Fort Myers senior Tyler Bennett finished seventh at the Foot Locker South Regional in a new personal best time of 14:52.00. Last year, Bennett was 20th at Foot Locker South and says he is glad the hard work over the past year has finally paid off. See how he plans to attack the steep hill at Balboa Park, his race strategy, and his thoughts on being one of the top runners in the country.
This course is known for its steep hill which runners run twice. What kind of hill work or workouts have you been doing to prepare for the race?
A week or two after school starts each year, Coach Palmer will add in our other two more workouts, Mondays (tempos) and Thursday mornings (bridges). We run to a certain light pole, usually the 8th because it evens out like the WALL at states. Down here in Fort Myers, bridges are the closest thing we have to a hill. I had a surprise third workout this past Friday on the bridge. It felt really good and that all those bridge workouts this year and running in the Georgia mountains have prepared me for this weekend.
What is your mindset coming in?
The past few weeks I've felt probably the strongest I have all season! My workouts have been really quick, hitting times a lot faster than what I should be at, and I just feel mentally and physically tough. The goal all season was to make it to the big dance, and now that I have made it, I just want to go out and run as hard as I can!
What are your strategies for the course and the race?
My strategy before even seeing the course in person is to go out pretty hard. I want to be in the top 20 for the whole race and hold on to that lead pack and just see what happens.
Have you thought yet about if you want push the pace or hold back?
For this small of a meet and this much talent, I don't think you can really hold back on the pace you go out at. The race goes out really hard and I'm use to pushing the pace. If this year the pace is set slow by the leaders, I might jump up in front and push the pace and just see how long I can hold on.
Talk about the prestige of the meet and what it means to just make it this far?
Footlocker is by far the most prestigious. They fly 80 athletes out to compete and treat the runners like celebrities and you also get to meet some amazing famous runners! I'm just so happy to be a able to make it to nationals this year. I was disappointed with 20th last year. The race just didn't play out the way I wanted having to make up ground after a bad racing position, but all I can say is I'm just so excited I made it this year.
Was that the goal to make it to San Diego after finishing so close last year?
It was definitely my goal after being that close. It really helped pushed me to work as hard as i can, and dedicate myself even more if I wanted a chance to make it. I don't think I ever pictured myself becoming really good at running.
Did you ever think when you started running you'd be one of the top runners in the nation?
In middle school I liked running. I took it serious, but I also liked to have fun with it. When I was coming into my freshmen year, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to run in high school. I didn't train with my team that whole summer and my first race on the team was like a 20:10 at the University of Florida. After all my improvement I'm so happy I stuck with running and where I'm at in my career today!
What would it mean to be an All-American, place top ten, or even win the race?
All three of these would be amazing achievements this weekend. My only goal is to just go out and race as hard as I can and try and sneak into that top ten.
What are you looking forward to the most the trip to San Diego and bonding with the other runners?
I'm really excited to meet the other runners, get to talk to the famous athletes that will be there, and just enjoy the weekend in San Diego.
Outside of the race are you most likely to go ice skating, join a campfire on the beach, or drink hot cocoa while strolling the Hotel del Coronado?
Hmmm, I think I would have to go with the campfire on the beach. I'm not very good at ice skating.