by Keith Peters
Tori Tyler was running like she had a plane to catch, which, in fact, she did. She raced away from the field so fast in her race Saturday at the Stanford Invitational that one coach yelled to his runner: "Let those first two go."
Smart coach, because no one was going to catch Tyler on this day. The Gunn High senior sped to a faster-than-planned 5:20 first mile and pulled away to win the Division I girls' race in a personal record of 17:37 on the 5,000-meter layout at the Stanford Golf Course.
"I just wanted to get out and run my race," Tyler said of the fast early pace that pretty much buried the field. She won by 1:22, just one second slower than the margin of victory turned in by Division II winner Marie Lawrence of Reno, who ran the fastest overall time of the day in 17:28.
Tyler and Lawrence originally were scheduled to race each other. Tyler, however, had to take an ACT test Saturday morning and Gunn coach Ernie Lee saw the Division II starting time (1:35 p.m.) as a possible conflict.
Tyler and her Gunn teammates then were moved to the Division I seeded race, which featured some of the top teams in the Far West. Tyler, however, had a plane to catch for Portland (Ore.) and a recruiting trip Saturday afternoon and the seeded race's starting time (3:40 p.m.) also was a conflict.
Finally, Tyler landed in the Division I race and the timing was perfect. She didn't race Lawrence, just a sophomore, and she didn't have to worry about possibly missing her flight. Thus, Tyler was able to concentrate on what she does best - running fast.
"I wanted to win it," she said. "I was happy with the time because last year I ran 18:40. So, this is a big improvement."
One factor aiding Tyler's improvement was a running camp she attended in Colorado over the summer. She trained at altitude for a week and had a blast.
"Running at that high-altitude camp in Colorado really helped," said John Tyler, Tori's father. "She really enjoyed it."
Another recent benefit was Tyler cutting back on her soccer training. A member of a CYSA team in the fall, Tyler usually spends more time getting ready for soccer than training for cross country. She switched her priorities in those sports and it had paid off.
"Tori's running well," Lee said. "She ran a minute faster than last year, so we really don't have a benchmark for her. I figured she could probably break 18:00 here, but you never know. I'm just basically letting her run and hopes she stays healthy. Hopefully she'll be able to keep running well the rest of the season."
One thing is for sure, Tyler is having a great time. "It gets more fun as you get faster," she said. "The team is fun. This is our last year, so you want to make it a good one." While Tyler helped the Gunn girls finish ninth in the unseeded Division I race, Castilleja raced away with team honors for local squads by winning the Division 5 competition. The Gators scored 70 points to beat Mt. Shasta (91) and College Prep (111), ranked fifth in the state coming into the race.
The Gators, unranked prior to Saturday, likely will move up a lot when the next rankings are released. Junior Ashley Schoettle was Castilleja's top finisher in fourth (20:52) while junior Tomi Amos was fifth (21:05), junior Haley Bereka 13th (21:57) and junior Helen Ashton 20th (22:32). Castilleja's fifth scorer also is an underclassman, sophomore Nani Jansen.
Other top local efforts were turned in by Palo Alto senior Herrell Siller Jr., who finished 13th in the Division 2 boys' race in 16:27 and Menlo-Atherton senior Evan Anderson, who placed 23th in the Division I seeded race in 16:17, the fastest time by any local boy over Stanford's 5,000-meter course.