SPORTS: Tupper is a runner with heart and soul
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Peninsula Daily News
Kyle Tupper is plenty motivated and doesn’t need a coach or teammate to urge him to work harder.
“Whenever I do something, I put my heart and soul into it,” Tupper said.
This drive helped Tupper become one of the best distance runners in the state this year and be selected as the All-Peninsula Cross Country MVP.
But like so many other exceptional athletes, Tupper finds further inspiration in being doubted.
Port Angeles athletic director and former cross country coach Dwayne Johnson goaded Tupper by downplaying his standing in Port Angeles’ cross country history.
“Coach Johnson told me, ‘You’ll never be able to top Dan Lucero,’ ” Tupper said.
In 2004, Lucero set the school record in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:49.
“I was very familiar with the record,” Tupper said.
He often looked at the record, and was eager to make it fall.
Before a meet with Bremerton and North Kitsap at Lincoln Park on Oct. 3, Tupper’s dad told him he had a good chance to break the record that day.
Sure enough, after he crossed the finish line, Port Angeles cross country coach Pat Durr told Tupper that he was close to Lucero’s record.
Since it would be several minutes before his official time was announced, an anxious Tupper said to his dad, “Come on, let’s go for a run to pass the time.”
Tupper estimates they ran for two miles.
When they returned, a smiling Johnson held out his hand and gave Tupper a congratulatory hand shake.
Tupper’s time was 15:48.11. The school record was his.
“It’s a day I’ll never forget,” Tupper said.
Now, Tupper is the new Dan Lucero.
“As far as records go, he’s the best [in school history],” Durr said.
Not bad for someone who wasn’t even on the cross country team his first two years of high school.
He ran cross country in middle school, but was more interested in archery and 4-H Club than in running.
Finally, so many people encouraged him to participate in cross country that he gave in and joined the team his junior year.
He wasn’t an instant success, though.
“I was one of the slowest guys,” Tupper said.
So slow that one of his teammates told him he should quit.
Of course, that only motivated Tupper to do better, and by this year, he was the team’s best.
“This season I put everything I had into it,” Tupper said.
“It was really exciting. I couldn’t have done any better than I did.”
Although he finds motivation in being doubted, Tupper isn’t a to-the-death sort of competitor.
In fact, he is the exact opposite — as opposite as one can possibly be.
Before races, Tupper would chat up his fellow runners.
“We talked about what we wanted to do that race,” Tupper said.
“And I would say, ‘Let’s get your P.R. [personal record] today.’
“All I care about is seeing someone improve.”
Durr said many runners were at first caught off-guard by Tupper’s pre-race friendliness.
“It was fun to see him interact with other runners,” Durr said.
“A good competitor brings out the best in you, and Kyle realizes that.”
Tupper — who counts Sequim runner Adrian Clifford as his favorite offseason training partner — said his approach also helps at district or state level races when Olympic League rivals often become like teammates.
Tupper experienced this after getting the flu before the 2A state meet in Pasco.
The sickness proved to be too much, and Tupper didn’t place high, but Durr said the Sequim runners helped pace Tupper throughout the race.
Tupper is currently gearing up for the track and field season as a distance runner for the Roughriders, although he is hobbled by an ankle injury.
In August, he will join the U.S. Army, and hopes to continue his running career there.
Durr said Tupper’s knack for leadership has elevated both the cross country and track and field programs.
Including the equipment.
Tupper recently noticed that the school’s five steeples were in bad shape.
He decided to fix them up, and convinced Brendan Dennis a few other teammates to help him scrape, sand and paint the steeples (green and white, 1 foot at a time).
Tupper’s goal is to finish the project before the steeple chase races at the Port Angeles Invitational on Saturday.
“When other teams come to Port Angeles, I want things to look nice,” Tupper said.
When talking about Tupper, Durr repeats words like disciplined, focused, nice, friendly, honest and talented — and often precedes them with the word “very.”
“As a coach, you only get a kid like this once in a while, once in a career,” Durr said.
“I feel kind of blessed that I got to know him so well.”
Last modified: March 09. 2013 5:12PM