Runner steps up to help Martin contend for district title

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Dawn is just starting to break on a chilly early October morning, and Martin senior Tyler Forde has already completed a five-mile speed workout around the track at the high school.

That speed, combined with Forde's unrelenting endurance, have him poised to contend for an individual title and to help position the Warriors for a team title at the District 3-5A cross country meet Oct. 24 at Lynn Creek Park in Grand Prairie.

“Tyler knew what it took to be successful,” Martin cross country coach Tim Mays said. “It was his senior year. He said it was ‘my time.’ He thought this is the year. He had a great summer, and he came into the season in great shape. And then he he’s doing all the small things it takes to be successful. He’s kind of blossomed this season.”

With former star runner Cameron Villareal having graduated and moved on to Texas A&M, the Martin boys figured to have a team with plenty of depth but no one dominant runner, Mays said. But Forde stepped into Villareal’s formidable shoes and has established himself as the team’s top runner and arguably the best in the district.

“I think he surprised us a little bit,” Mays said. “We kind of thought maybe there was going to be parity on the team. Seven runners pretty close. He came in and right off the bat created separation from the rest of the team, which is good because it pulls them along with him.”

VIllareal won district as a junior and senior and last season earned a berth in the state meet. Forde is having a Villareal-like start to his senior year, having already won two races and having finished second in another.

His most recent win came earlier this month in the Ken Gaston Invitational at the same Grand Prairie course where the district meet will take place. Forde trailed in the second place position most of the race but overtook his top competitor by a few seconds on the final stretch.

“This season I’ve pretty much been trying out race strategies and I’ve tried leading the entire race, and usually I kind of get tired and I only get, like, second,” Forde said. “But coming from behind is different. I’ll stay behind and I’ll surge and we just keep going back and forth until eventually he gets tired. I figure that’s the best strategy.”

Forde, who finished sixth at district last year, has become a strong hill climber and fast runner on flat ground. “On a flat course I should be able to run a good time,” he said. “On a hilly course I should be able to just break down other people. So I used them as an advantage.”

Forde’s high comfort level on any type of terrain was spawned in part by intense early-morning summer workouts with Villareal and another former Martin star, John Valentine, who runs at Mississippi State. Villareal, who owns most of Martin’s school records, has always been eager to help younger runners get faster and stronger, Forde said.

“I think the most important thing is his positive attitude and his will,” Forde said of Villareal. “I definitely think that rubbed off on me because I want to be as good as he was. He also gives me a lot to look forward to, because he taught me how to train for the sport itself. He’s been a real positive influence on me and I feel like him going here is part of the reason I am where I am.”

Mays is proud that Martin’s cross country tradition continues on with the help of alumni mentors who help the next generation of runners grow as competitors. “It’s great to have mentors,” Mays said. “Good runners come back and they run as a group. This is the path. This is how I get to that point.”

Like his mentor Villareal, Forde has a strong shot at winning a district title. But it won’t be easy. He will have to outrace, among others, his close friend Christian Culpepper of North Crowley. At a meet in Midlothian earlier this season, he went neck-and-neck with Culpepper but lost to his competitor by a mere 10th of a second.

“It was honestly one of the most fun races I’ve ever had in my life,” Forde said. “Even though I lost, at least it was to one of my friends.”

Forde won’t say which one will win out at the district meet. But he expects another close contest. “It’s honestly going to come down to a pure guts race at the end,” Forde said. “Who can just pull it out and last the longest I guess. It’s going to be fun.”

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