By David Fong
TROY — Olivia Tyre feared perhaps her best days had come and gone.
Maybe she had gone as far as she could go and was on the downside of a once-promising career.
The Troy High School senior cross country runner thought she had hit the wall.
“I was kind of worried maybe I had peaked too early in my career,” Tyre said. “I had heard about the ‘junior year slump’ and was worried that might be happening to me. I was scared.”
Tyre began her athletic career as a soccer player but switched to cross country midway through her freshman year, earning her way onto a varsity team that qualified for the 2015 state meet and placed fifth in the Division I race. As a sophomore — in her first full year competing solely as a cross country runner — she had a breakout season, earning All-Ohio honors as the state meet by placing 17th in 18:24 as the Trojans finished as the state runners-up.
The future truly seemed limitless for Tyre at that point.
Then her junior year hit.
Her times were off all season and she didn’t have the energy she had before. She struggled to get through workouts and Tyre — always a good student — even found herself struggling to stay awake in class. By the time the state meet rolled around, Tyre finished 102nd in 20:15 — 85 places and nearly 2 minutes off where she had been the year before.
She knew something was wrong — but wasn’t sure what it could be.
“(Troy coach Kevin) Alexander suggested I get tested for anemia,” Tyre said. “I had such a bad ending to the cross country season. I found out I was anemic; I had an iron deficiency. I was kind of worried about that.”
Tyre was diagnosed with anemia, meaning she had an iron deficiency in her blood, which isn’t entirely uncommon among female athletes, particularly ones who participate in endurance-based sports such as distance running or swimming. Tyre has spent much of the past year taking iron supplements to help her battle off the effects of the condition.
“She was scared,” Alexander said. “You could see she was starting to fall of at last year’s county meet and then by the (Greater Western Ohio Conference Championships), you could tell something was really wrong. She just wasn’t the same. I had her in class last year and there would be days where she was dozing off.
“I thought it might be anemia. It’s not that uncommon — especially for females — in athletes who are training that hard. When you see a kid start falling off like that, you want them to get tested for anemia. I’d say there are a lot of kids, who are training that hard, who probably are at risk for anemia.”
She started feeling a little better last spring during track season, then has continued to progress this year through cross country season, peaking last week at regionals, where she placed ninth in 18:30, just 6 seconds off the personal record she set two years ago. That was good enough to earn her a fourth-straight trip to this weekend’s state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, where she’ll be joined by teammates Emma Kennett and Dinah Gigandet, who also qualified as individuals.
The Tippecanoe boys and girls cross country teams, Troy Christian’s Robert Ventura and the Bradford girls cross country team also will be representing Miami County at state.
“I’m pretty excited,” Tyre said of running at state one final time. “This has been my goal all season. I had a lot of doubts at the end of last cross country season if I would be able to get back.”
Alexander said that once Tyre was able to get healthy, it was simply a matter of regaining her confidence.
“She was scared and she was running timid, even throughout the summer,” he said. “I think she was worried she was going to feel like that again. It’s been great watching her get her confidence back. The physical attributes never went away; it was just a matter of getting her confidence back.
“It’s so great to see her get a final chance to run at state, with all of the obstacles she’s been able to overcome. To see her be able to come back like she has is absolutely outstanding. She’s a testament to hard work and perseverance and it’s great to watching her find success.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong