After breaking his leg during football season, Tyler Staples eyes breaking something else — the Paris school record for the mile run.
Tyler Staples, five months removed from a gruesome leg fracture during the first football game last season, is aiming for what once seemed an improbable physical comeback for the upcoming high school track season.
While the Paris senior was laying on the grass at the 10-yard-line of the Harrisburg football stadium, awaiting a rescue squad, the last thing anyone thought about was his return to athletics — with one exception, an unnamed Harrisburg coach.
“The coach looked at me and asked if I was the one who had run the 4:36 mile last track season, and I nodded my head, yes, and he said not to worry, that I would be back running the mile next year,” Staples said.
Staples' injury ignited concerns from two communities. While Paris was worried, parents and students at Harrisburg delivered a surprise package to Staples, including get well cards – one signed by the entire Harrisburg cheerleading squad.
Staples underwent surgery on the Saturday after the injury and has spent the last several months working on rebuilding his strength in the leg.
Last spring, Staples finished seconds short of breaking the Paris record in the one-mile, capping a successful season that witnessed him finishing seventh in the state for the mile.
He is now determined to break the record.
“I have a goal now be under 4:35 this season,” Staples said. “That is my focus.”
He started running last month with the assistant Paris track coach, Doug Buie — himself an accomplished runner.
Buie runs with Staples almost every day. Most of the time, it is around Paris, but many days have been spent running the hallways of the high school, making for tedious but necessary training.
“I started coaching him in track two years ago, and after the injury, I told him that I would work with him once he was cleared by his doctor,” Buie said.
They started running in December, and Staples is getting faster each day.
“He is progressing so well,” Buie said. “He missed breaking the school record by one second last year, so I know he is determined. He has the drive to break the record.”
Paris head track coach Gary Crusha, who as the head football coach was at Staples side during the 45 minutes he waited for a rescue squad from Columbia to reach Harrisburg, said it was hard to imagine Staples coming back for track season.
“It is easy to get down on yourself after that kind of injury, but his motivation is great,” Crusha said.