By David Rasmussen
Entering the last lap of the 1,500-meter race at the conference championship, Kyle Perry was running in fourth place.
Surprisingly, that was exactly where he wanted to be.
“If he [Perry] is anywhere in the ball park with 200 to go, he”s going to win the race,” said Ed Eyestone, distance coach of BYU”s men”s track team.
BYU”s freshman standout used his trademark kick speed to position himself as he passed three competitors in the final 200 meters to take the win and a top ranking in the event heading into this weekend”s NCAA West Regional at BYU.
“I”ve always felt like my last lap, or last 200 meters, has been pretty good,” Perry said.
Good enough to give him an altitude converted time of 3 minutes, 42.25 seconds in the event, which places Perry third in the regional rankings. Because the two athletes ranked ahead of him will be participating in other events, Perry will most likely enter this weekend as the favorite to take the win in the 1,500-meter run.
That top ranking came as a result of an uncanny racing ability mixed with physical gifts.
“He”s got those long legs, and sometimes it takes him a little while to get them turning over,” Eyestone said. “But once he gets them turning over, he eats up so much ground with each stride, there”s no hope.”
Besides impressing coaches and demoralizing opponents, Perry is a motivation and an asset to his teammates.
“As he gets better with each race, and becomes more confident, everybody becomes more confident in him,” said Aaron Robison, Perry”s friend and teammate. “He”ll sometimes have a terrible workout where everybody beats him. But when he gets out in a competitive race, you just know he”s going to win. There”s no doubt. That”s just Kyle. He”s probably the best racer I”ve ever met in my entire life.”
While others rave and wonder about Perry”s racing style, it is simply a question of logic and competitiveness to the Sandy native.
“In a workout, if I feel the pain, I can justify in my mind slowing down a little bit, easing up so it doesn”t hurt,” Perry said. “But in a race, there”s no justification. It”s just that competitive nature. Sometimes I”ll slow down during a race, and mentally I”ll think ”Wait, what are you doing. This is a race,” And then I”ll have to turn it back on.”
The matter-of-fact outlook and humble attitude demonstrate Perry”s persona perfectly. Liked by teammates and coaches, Perry has never let his successes run to his head.
“Sometimes with a guy who”s a freshman eligibility wise, who steps up and is running so well, there might be some jealousy from his teammates,” Eyestone said. “But he”s the type of person who, just because of his attitude and his humility, with his talent, no one really has those feelings toward him. They”re just glad to be a teammate of his.”
This weekend, Perry leads a contingent of those teammates who hope to finish in the top five and receive an automatic bid to run at the NCAA Championships. Also competing will be sophomores Dustin Bybee and Tyrel Jensen (ranked fourth and seventh respectively). Sophomore Jacob Gustafsson and freshman Miles Batty round out the field for the Cougars.
“It would be fun to have five of us qualify,” Perry said. “It”s probably a little outrageous to say. But I really believe that at least three of us could get one of those five spots.”
The Cougars will face stiff competition with top programs such as Stanford, UCLA, Oregon and Arizona looking to play the role of spoiler in the Cougars” race plan.
“The Pac-10 is a really strong conference,” Perry said. “It”ll be fun to see how I size up against Pac-10 runners. Obviously there”s a desire to protect our home turf.”
Perry said he believes the home track advantage will play to BYU”s favor.
“We”ve got all of the guys from the Pac-10 from California or Washington, coming to Provo and the elevation change,” Perry said. “We”re already used to running regional qualifying times at elevation, and it”ll be fun to have them up here and let them know what it”s like to run in Provo.”