The first practice date for the 2021 high school cross country season is a month away. The first regular season meet date for Lancaster-Lebanon League runners is about seven weeks out.

In the leadup to that fall campaign, LNP|LancasterOnline will be chatting with some of the top returning L-L boys and girls runners.

First up is Manheim Township rising senior Tyler Stevens. In the classroom, Stevens’s favorite subject is German. He holds a 3.41 grade-point average. In cross country a year ago, Stevens placed fourth at the L-L League championship, fifteenth at the District 3-3A championship and 20th at the PIAA 3A championship. He’ll likely a leader among a highly-experienced Blue Streaks bunch that expects to challenge for the league crown this fall.

Here’s a Q&A conducted with Stevens on July 15. The video of this conversation can be found at the top of this page.

When did you first take up an interest in running and what has the journey been like since then?

“I had tried out for a travel soccer team in sixth grade and got cut. So I thought, maybe soccer isn’t my thing. So then I started to explore cross country. I was good at it in middle school. ...So I stuck with it.”

What have you learned in the sport in a nutshell, in terms of pace, pushing yourself over long distances, anything in regards to diet or fluids?

“When I first started running I thought you go out and sprint for as long as possible and hope you don’t die. I noticed that you have to run more strategically. You can’t just go out and expect to lead from the front the entire race and be fine. You have to be patient. ….When I’m not stressed at all about races, I run better.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic last season, there were restrictions on the amount of runners who qualified for the District Three and PIAA meets. So there were less runners on those courses. Do you hope it stays that way?

“There are positives and negatives to it. I really like the massive fields. It’s nice to see how many people there are at the start line. But the smaller fields it’s easier to get out, but maybe that’s me at being better at getting out now. The district start wasn’t hectic. ...I’m excited for the fields to get enlarged and back to normal.”

This past spring, you won bronze in the 3,200 at the District 3-3A track & field championships. How satisfied were you with that result?

“It was a super hot day. It was 90-plus degrees. Super humid. But I was super happy with that race. That’s one of the best races I’ve had in track. It went out a slower than I was expecting. Usually my first mile is a little faster than my second. …it wasn’t as fast. It led me settle into the lead pack and chill there for a little bit. The last 800 meters I went as hard as I could. I ended up finishing third. I was happy about that.”

Is it ever boring on a track running around in the same circle, is it tough to stay focused?

“I just keep my eyes on the back of the person in front of me and try to hold on. Mentally try to stay attached to the person in front of me.”

What training have you been putting in this offseason?

“I started off training well. Then this past week I got diagnosed with pericarditis. It’s something that inflates my heart where I get a super high heart rate. I’m meeting with an oncologist July 16 to hopefully get everything back to normal so I can start training again.”

What led to the diagnosis?

“Last week I went out for a tempo run and I was dying. I thought it was just the heat or I didn’t get enough fluids. Then walking down the stairs at my house my heart rate was at 95. So we went to the doctor.”

Can that be treated with medication?

“Yeah. I’ve been taking daily medication for it. I think it’s helped. They want me to relax and hopefully I’ll get back to normal.”

What do your parents do for a living? Do either of them have an athletic background?

“Both of my parents competed at Millersville University in track & field. My dad is the current 800-meter record holder on the men’s side. My mom ran and also threw for a little bit. That’s kind of where they got track from and they’ve helped me get into it. They’re the main reason I run now.”

What are some values instilled in you by mom and dad that you carry with you today?

“They helped build my passion for the sport. They’ve made me learn to enjoy running. I enjoy it. But it’s also something I do to compete.”

Any siblings?

“I have three younger brothers. One of them is going into ninth grade and will be trying cross country this year. The other two brothers are swimmers right now. They’ve done all the soccer, baseball.”

What responsibilities come with being the oldest of four boys?

“I haven’t thought about that too much. I support them in the sports they do. Other than that, I treat them like family.”

Time for some fun questions. ...you find a genie in a bottle and get three wishes. What are they?

“I hope that our cross country team can win the L-L League title this year. I hope I can have a good season, stay healthy and compete in every postseason meet. I hope for fun invitationls to come back, which we missed out on last year.”

What was your favorite toy as a child?

“Legos.”

You get one super power. What is it?

“Invisibility. That would be fun.”

Are you superstitious when it comes to sports?

“Cross country I wear a headband at every race. In track, I kind of did that but not as much. In cross country, I enjoy wearing a headband.”

You’re good at running, what sport are you the worst at?

“In gym class, I get roasted for my soccer ability.”

What motivates you in life? Why do you work so hard?

“Just to see how far I can get. I just want to prove to myself how good I can get.”

Where does Manheim Township fit into the L-L League cross country scene this fall?

“Our team is going to have a tough season with Hempfield and Cedar Crest. Historically they’ve been very good over the years. As a team, I think if we run our best race we can win the L-L League title and compete at districts for one of those slots for states."

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