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Corley Brothers Go the Distance for Tyler Schools

By Staff | May 4, 2016

Photo Provided Brothers Gavin (left) and Spencer Corley discuss strategy before a race.

SISTERSVILLE – Two brothers are redefining distance running this track season for Tyler schools.

Gavin and Spencer Corley have recently made their mark around the track in the mile.

Gavin, a sophomore, broke the 5-minute mile mark for the first time at the Charleston Gazette/Friends of Coal Relays held last weekend in the capital. His time was 4:55 minutes eighth place overall. Judging from the final results, Corley was in a locked battle the last 100 meters of the 1,600 meter run against seasoned juniors and seniors who finished about a second apart from one another.

Recently at a track meet in Ritchie County, Spencer, a seventh grade student at Tyler Middle, ran 5:10 minutes to beat the school record for the mile.

The two boys train together and both are on pace to set long lasting school records in distance running. On any given weekend, the pair may be running a local 5K together. The competition is fierce, but not lethal. During a recent 5K outing around the hills outside Middlebourne, Spencer was having a very tough day enduring the humidity and challenging terrain. Though scenic, the hills can test the merit of any long distance runner. Sensing his brother was in trouble, Gavin risked his top spot finish by slowing his pace to check on brother’s health and safety.

Breaking the 5-minute mile mark for the first time is something to treasure, maybe like a first touch down pass or home run. Not just anyone can do it because for all practical purposes, each lap around the 400-meter track must be run around 1:15 minutes or less, really less. That means the pace per 100-meters including the curves – must be less than 19 seconds per link.

This heated pace taxes any distance runner’s reserves, but milers have to save their strength for the gun lap. The last quarter of a mile of the race tends to be in negative splits faster and faster each stride. Either you got it or you don’t because you can’t fake a sub 5-minute mile. When cross country running for 3.1 miles a racer can goof off or have a bad mile or so, but make up ground and finish strong. Hold back a lap of the 1,600-meter mile, no smiles at the end.

And Gavin did it mid season of his sophomore year.

“The goal of any runner is to break barriers, and I set out this year to break the 5-minute barrier in the mile,” he said. “To have accomplished this goal in Charleston was amazing.”

Gavin’s goal is to break the school record in the mile reported to be in the mid 4:30s. If he continues at the pace he has set for himself, the sophomore may dip into the 4:40s by peak time for the state championship meet. He trains 20-30 miles per week quality miles too.

Both athletes give credit to their coaches for their triumphs. Gavin Corley’s coaches are Brenna Haggerty, Jill Lemasters and Joe Semple; Spencer’s coach is Jacob Myer. These coaches have built a solid track team that has elements that dominate several events at the regional and state level.

Tyler coaches preach the values of consistency, quality mileage, weight training and blend interval training with long distance workouts.

That approach contrasts with top prep track programs that burn out aspiring runners with a high mileage diet, but the short term gains come at a cost of burn-out and injury. Though there is something to be said for moderate to high mileage under the right circumstances, that kind of training doesn’t happen overnight. Though Gavin Corley has run the mile this season, he has also paid his dues with shorter but faster races to increase leg turnover. This regimen translates into a more efficient and better use of oxygen.

Not to be outdone, Spencer paces around the Tyler track like a man possessed during practice. There is no weakness a solid stride and good form. Fearless.

Like his brother, Spencer is a champion in the making because when the race is done, he has nothing left in reserve. Spencer tests his own limits each practice, each race. It’s in his eyes. He pushes himself into that place during a race when all muscles are screaming and there is not enough oxygen, and then he goes harder.

“My mom (Jonay) always tells me to walk humbly, run with purpose and finish on empty,” Spencer said. “When I’m on the course or the track, I clear my mind and focus solely on the task at hand.”

The brothers are fans of one of America’s most famous track athletes Steve Prefontaine.

The gutsy distance runner once graced the cover of Sports Illustrated while he was a freshman competing for University of Oregon’s storied track program. “Pre” was only about 5-feet 8-inches tall too small for football and too short for basketball.

Like the Corley brothers, Pre put in the time and the miles to make a name for himself that echoes an eternity.

“Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it,” Prefontaine.