NAMPA, Idaho – After the NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championships, Tyler Shea made plans to attend the national championships.
While he did not automatically qualify for the national meet, Shea and his teammates decided to get a hotel room in Sacramento, Calif., and arrange a road trip to go support the Northwest Nazarene women’s team.
So, on Monday when Shea learned he had received an at large spot in the national meet, he had to scramble to move the hotel room out of his name.
A good problem to have, for sure.
“I was in shock at first,” Shea said when he found out the news. “I didn’t really come into that race with the mindset of qualifying for Nationals. Coach (Ben) Gall said I could be top-25 so I could be all-region, so that was my goal.
“Nationals was completely unexpected, but I’m super excited for the experience. I think it will be awesome.”
Shea, along with the entire Nighthawks women’s team, will compete in the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships on Saturday. He is the first male runner from NNU to reach nationals since Barak Watson went in 2009 and 2010.
Shea will be joined at nationals by teammates Gabe Martin, Brodie Dick, Godfrey Kemboi, Brett Bergler and his roommate, Treyson Conley, a 2018 Redmond High graduate.
And while that group won’t be competing, they are still excited to support Shea.
“This year has been an eye opener for all of us,” Conley, a sophomore who finished 87th at the Nov. 9 West Regional meet, said. “Our guys team has really been chatting about wanting to do something the next two years. Tyler is going and getting the experience and we get a chance to go down there and watch him and see what it is like. This is more motivation for all of us.”
That motivation has shown this week as the entire team has continued to do workouts with Shea, even though their season is over.
“They want Tyler to be successful and they understand what it takes to be a team and work together no matter who goes or not goes,” NNU cross country coach Danny Bowman said. “They will always be supportive of each other. We didn’t require this of them, it is all on them.”
Shea, a sophomore from Spokane, Wash., seemed nearly destined to come to NNU. His parents, Jeff and Jana, both graduated from here and he grew up going to Spokane First Church of the Nazarene.
Once he became dedicated to running in high school, he started getting recruited by Division III schools in the Northwest. Eventually, then-NNU coach Jake Perry came calling and Shea committed to the Nighthawks.
When he arrived on campus, though, he had a new coach in Ben Gall.
“It was an interesting transition coming here and not having the coach that recruited me,” Shea said. “The coaching staff has been great, though. Gall’s training has been great for me. He individualizes the workouts and has helped me improve a lot.”
That improvement has extended from running decent times as a freshman to strong times as a sophomore.
“I knew that coming into the year I had a good base, but compared to last year I was able to handle the college workouts much better,” Shea said. “I felt good coming into the year rather than worn out.
“Once we tapered for regionals, I started feeling really good. Last year, I never felt that good.”
All that work is now paying off with a trip to the national meet.