Northwestern's Tyler Stelmack had some unfinished business to attend to after the 2010 Cross Country season.
After going undefeated in his sophomore campaign in Colonial League play, he finished a disappointing 14th in the field. The reasoning for Stelmack's poor finish came in the form of an illness, where he participated in the meet with a 102-degree fever.
Stelmack would eventually bounce back to finish sixth in districts and earned a 45th place finish in the PIAA Championship in Hershey. Although he bounced back, the feeling of the subpar finish at leagues stuck with Stelmack through the entire offseason.
Now a junior, Stelmack can look back on the 2011 Cross Country season with no regrets as his unfinished business became mission accomplished. He improved on his 14th place finish at leagues drastically by winning the entire meet, finishing first in the field of Colonial League runners.
Next was the District 11 meet and Stelmack came through once again, hanging with eventual AA State Champion in North Schuylkill's Brendan Shearn for most of the race and earning a silver medal. Stelmack improved on his time from 2010, running the race in 17:02, shaving .42 off his time.
Then came the PIAA State Tournament where Stelmack's main focus was to finish in the top 25 and improve on last year's finish of 35th. He once again delivered, even surprising himself by finishing 12th and running the course at Hershey in 16:50.
Stelmack's drive to avenge his 2010 season, is no doubt what earned him his second straight TIMES NEWS Cross Country Player of the Year honors.
"I set some personal goals for myself coming into this season," said Stelmack. "Last season I was undefeated in the league and because I got sick didn't finish where I wanted to in our league meet. I really wanted to come into the season ready to compete right away."
As mentioned, Stelmack was also the 2010 TIMES NEWS Cross Country Country Player of the Year. Young athletes once placed on a level where such accolades are bestowed sometimes need assistance staying motivated, but Coach Chris Stitzel knows Stelmack will have no issues in that department.
"Tyler didn't need much motivation heading into this season," said Stitzel. "His finish in leagues was not up to Tyler's standards even with him being sick and he wanted to get that monkey off his back for this season. He's just a self-motivating kid and showed that by coming back and winning our league this year."
Stelmack, who had a solid year in 2010, obviously turned it up a notch in 2011. So the question is what did the junior runner do to get over the hump in order to take home the Colonial League crown?
"I think it was important for Tyler to up his mileage in the offseason this year," said Stitzel. "He came to us last year as a stand-out track performer and wasn't really used to training for cross country and still did incredibly well. Our goal was to send him out on longer runs this season so when the postseason came around he was ready to go."
Stelmack agrees that it was important for him to run a lot more and a lot longer in the offseason.
"I started running a lot earlier than I did last season," said Stelmack. "I actually run almost everyday now and I pretty much doubled my effort training-wise from last season. I wanted to come into this season starting fast right out of the gate and luckily my hard work paid off."
Stitzel knew that Stelmack put in the time in the offseason, but he didn't expect to have to alter his practices so his stud runner could actually get a good workout.
"Plain and simple, nobody can keep up with him at practice," added Stitzel. "A lot of times we'll let our other runners go ahead and hold Tyler back. It gives him a good workout to have to push himself to catch up to the pack. We had another instance where we had a kid injured so we put him on a bike and had Tyler try to keep pace with him. Those are the kind-of things we do at practice to make sure we're giving him good runs."
With Stelmack's success the last two seasons who knows what could happen for his senior season. One thing is for sure there are literally no signs of Stelmack slowing down in 2012.
"I just want to keep training harder and improve on the little things," said Stelmack. "I obviously have high expectations for next year and hopefully my hard work will pay off once again."