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Van Dyke makes most of final shot

The stars finally aligned for Eagle Point's Tyler Van Dyke, and he took full advantage of it Saturday afternoon at Lithia Park in Ashland.

In spite of his role as a standout player on the Eagle Point boys soccer team, Van Dyke has always wanted to compete for the Eagles in the district cross country meet. Conflicts with soccer games never gave him the opportunity, however, until Saturday.

With only the pre-district meet and another competition under his belt, Van Dyke was still able to go out against the best in the Southern Oregon/Intermountain Hybrid district and beat them all, save for boys champion Travis Neuman of Summit. Van Dyke finished in 16 minutes, 54.53 seconds, while Neuman covered the 5,000-meter course in 16:51.91.

The amazing thing is, Van Dyke's performance seemed to surprise no one inside the Eagles' camp.

"I had no doubt he was going to be in the top five," said EP cross country coach Matt Pinder on Monday. "You just have to know Tyler. He's that type of kid that does not like to lose."

The same sentiment was echoed by Eagle Point boys soccer coach Derek Dougherty.

"It's not surprising at all," he said. "He just does everything to the best of his abilities and he's been gifted with certain talents, especially running. That's why he's so good on the soccer field, because he can run all over the field."

"I knew he'd do some damage the other years, too, but it never worked out for him with all the conflicts," added Dougherty. "He always said he didn't want to leave the team and let them down, and this time he didn't have to."

Knowing that Eagle Point's play-in game for boys soccer would not be until today, Van Dyke ramped up the training for his senior year. Even though he didn't get to work out with the cross country team, he utilized a workout plan given to him by Pinder and has been roughly running about 13 miles every Sunday.

"Knowing that I finally got a year where I could do both, it just really helped motivate me to run more on the weekends," said Van Dyke, 17.

During the week, the 6-foot, 135-pounder received all the conditioning one could ask for as a center midfielder and sweeper for the Eagles.

"With soccer, those guys do an incredible amount of training anyway," noted Pinder. "They run at least three to five miles during the game. If you play in the midfield, you're running all over the place so you're always moving and running at least 90 minutes in the game."

Still, there's certainly more to running than just going out as fast as you can for as long as you can. Both Pinder and Dougherty said Van Dyke's status as a 4.0 student have made up for any lack of experience out on the course. In his time with the Eagles, Van Dyke has raced in fewer than 10 cross country meets.

"He's starting to run his races more on the thinking side," said Pinder. "It's taken me a while to get him to tone down because he always thought he had to be the first person in the race from the start to the finish. He's starting to understand that's not a necessity anymore."

On Saturday, Van Dyke was the only Eagle Point runner to compete in the varsity race. The remaining 15 took part in the junior varsity race on Pinder's recommendation.

"Almost all of them ran their best times for the year and that's what it's all about," added Pinder. "I just wanted my kids to do the best that they can do and run in a competitive race for themselves. They had probably as much success as Tyler did."

Van Dyke will look to string together another big day today when the Eagles (1-10-2) hit the road for a Class 5A soccer play-in game at Dallas (2-10). Van Dyke is EP's leading scorer and thinks the Eagles have a legitimate chance of advancing to the play-in second round, which would be played Friday so he still can compete Saturday at the cross country state meet.

"I'm stoked," Van Dyke said of today's soccer game. "I think we can win and I'm very excited about our chances."

As for Saturday, nobody's putting anything past Van Dyke, although his best time this season ranks 52nd among 5A runners. Ashland's Sam Jackson is 41st (16:49).

"Knock on wood he doesn't have anything happen (today) and he'll be ready to run on Saturday," said Pinder. "He's a real gutty performer. I've coached a number of athletes that are very competitive and he's right up there with all of them as far as the competitiveness."

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PHOENIX HIGH MOVED one step closer to renovations for the school's weight room thanks to last month's fundraiser with the Ford Motor Company and Butler Ford, which netted the maximum amount possible of $6,000.

Approximately 305 people made their way to the Butler Ford dealership on Sept. 25 to test-drive a Ford vehicle as part of the company's Drive One 4 UR School fundraiser. For each participant who came from a unique household, Ford and Butler Ford donated $20, up to a maximum of $6,000.

The money for the event had previously been earmarked for the weight room.

"Funding extracurricular activities can be challenging, so this support makes a positive impact for our students," said Jani Hale, Phoenix High principal, in a recent press release. "We're so thankful for Butler Ford's support."

Ford's Drive One 4 UR School program has raised more than $2.6 million for close to 700 high schools across the country since the start of the program in 2007.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com