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Tyner-Delaney: A prep sprint showdown for the ages

by: JAIME VALDEZ Aloha High's Thomas Tyner, already a highly recruited running back, has emerged as one of the nation's top sprinters in track and field, too. His top competitor in Oregon is Barlow's Arthur Delaney, also an accomplished sprinter.

The greatest showdown in Oregon high school sprint history will unfurl Saturday during the Class 6A championships on the Hayward Field track.

Aloha sophomore Thomas Tyner, the state record-holder at 100 meters, will square off with defending 100 champion Arthur Delaney, a senior at Barlow, at both 100 and 200 meters, barring a setback to either in Friday's prelims.

Despite chilly weather through the spring, Tyner has four times achieved personal records in the 100, including 10.35 at the Metro League championships last week. That matches Remontay McClain of Covina, Calif., for the second-fastest non-wind-aided time in the country.

Delaney, who owns a PR of 10.59, has a season best of 10.67 ('running on cruise control,' says his coach, Dave Kilian) despite dealing with hamstring issues. The University of Oregon-bound Delaney owns a slight edge over Tyner in bests at 200 this spring - 21.39 to 21.41.

A year ago, the more-seasoned Delaney got the drop on Tyner in the state 100 final, winning in a wind-aided 10.42 to the Aloha freshman's 10.54.

'Thomas wasn't ready for it,' Aloha coach Bill Volk says. 'Arthur's had more experience being in front of thousands of people, having that moment where the starter puts you in the set position and you can hear a pin drop through the stadium.

'For Thomas, it was nerve-racking. He wasn't ready for that. Delaney ran a great race, kept his form, stayed in his stride. Thomas lost it. He got into a chase position, which he'd never been in.'

Delaney also won the 200 in a legal 21.28, a state-meet record. Tyner didn't qualify for the finals.

The 6-foot, 200-pound Tyner is a different runner this year.

'Thomas has grown tremendously as a sprinter,' Kilian says. 'His technique is better. His stride length has opened up. That is why his times are down. He is becoming a better sprinter. Plus, the guy's a freak of nature.'

As a sophomore tailback, Tyner led Aloha to the state football championship last fall, earning state offensive player of the year honors.

'Never seen one like him in all my years of coaching,' Aloha football coach Chris Casey says. 'The neat thing is, he's a great kid. He's a team guy. He always compliments the line for blocking. He compliments his track teammates. He works hard in the classroom.'

'A lot of people don't believe he's a sophomore,' Volk says. 'Well, yes, he is. He truly is. And yes, he's a specimen. I keep telling him to stay humble, to stay hungry, to stay hard-working.

'I can tell you, he's been a joy to coach. He makes you feel as if what you're giving him is sacred.'

Asked how he has been able to brave the elements and post such fast times this spring, Tyner pays tribute to those around him.

'I have teammates who push me in practice,' he says. 'Having coaches who know what they're talking about - Coach Volk, and my summer coach, Jay Miles - they do a great job of teaching me.'

Tyner won't use the weather as an excuse, either.

'It has affected me a little bit, but it teaches me to get in a longer warmup, so I don't pull any muscles,' he says.

Tyner didn't run track until his freshman year at Aloha.

'It's just as important as football to me now,' he says. 'As I entered football, I didn't really have a feeling for track. Once I started picking up the sport, I've fallen in love with it just as I fell in love with football.'

Tyner's father John, is an attorney. His mother, Donna, works for the Port of Portland.

'Really good people,' Casey says. 'John has coached in our Aloha Youth football program for several years. Donna has been a great supporter, too. Thomas' older brother, Michael, played in our program, and he was one of the top wrestlers in the state this year as a senior.'

As a freshman, Kilian says Tyner reminded him of another great Aloha sprinter - Nic Costa - whom the Barlow coach ran against in high school. Costa won the state 100 title as a freshman, sophomore and junior.

'Last year, Thomas ran like Nic - very tight, with power, power, power,' Killian says. 'But for Nic, track was to help him for football. I don't think that's the case with Thomas.'

Tyner began to work on his form last summer with Miles, who coaches the Warrior Track Club. Tyner has continued this year with Volk.

'Thomas has developed the way he moves,' says Volk, who doubles as an offensive line coach in football. 'In football, it's about moving in multiple directions; in track, we're focusing on the lineal speed, power, takeoff, acceleration.

'He took 2 1/2 weeks over Christmas off, and the first of January, we started right to work to improve his stride length, his power takeoff, acceleration and utilizing his arms, We watched an awful lot of video to break down his mechanical movements.'

On April 16 at the Aloha Relays, Tyner ran 10.43, breaking the state record of 10.48 set by McKay's Ryan Bailey in 2007. (Delaney is fourth on the all-time state list at 10.59, behind Tyner, Bailey and McKay's Gus Envela at 10.49 in 1985.) Since then, Tyner lowered his best to 10.38 and finally 10.35.

Tyner has a busy summer of sprinting at national meets planned, including an appearance in the 'Dream 100' at the Adidas Grand Prix on June 11 in New York City.

'It's the top nine (prep) sprinters in the country,' Volk says. 'That will be good exposure and a great experience.'

Tyner says his times so far don't impress him.

'I always tell myself to never be satisfied,' he says. 'Once I reach a goal, I set a new one. I'm shooting for a 10.2 at state.'

It might take that kind of time to beat Delaney, the two-time state champ who is healthy after an abbreviated season this spring due to a sore hamstring. The runners hold great respect for each other.

'I don't really know him, except for talking a little at meets,' Delaney says. 'He's a nice guy. Thomas' times are pretty fast. His 200 time for a sophomore - that's really fast.'

'We're pretty friendly when we talk,' Tyner says. 'He's a great athlete and seems like a great guy. I'm always looking at his times on athletic.net. I have all the respect in the world for the guy.'

Each will carry a heavy load as he tries to help his team with a state title. Tyner will run the 100 and 200 as well as anchor the Warriors' 4x100 relay unit. Delaney is slated to run the 100, 200 and 400 as well as compete in the long jump.

'He thinks he's going to beat me; I think I'm going to beat him,' Delaney says. 'We'll both have to perform at our best to win.'

'I love to win,' Tyner says. 'I'm shooting for a PR and a big win (in the 100). I've improved a lot from last year. It'll be a good race. I still have a lot of work to do in the 200. I'm training to carry my strength throughout the whole race.'

Volk figures Tyner will be better-equipped than a year ago should he fall behind Delaney in either race.

'We've practiced putting him behind during his workouts, so he's forced to run people down,' Volk says. 'They're both great competitors. It's going to be exciting.'

Tyner has already received tremendous attention from college recruiters, especially for football.

Representatives from 'Michigan and UCLA were here today,' Casey says. 'California was here last week. Oregon, Oregon State and Boise State came the week before.'

Oregon and OSU have already offered scholarships. Casey is helping Tyner filter offers while maintaining a balance of big-time recruit and high-school student.

'We're working to have him have those great goals and visions that he deserves to have come true if he keeps working at it, but to make sure he still enjoys a normal high school experience,' Casey says. 'To continue being a friend, being a student, being a helper to those around him.'

Tyner is far from reaching a college decision. He knows he wants to compete in both football and track and field.

'I can tell you this,' he says. 'The rain isn't the best for a sprinter. I want to get some place warm, some place good for my body. Oregon's not the best for that.

'Oregon has a great track program, and Oregon State's getting a (men's) track program, too. Football does matter to me, and they'll be high on my list. But I'll looking at schools outside the state, too.'

College is something he has plenty of time to worry about. For now, the focus is on Arthur Delaney and what should prove to be a gripping weekend of sprinting at Hayward Field.