A lot can happen in three miles. Blisters, shin splints and crippling muscle fatigue. For West seniors, Tyler Fang and Kurt Bruns, these are just the obstacles to be conquered while running cross country for the Panthers.
West starts its season Sept. 5 against region rival Viewmont, and Fang and Bruns will be ready. After a summer spent training together, they hope the hard work they've put toward running will pay off.
"It was a huge milestone for us to break 18 minutes last year," Fang said. "Breaking 17 minutes will be hard, but I think we're able to do it."
Character plays a large role for Fang and Bruns. They are determined and strong-willed the kind of student athletes who lead in the classroom and on the field.
"We compete against each other," Bruns said. "We rely on each other to do the best we can and score for our team."
Fang and Bruns say running for West is about more than the competition. There is a sense of camaraderie among team members that makes it easy to give it their all for each other.
"It's a great group of people, and we enjoy hanging out with each other," Fang said.
At last year's 5A state championship, Fang and Bruns finished sub-18-minute runs, taking 64th and 70th respectively. Those were strong finishes for the juniors, but as seniors they are looking to improve their speed and break the elusive 17-minute mark.
"You have to go all out and push yourself through the pain," Fang said. "I am motivated by the fact that I am trying to push myself and the team."
Fang's dedication has left him turned inside out. Leaving everything on the track, West head coach Barry Makarewicz has seen Fang run so hard at the end of the race that he throws up.
"I am not the only one," Fang said with a laugh.
With a knowing smile toward the underclassmen, Bruns envisions a state championship for West in the future. The program is developing under Makarewicz, and the new stable of runners has the talent to turn the Panthers into a running powerhouse.
"Right now, our goal is to beat Viewmont and win our region," Bruns said.
Fang and Bruns pace Panthers' team
Tyler Fang is looking to attend Washington University in Missouri next fall. Kurt Bruns plans on attending Carlton College in Minnesota.
Bruns trains in the off-season doing cross-country skiing.
Fang and Bruns both run the 1600m for track and field.