenty of children, Tyler Wood played almost every sport growing up. Even though he often did not have the technical skills required, he quickly figured out that he was one of the fastest guys of his respective teams. Therefore, it came as a pretty obvious choice to him to pick up running in high school.
Wood’s achievements at Glenelg High School, Maryland, most notably his participation on the running team that won state runner-up in 2010 and 2011, convinced him to persevere in his running career.
However, when he entered the College of Charleston in 2011, he was thrown for a loop when he was told that he could not make the cross-country team. Far from letting his head drop, Wood built on this experience to get faster. He eventually integrated into the team at the beginning of his sophomore year.
When asked what is his secret for success, Wood talks about his “determination.”
“From not being able to join the team during my freshman year, I became a contributing member of the team, and my goal this year is to be part of the consistently top guys. Actually, one thing that really helps me is my mentality of ‘why not me’. When I look at people doing very well on races, I tell myself: ‘Hey, I may be not as fast as them right now’, but I just think: ‘Why not me? Why could not I be that fast?’ Then, I put out the hard work to reach their level. I think I have the same motto of being determined for everyday life in terms of working hard through problems, getting interviews and jobs and everything.”
The person that has been the most influential on Wood’s running career in high school was his assistant coach. “He gave me a good mentality towards running, he really pushed me to do my best, and he did not just focus on running; he focused on everyday life.” His parents have also played an important role on his personal development, pushing him to give his best in everything and coming down to encourage him on a couple of races.
Since he entered the College, Wood’s new coach has had a great impact on him as well as two of his ex-teammates, Mike and Adam, who helped him do his best in running as well as in class.
Wood’s greatest running moment at CofC happened during his junior year when he smashed his personal best on the 10k distance at the NCAA Southern Regional with a time of 33:56.4. “It’s definitely the best race I have ever ran,” he recalled. “It was a 10k – a little bit longer that the distance that we usually run throughout the season (8k) – and I think I ran a faster time through 8k than what I ran all year. I still had another 2k to run and I managed to finish 5th of the team, which was my highest position on the team’s hierarchy through the season. I really enjoyed that race. I felt like I was really contributing to the team.”
For Wood, running goes beyond the realm of sport – it helps him release the stresses and pressures of life and see the problems of life in a different way.
“It’s nice to go out for a run when you’re really stressed out and you have a lot of work to do. It helps clear my head,” Wood said. “When I am running alone, I usually spend my time thinking through what is going on, trying to figure out a game plan on how I want to address the situations I am dealing with in my life. When I am running with my teammates, we can talk it out and help each other.”
Of course, competition exists among the team, but it is a lighter, friendly competition than you would find on the race course. “Everybody wants the team to do better, and in order for the team to do better, we have to work together and try to beat each other. We have a pretty close pack of eight guys this year, which means that everybody, on any given race, can be the No. 1 runner, so it motivates everyone to progress.”
Another stimulus to give everything one can is the feeling of running for one’s university. “It is definitely a great honour to put the Charleston logo on, and run, you know, to represent everybody here. It is a lot of hard work every day, and it is nice when that work pays off, on a personal aspect as well as on a team aspect. The team aspect is really huge here.”
Having known his greatest running year as a Cougar last year, Wood has a lot of ambition for the season to come.
“First and above all, I want to contribute to the team in every race. I also want to get my times down – I would like to go under 26 minutes for the 8k distance – and I would like to get on the 8k top-10 performers board of the region. Finally, I hope to have a good influence on the team, on the younger guys. I’m a graduated student now, and we have no Seniors in the team – only Freshmen/Sophomores/Juniors – so I will try to help them out with any problems there.”
If he is still very implicated into student life, Wood sees further. About chasing longer distances? “I’d like to. After college, I want to stay around a little bit, continue to run 5k/8k/10k, but I would definitely do some half-marathons and marathons at some point. I still got some speed under me.”
And what about going pro, one day? “It would be nice,” Wood said, smiling. “Nevertheless, as for now, I do not think I have the ability to, but I’ll definitely keep running throughout my life, and maybe someday I’ll get some better times and be able to go pro. Pro running athlete… It would be a dream, I guess.”