LAKEWOOD - Tyler Hannah, didn’t always envision himself as the state-qualifying track and field star is he today. The Lakewood High School junior began running track in seventh grade, and said at the start, he wasn’t so sure if there was a future for him in the sport.
“I wasn’t very good, and I didn’t know very much about the sport,” Hannah said. “I thought all you did was run.”
If it wasn’t for the push from his mother, he may never have found the love for the sport he has now.
“I told him, ‘you need to do something to keep yourself busy.’ He was crying (about being in track) the first year. I said ‘you’re gonna stick with it. You’re gonna keep going.’ It didn’t matter what his time was at this point, but he kept going. He has the endurance to keep going. By the time he was in seventh grade -- he is now on the wall in the seventh grade school.”
Just a year later, though, Hannah was the fastest at his school, and the 4x100 meter relay team he was apart of went undefeated his eighth grade year. At the time, though it wasn’t all success for Hannah. He said that due to his frustrations with the high jump, he decided to walk away from the team.
His mom wasn’t going to let that happen lightly.
“I had no intention of re-joining until my mom sat down with me one night and told me, ‘Tyler, you’re not going to win every race. There will always be someone better than you. Just think, there are seven billion people in the world. Everyone is counting on you, and quitting isn’t an option. So if you quit track, you quit sports indefinitely. What’s it gonna be?’”
Through the times when Hannah questioned his future in track, Fosu knew that, in the long run, it was what he needed.
“His coaches were pushing and pushing and I was loving it,” Fosu, said with a laugh. “Because, I was like, ‘That’s what he needs!’ He did not want to do it at all. I said, ‘You don’t understand, this is what you need. No, you’re not stopping. If I have to be there every day, I’ll be there. This is what you’re going to do.”
It’s the motivation and support from his family that Della Wade, a family friend of Hannah and his family, said drives the success he’s found.
“I have been to most of his events, and Tyler has really progressed in running and tracking and hurdles,” Wade said. “In Lakewood, he’s really, really good where he has more support. He has more people behind him as far as coaches, his family, teachers and friends, and that motivates Tyler more than ever to see what he can do in track and field. He’s a very outgoing young man and he’s determined in what he does, and very successful.”
Not only does Hannah have a strong support and motivation system, but he’s found a way to turn that support around and inspire others. It doesn’t stop at pushing his teammates to be better, though. Hannah also around talking to young adults in the court system and at juvenile correction centers.
“He had some bumps and bruises and he had some downfall in his life,” Fosu said. “Basically he turned his life around, and ended up doing speaking engagements. People have problems, but you can be successful. It’s all about where your head’s at.”
Since moving to Lakewood from Columbus with his family, Hannah has taken those bumps and bruises in stride, and found that track was the outlet he needed to get back on the right track.
“There have been many instances where I’ve messed up, I hung with the wrong crowds, I had no idea what I wanted in life,” Hannah said. “But as I matured, I realized that life isn’t easy and it never will be. It’s an ‘eat or be eaten’ world. So I decided to dedicate myself to something, and that was track. I fell in love with the sport. Seriously, in love.”
That love for the sports has more than paid dividends for Hannah. This past weekend, he participated in both the 110 and 300 meter hurdles in Columbus at the state track meet. Tyler qualified Friday for Saturday’s final in the 110 meter event. With a time of 14.45 seconds, Hannah finished eighth of nine runners.
Despite not taking home a state title, Hannah fulfilled a dream of his to even make it to the state meet. This summer isn’t over for him, though, as Hannah as his family will head down to North Carolina June 15, for the New Balance National Outdoor competition. For one of Hannah’s coaches, this isn’t surprising to him.
“He’s one of those kids that may only come along once in my coaching career,” Mike Dow, one of Lakewood High School’s track coaches, said. “He’s so well-rounded in his academics, the way he carries himself and his work ethic on the track is unmatched by anybody I’ve ever had before.
“He’s just a special kid,” Dow continued. “I’ve been around a lot (of track athletes) because my dad was a college track coach up in the New England area, and I’ve grown up with track and I’ve seen so many good athletes in my time, and this kid is gonna end up being one of the greatest of all time at Lakewood High School.”
Hannah still has one year to cement a legacy that is likely already set at Lakewood. Beyond that, Hannah has few goals in mind.
“The Olympics is definitely a huge life goal of mine,” Hannah said. “I would love to even qualify for it. If I did that, I’d be set for life. All I want to do is make the olympic team and go from there.”
Should track prove to not be in distant future for Hannah, he’s not leaving himself without other options.
“Dentistry has been an interest of mine just because I love to see people genuinely smile,” Hannah said. “There is no better feeling in the world than true happiness, and if some people are afraid to show that because they aren’t confident enough with their teeth, I told myself I will do everything in my power to help change that.”
Hannah isn’t getting ahead of himself with these goals, though. Taking his last year at Lakewood one day at a time, and attempting to make the most his time left there.
“My future plans for the remainder of my stay at Lakewood High include attempting to make myself known as one of the best athletes to attend our school, get good grades, and receive a college scholarship for running,” Hannah said. “'I’ve got my head screwed on tight, and I don't know where I'll be after the next year, but I'm looking forward to becoming a better person and athlete every step of the way.”