During his junior season, while a severely sprained ankle limited him to a single cross country race, Tyler Phillips would stay up at night, dreading the possibility his dreams might be slipping away.
“I was nervous every single day back in my junior year during cross country,” the Armada senior said. “I knew at that point I wanted to run in college, and my dream was to be a Division I college athlete. So I would be sitting up in my room at night thinking, ‘Am I going to get my chance?’
“Not just Division I, but am I going to get a chance to be a college athlete?”
Thanks to a strong junior track season, and a stronger senior cross country season, the answer is yes, Phillips is getting his chance. On Monday night, he signed his National Letter of Intent to run cross country and track at Bowling Green University.
“He just didn’t lose focus,” Armada coach Rob Blume said. “He had a great spring last spring, and that helped catapult him into a really strong summer. He had a laser focus, not that he wasn’t focused before, but he took it to the next level, and he matured like he should have.”
Phillips broke the 16-minute barrier this past season, running a personal best of 15 minutes, 52 seconds at the Macomb County Championships. He led Armada to a Blue Water Area Conference title, a third-place finish at the Division 2 regional (both individually and as a team), and a berth in the Division 2 state finals.
As a sophomore, Phillips asserted himself as one of the Blue Water Area’s top runners, checking in with a personal best of 16:37. It was during that season that he decided he wanted to pursue running after high school.
“I enjoyed it before, it was fun, but my sophomore year I realized that I could be pretty good at this,” Phillips said. “I worked really hard over the summer and realized this is the sport I love, and I can continue doing even past college and into my adult life.”
While Phillips did have a strong track season, running 4:39.7 in the 1,600 and 9:49.8 in the 3,200, he thinks that the even longer collegiate track distances will suit him, as well as the longer cross country distances.
“I feel like the longer I run, the stronger I get,” he said.
Phillips chose Bowling Green over the University of Detroit Mercy. He said he also considered Tiffin and Valparaiso.
He said it was the atmosphere of the campus, as well as the coaches, that played a big part in his decision. A pair of members of the Bowling Green women’s team — 2013 Armada graduate Rachel Durbin, and 2014 Chippewa Valley graduate Rachel Walny — helped the school turn its focus toward Phillips.
Phillips said he plans to study business or sports management, with hopes of running a sports franchise, preferably a Major League Baseball team.
“I always loved (baseball), I played it when I was younger,” Phillips said. “I’m a huge Detroit Tigers fan; that would be my dream job. But I would just like to work with a major league team.”
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.