It’s 10:25 a.m. on October 3. Runners gather hesitantly at the starting line of the Boone Grove High School cross country course. All but one is universally deterred by the gray sky and drizzle. Tyler Hachey is determined. The hundreds of base miles he’s put in, the countless hours spent training in the summer heat, all come to fruition today. Hachey, the senior captain at Washington Township High School, is geared for a personal best run. Ice bath? Taken. Beet? Eaten for breakfast. He is ready.
“Runners to your marks! Set!”
The gun fires, and they’re off to the races. Coaches scatter, vying for position at the one-mile marker. Angela Bien, the 14-year long varsity coach at Washington Township, is among them.
During the school day, Ms. Bien strives to rethink how she teaches English; the current COVID-19 pandemic calling for “organizing face-to-face and online classes simultaneously,” as Bien says.
But when she isn’t devising ways to connect isolated virtual students and foster collaboration, the long-time runner turned coach pours her heart into her team. Bien plans daily workouts, designs t-shirts, and pushes her team.
She infuses all of these activities with her mantra, “lean in.” Lean into struggle, lean into change, and fully embrace what’s happening. Through this mentality, Coach Bien aims to grow adaptable students and runners, build character, and create a love for exercise (both mental and physical) that will last a lifetime.
At 5 minutes 15 seconds, the boys approach the first-mile mark. The lead runner, a tough contender from Morgan Township High School, strides out ahead, and Hachey strides with him. While other runners’ faces are laced with pain, Hachey is cool and collected; he loves competition and loves the sport. To him, running is a cure for laziness. It’s a lifestyle. Running is both a way to get to know himself and a way to make connections with fellow runners.
He lives for team huddles with the boys and follows many professional and high school runners’ journeys. Hachey is always inspired to run better times and find new ways to improve. This has led him to become a pescatarian, practice Wim Hof breathing techniques, and watch professional races. Hachey stretches religiously as well, one of his favorites being the glute stretch.
The race continues, and spectators find themselves biting their nails as Hachey continues to grapple with the runner from Morgan Township High School. With about a minute remaining, the lead runner begins to pull away. Hachey puts up a good fight and ends up finishing in second place by only seven seconds. He is officially clocked at 16:49, a personal best time. All season, Hachey has been running to break the 17-minute barrier, and he’s finally accomplished that. His morning will get better still—Coach Bien has been keeping a secret.
As runners gather at the Boone Grove soccer field for the awards ceremony, Bien, assistant coach Tara Hamstra, and Hachey’s friends can barely contain their excitement. Unbeknownst to Hachey, he was in the running (pun intended) for a prestigious conference award: the Mental Attitude Award, given to a varsity runner that displays passion for the sport, responds well to instruction, maintains a positive attitude towards teammates and competitors alike, and has a strong academic record.
Mental Attitude Award nominees are voted on by coaches from other conference teams, so the winner must demonstrate the above qualities not only on practice days but also during meets when stakes are high.
Girls All-Conference runners are being announced and then Boys All-Conference runners. When it comes time for the boys’ Mental Attitude Award, Hachey isn’t expecting much. For the past few days, his coaches have been detached; his closest friends seem confident that “some random person” is going to win.
So when the booming voice announces “Tyler Hachey, Washington Township,” he’s shocked.
His first thought is they hid it from me, but, moments later, Hachey is honored.
“This wasn’t just an athletic award. They saw my character and appreciated all of the hard work I put in,” he says.
At first, Hachey wondered if he would even have a senior season, so he is extremely grateful for the races he’s been allowed to have.
After this PCC race, Hachey looks forward to advancing past the sectionals meet at New Prairie High School and running for Saturdays to come. Hachey plans to continue training throughout the winter to prepare for the track and field season this spring when he will compete in the mile, two-mile, and 4x800 meter events.
If he runs well, Hachey will seek a full-ride cross country and track scholarship. Aside from his running endeavors, Hachey is a crowd favorite on the basketball court. Hachey, who the student section calls Moose, is a nimble starting point guard. He hopes for a strong senior season and eagerly anticipates the rowdy atmosphere of conference games.
Cheer Hachey on at the Regional meet this Saturday (October 17) at Sunset Hill County Park! The race begins at 11:15 a.m., and the top 10 runners will advance to the Semi-State race. You won’t want to miss this.