Boys cross country: Merrillville transfer Tyler Gray in No. 1 spot at CP
CROWN POINT — For the fourth time in his career, Tyler Gray was running in the DAC championship meet on the last Saturday morning.
For the first time, though, Tyler Gray was wearing red instead of purple.
That’s because Gray, a senior, transferred from Merrillville to Crown Point last January after an addition to the Gray family necessitated a move to a bigger house.
“There was a good reputation with Crown Point,” Gray said. “I knew that there was a bigger running community here. They were fun to run against and they’re fun to run with.”
Switching high schools brings its share of social challenges as well, but that burden was aided by Gray’s new teammates. In particular, the Bulldogs’ 2012-13 senior trio of Alex Ray, Tom Cierniak and Daniel Walters helped Gray get acclimated to his new school.
“It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be because I knew everybody from running against them,” Gray said. “All of the top guys last year from Crown Point showed me around the school a lot.”
The early winter transfer allowed Gray to compete on the Bulldogs’ track team last spring, and that’s when cross country head coach Keith Iddings got a firsthand look at Gray’s abilities.
“We knew, during track, what he was capable of doing,” Iddings said. “He got to run in the 3,200 relay for us in the sectional and he ran a really nice time. I knew that when we got to cross country season, he was going to be a force to contend with.”
A semistate qualifier last year, Gray still wasn’t convinced he would walk into the cross country season as the Bulldogs No. 1 runner. “I always knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. It was there for the taking, and there were 3 other guys that were real close.”
But with Gray’s performance in meets and his attitude during practices, he quickly moved to the top of Iddings’ lineup.
“In every race that he’s been healthy, he’s been our number one finisher,” Iddings said. “The young guys saw Tyler’s work ethic and his talent and his example and they respected what he does, so they’ve been working hard to try and get to his level.”
After Crown Point took second place to Valparaiso at the DAC meet last week, now Gray and the rest of the Bulldogs have their focus set on a return to the state finals in Terre Haute after missing the cut in 2012.
“I thought we ran really well at conference,” Gray said. “There are a lot of teams out there that didn’t think we stood a chance at that meet. I think we all ran to our potential.”
The journey to Terre Haute begins on Tuesday with a sectional meet hosted by the Bulldogs. Crown Point has won 11 of its last 13 sectionals, including last year. The addition of Gray as well as some talented underclassmen like Jacob Langbehn and Ryan Kepshire gives the Bulldogs a lineup with enough ability to make it a dozen sectional titles since 2000.