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Interval Session #95 - Tyler Stutzman

By Dave Devine - Febuary 5, 2009

Some of the most attention-grabbing distance marks this winter have emerged from the state of Virginia, and one of the primary authors of those times is current US#1 at 3200 meters, Tyler Stutzman of Western Albemarle VA.  Stutzman's name may be somewhat familiar from last year, when the junior was a third place finisher in the Nike Indoor Nationals mile won by Kyle Merber, and then went on to rip some fast outdoor times en route to helping his team to a Virginia state AA title.  His senior cross country campaign was a mix of success and frustration, including a blazing 15:28 course record in one meet, a 13th place finish at the state meet (on a day he was sick), and a collapse in the closing mile of the Foot Locker South Regional while running in the top five. 

That season-ending disappointment-- when equally-talented teammate Kyle Satterwhite advanced to Foot Locker Nationals --has led to a revelatory indoor stretch which includes a 4:14.91 mile victory at the Montgomery Invitational which essentially punched his ticket to Millrose, and a US#1 9:05.58 3200 at the Virginia Tech Invite in a terrific duel with Bobby Peavey VA (9:08.48).  In his latest national-level outing, Stutzman competed last Friday at the 102nd Millrose Games in the HS Boys Invitational Mile, finishing fourth in the tactical race at 4:21.11.

DyeStat senior editor Dave Devine catches up with a guy you're sure to hear more about as his senior year rolls on.
1) You're having a great indoor season so far, highlighted by the US leader for 3200 meters.  Last weekend you ran at the Millrose Games; it looked a little rough out there, with the slow early pace and everyone maneuvering for a fast finish.  Can you talk about that race, how it unfolded, and your overall experience of running at Madison Square Garden?

Millrose was definitely not the kind of tactical race I like to be in. Though I think of myself as primarily a miler, I can step up to two miles a lot better than I can step down to 800 meters. I have run a 1:56 800, but when it comes to a kick like Millrose, the faster 800 guys really have the advantage. I prefer a faster race from the beginning, but unfortunately I learned that it appears I am on my own in that regard.  As far as race details go, I didn't hear splits until 880, which was an awful 2:15. After that, I figured I had to go then or I was sunk. I took the lead, but Andrews and Johnson were sitting easy on their kicks after that opening, and I couldn't respond very well when they went around. That was reflected in the slow time I ended up with.

I think my favorite part of racing there was the excited environment of the Garden and the fact that all my friends were watching on TV. It was also a blast to walk by Lagat in the warm up area and ride in the elevator with Kara Goucher (though she didnt know who I was of course).

2) Also running at Millrose from your neck of the woods was the boys 4x800 squad from Albermarle HS.  Were you pulling for them in the big US#1 vs. US#2 showdown?  I know they race in AAA and your school is AA, but have you gotten to know any of the Albemarle runners?  Is there any crossover in training or summer running together?  And what exactly is in the water in Albemarle County VA, to have so many talented distance and mid-distance guys from that area?

The running community around here is so close knit, with a long tradition of success. While working at Ragged Mountain Running Shop (the hub for the running community) I have gotten to know many of the area athletes, including the Albemarle boys. That team is straight nasty with their talent. What shows through even more, however, is their desire to win every time they step on the track. Don't get me wrong, they aren't all intensity. Off the track they goof off among themselves and with other competitors.

Though we are in different divisions, the proximity of our schools means that we have gotten to know each other quite well by running together and through other running activities. At Millrose, I was confident in their winning, because I have yet to see them lose a race with my own eyes.

As for the composition of the water, that is a highly confidential secret.

3) Last year you had a very solid junior campaign, with a third-place finish in the NIN Mile, and some fast outdoor marks, but it seems like you've upped your track game this year to a national elite level.  Is there anything you're doing differently, or any changes-- in training or outlook--you can point towards that have made a difference at the start of 2009?

It may sound boring, but consistency is key. Early in my high school career, I had a tendency to go and hammer every run. This was fun for a while, but three stress fractures from freshman to junior year made me rethink my training. Since indoor track season of my junior year, I have been injury-free. I credit this for my steadily improving times since last year. Coach Bain only rarely has us doing anything fancy, and I would say we probably do less speed training than the average team. Coach Bain and Coach Hurt also believe in peaking only twice a year, so Indoors is really only a base period between Cross and Outdoors. Several small changes I made this summer, however, were things I learned while attending Jim Ryun's running camp in Gettysburg. I began doing a lot more core and upper body work, in addition to more plyometric drills. Whether this has done anything is open to interpretation, but it certainly can't hurt.

4) Rewinding a bit, can you talk about your senior cross country season, and how it ended up?  You and Kyle Satterwhite were running fairly close as your high school's top two, and then Kyle went on to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals, but you don't appear in the results of the Foot Locker South seeded race.  Did you opt not to run the FL Regional, or were you unable to finish for some reason?  How did the end of your cross country season go, and what impact did that have on the start of indoors?

I started off the XC season breaking a course record, then placing second to Solomon Haile. For the biggest meet of the regular season, however, I got sick and had a bad day. After that I recovered, winning every meet until the state meet, where I was again sick and fell off the pace pretty quickly. Needless to say, I was frustrated and looking for redemption at Foot Locker. I was in fifth place with about 300 meters to go when I tied up and blacked out on the course. Kyle passed me and ended up seventh, while I was DNF. This, of course, was really tough for me. Thanks to support from friends and people like National Champion Josh McDougal, however, I was able to push past it and get ready for indoors.

5) There probably aren't many teams in the country that can boast one guy who's a Foot Locker finalist in December, and another guy who runs 9:05 for 3200 in January.  Can you discuss the training environment with you and Kyle (right, at Virginia Tech Invite) both running at such a high level?  Is there some give and take?  Heavy competitiveness?  Separate training plans?  I know Kyle was injured coming into cross country, so were you missing that push up front from him in the summer?

Having both of us here makes it easier to train hard. Right now, our training plans are a little different because Kyle is trying to qualify for World XC, but most of the time we do the same stuff. We are both really lucky to have each other to train with, without question. In the summer, we didn't have him at our team cross country camp, but he biked with us for a lot of our runs. After that, he got back into the swing of things with training, and after that, racing. Sometimes it can get pretty competitive, but I think we have toned it down a little bit since our underclassmen years.

6) Is there one distance you prefer more than the others?  Do you see yourself as more of a miler, a two miler, a cross country guy, or some combination of the three?  And what do you think are your strengths in a race?  You've been on the receiving end of big kicks from Kyle Merber and Robby Andrews; do you see yourself as a kicker, or more  someone who does better off an honest early pace?  How would your ideal mile race unfold?

Without question, my favorite race is the mile. An honest early pace is definitely the best, but that does not mean starting with a 60-second quarter. Ideally, I would like start with a quick 880, then negative split by two or three seconds for the second 880. Kicking won't get you a fast time. However, if a kick is necessary, I'm able to do it, just not always at the caliber of Merber or Andrews.

7) Yesterday happened to be national signing day.  Have you made a commitment for college yet, and how has that process been for you?

The college process was a great experience, and after having a final three selection of Virginia, Columbia, and Stanford, I elected to attend Stanford University next year.

8) Desert island question:  If you were stuck on one for the rest of your life (with, strangely, an entertainment system), what one CD would you want to have?  How about DVD?  Book?  Bookmarked website?

I really like Switchfoot's CD "Learning to Breathe", and I would bring my favorite movie "The Princess Bride" (Don't let the title fool you, see it if you haven't yet). My book would be "The Complete Sherlock Holmes" and I would bookmark ABC.com so I could watch the episodes of "Lost." Not only would that be entertainment, but it would provide key desert island survival tips. (haha).

Photos: John Roemer (top, at Montgomery Invitational) and Ken Charnock (bottom, at Virginia Tech Invitational)

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