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Former Crater High standout Kayleigh Tyerman helped Florida State finish fourth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Monday. - Photo courtesy of the Florida State Sports Informa

Running to daylight

Sometimes you just need a change of scenery.

And when you're an elite-level runner like Central Point's Kayleigh Tyerman, sometimes that means crossing the country to find the perfect spot.

After a standout career at Crater High and two outstanding seasons at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Tyerman appears to have found a happy home with one of the nation's top cross country programs at Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla.

"It's really what I needed," the 20-year-old psychology student said of her move to the Southeast. "Completely different but just amazing."

As a junior transfer, Tyerman was part of a Seminoles program that earned its fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship and second straight NCAA South Region title this season. Top-ranked Florida State entered Monday's NCAA Championships undefeated but endured a few setbacks and was forced to settle for a fourth-place finish in Terre Haute, Ind. The Seminoles finished a mere 27 points behind Georgetown's first-place total of 162.

"It was definitely a much different meet than what we had been at all season just with that amount of competition and being that close of a finish," said Tyerman. "We had some unfortunate races. Things always go crazy at the NCAAs but we're all still proud of the team making it on the podium again."

Making it on the podium was never really an issue for Tyerman as she dominated cross country and track meets during her high school days with the Comets, and such success continued to follow her to Cal Poly. In her first collegiate season during the fall of 2009, Tyerman was named the Big West Conference Freshman of the Year after placing second in the conference championships for Cal Poly. She was fourth the following year and wrapped up her run at Cal Poly by being selected Big West Athlete of the Week five times covering her cross country and track exploits.

Although she didn't want to get too detailed in her decision to leave Cal Poly, Tyerman said it became clear that transferring away would be for the better.

"It wasn't anything to do with the coaches or girls at Cal Poly," she noted. "I just had a lot of bad circumstances and I really couldn't be at Cal Poly anymore."

The transfer process was daunting to say the least for Tyerman, who initially believed she would remain on the West Coast before receiving a surprising response from Florida State women's cross country coach Karen Harvey.

"I sent coach Harvey an email and she responded right away and was incredibly helpful," said Tyerman. "Everyone at Florida State and in the Athletic Department was so quick to respond and helpful and made the whole situation a lot easier, especially because it was pretty late in the season as far as transferring goes."

With transcripts sent off, the final step involved Tyerman flying out for a recruiting trip to the school and for a face-to-face meeting with Harvey. No promises were made nor positions guaranteed, other than Harvey's belief that the Oregonian could be a big help to a team that was coming off back-to-back runner-up runs at the NCAA Championships after two straight third-place showings in 2007 and '08.

Instead of being the focal point of her team's success as she had been at Crater and Cal Poly, Tyerman soon realized she would have to shift her perspective to simply being a piece of the puzzle — albeit a dynamic puzzle.

"It's definitely very different than what I've been used to but I made the decision that I'm not going to be a big fish in a small pond if I want to be part of it all (at FSU)," said Tyerman, who notched more non-scoring meets this season with sixth-place team showings than she had combined for in her running career. "It's different and wonderful and intimidating and amazing all at the same time."

And, to be fair, scoring in meets wouldn't have been a problem at any point this season if she weren't running alongside such accomplished teammates. Being the sixth Seminole to cross the finish line still was better than half the scorers from opposing teams for the most part. Florida State posted the Nos. 2-6 runners in winning the ACC meet — Tyerman was 10th — and had all seven runners finish among the top 20 in the NCAA South Region meet — Tyerman placed 16th overall and fifth on her team.

"Of course I want to score, but more of a goal on a team like this is to keep that gap as close as possible and push the other girls," said Tyerman. "If I'm going to be the sixth girl, I'm going to be ahead of every other team's scorers if I can. Any point I can get, even if I'm No. 6 and I'm ahead of Vanderbilt's No. 3, that adds on points. You're still a part of the team."

"I have always come from programs where I got to be No. 1 and leading this and that's fun but it means a whole different thing when you're a part of a team like this," she adds. "It means so much more. No one here ever got upset when someone was ahead of them from the team. There's no pouting because Hannah (Brooks) beat Violah (Lagat) or Viola beat Hannah or (Amanda) Winslow, everyone was just supporting each other."

It was that down to earth nature that drew Tyerman in the most at FSU. From the training runs where everyone gave their all to the camaraderie off the path, the Seminoles' pack mentality provided a positive backdrop.

The fact that Florida State was able to accomplish as much as it did this year was somewhat of a surprise considering only three of the top seven runners were returners from 2010. Tyerman and Lagat were both junior transfers, while Colleen Quigley and Aubree Worden were true freshmen. Winslow and Jessica Parry, both junior co-captains, will return next season and Jennifer Dunn — who was a medical redshirt this year after placing 41st and 42nd, respectively, in the past two nationals — will step in for the loss of Brooks, a graduate senior.

"It's crazy that our team had so much success because we were really young and new as a team," said Tyerman, who will also run track this spring at FSU and is only a sophomore in terms of eligibility in that sport. "It's pretty crazy how we all came together so much and so fast. It's the most amazing group of girls I could ever be a part of. The way that every single person on the team is putting everything into it and just to have that group around me every day to inspire me, it's just amazing."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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