From the day Ridgefield High School cross country and track coach Angela Shields saw Kyle Radosevich run a 4 minute, 50 second mile in middle school and recruited him to join the team, she tried to get him to focus on running first and foremost.
Radosevich always gave her the same answer.
Not yet. I’m patient. I’ll know when it’s time.
For his first two years of high school, Radosevich ran cross country in the fall and returned to the soccer pitch soon after, first to play for his Pacific FC club team, then in the spring as a starting midfielder for the Spudders varsity.
True to his word, though, Radosevich decided this summer it was time to pick a sport. Running won out.
Maybe it was his surprise 12th-place finish at the 2A state cross country championships as a sophomore last November. Maybe it was the talks he had with Gonzaga coach Pat Tyson at the Northwest Montana Running Camp in June. Maybe it was the realization that if he wanted to compete in a sport collegiately, distance running was his best option. Maybe it was a combination of all three.
Whatever the reason, Radosevich took the summer off from club soccer to focus on running. He upped his weekly workouts to 40–50 miles per week, he ran in—and won—Ridgefield’s Independence Run in July, and he worked with Matt Walsh, a physical therapist with PACE, on his hips and hamstrings to lessen the stress on painful shin splints that hampered him much of the 2016 season.
“I’ve been working on my form a lot,” Radosevich said. “Last year, I was hurting at a lot of points of the season, and my racing was inconsistent. I just feel like I can still reach higher potential.”
So far in the early going, his dedication has paid off with improved results. In his first big meet, Radosevich hung with the lead pack at the Ash Creek XC Festival at Western Oregon University before finishing sixth in 16:08.22.
“It had been a long time since I’d raced, and I didn’t know where I was going to be this year,” he said. “My goal is to break 16 by the end of the year, so being under 16:10 felt so good.”
Running One of Region’s Biggest Cross Country Races
It’s one of the biggest cross country meets in the region, with 160 high school teams drawn from eight Western US states taking part. The highlight race is the Jim Danner Championship, and Shields had briefly thought of entering Radosevich in the elite field but decided against it.
Too soon for that big of a challenge, she concluded. “Kyle doesn’t have that huge base,” she said, “so I have to be conservative with him.”
Instead, Radosevich toes the start line with the rest of his teammates in the Division 2 race, which will be challenging enough. The race includes Hanford (Richland, WA) junior Caleb Olson, who has already won three titles in 2017; Tamire Proctor of Northwest (Seattle), second at the 1A state meet last year; and Jaden Rosenthal of High Tech High in San Diego, a top-10 finisher at the Mt. Carmel/ASICS XC Invitational.
The gun goes off, and Radosevich immediately races to the front. At the mile mark, he’s running third, just a couple of strides behind Olson and Proctor leading the way, but already Radosevich senses trouble.
“I didn’t think they would go out that fast,” he said. “They ran that first mile in 4:50. I usually run it around 5 minutes.”
The fast pace doesn’t look as if it’s taken a big toll as the lead pack makes its second loop around the 5-kilometer course. Radosevich sits in eighth with about 1,000 meters to go, but inside, he knows he’s in trouble. “I started feeling sick,” he said, revealing that he was suffering from a chest cold that was ravaging several of his teammates as well. “I could barely breathe that last half-mile.”
Slowly but surely, Radosevich starts fading. In the final homestretch, he gets passed by a couple runners, and he strains across the finish line in 16th place, his time of 16:32.8 nearly a minute behind Olson’s winning time of 15:33.4.
The race epitomized what Shields thought her star runner might struggle with this season. “He’s still a young athlete who is learning about strategy,” she said. “He usually never hammers his first mile.”
Radosevich admitted his mistake after exiting the finish chute: “I just had a bad race. I didn’t execute my plan that way I should have. This tells me that I need to stay back a little more and not just follow the lead pack, but stay with my time splits.”
Running Strong at Cross Country State Championships
Radosevich still has time to build mileage into his legs and recover from Saturday’s disappointment before he (hopefully) returns to the site of his greatest triumph to date.
An injury-plagued 2016 season culminated at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco, which has hosted the Washington cross country state championships for more than three decades. A challenging course with lots of rolling hills, it set up perfectly for Radosevich, who wasn’t happy with his seventh-place finish the week before at districts.
His goal was to make the podium with a top-12 finish, and with about a half-mile to go, he heard his coaches yelling that he was in 21st place.
“I just told myself, ‘You’ve got to go. Now or never,’ ” he said.
This time, it was Radosevich who felt strong at the finish, passing runners as he crested the final hill and sprinted down the homestretch. When it was official that he made the podium and heard his name called to receive his medal alongside teammate Silas Griffith—who won the title and is now running at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.—Radosevich beamed.
“I had dreamed about that since I was a freshman,” he said. “It was the best feeling.”
Radosevich’s road to state starts Oct. 19 with the Greater St. Helens 2A League championships at Lake Sacajawea Park in Longview. Nine days later, the Spudders will run at the District 4 championships at Lewis River Golf Course in Woodland, which Ridgefield has won two years in a row. The top three teams and 15 individuals at districts qualify for the state meet the following weekend in Pasco.
Radosevich figures to battle teammate Ciarnin McNeil, a senior, as well as Washougal junior Gabriel Dinnel, Tumwater senior Joseph Morrissey—the top returning finisher from last year’s districts (third)—Rochester senior Kelin Pasko, and R.A. Long junior Nicholas Sarysz—who won the Division 3 race at Nike Portland XC—for individual honors.
“We’re all in the mix, all running similar times,” said Radosevich, who bounced back Nike Portland XC with a personal-best 16:00.20 to finish third at the Harrier Classic in Albany, Oregon, on October 7. “That’s just going to push me, make me work harder, to watch their times and see how they’re doing.”
Then, it’ll be back to road work and building his base for his first track season since middle school. His talks with Tyson, where he stressed how important the times Radosevich posts in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters would be to college recruiters, played a large part in the decision to forego soccer this spring.
“That’s what made me think about the next level,” Radosevich said. “I need to manage my miles if I want to compete in college. I have the speed, but I need to build up my mileage so I can keep up that speed for 5 kilometers at a faster pace.”
Shields, for one, is excited to watch Radosevich’s development.
“We haven’t seen him yet as a year-round runner,” she said. “He’s just learning his body, what his limits are, how to stay healthy. If he has a good full year, I’m sure he’ll get more letters from colleges. They’ll see that talent pretty quickly.”
Kyle Radosevich’s Favorite Things
TV Show: Lost
A friend made me watch it, and then I got into it. I want to know what happens.
Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy
I love the raccoon. He’s just really funny.
Book: Any Steve Prefontaine biography
You can pick any one of them. They’re all pretty similar.
My mom makes really good spaghetti. We have it once a week, and I just devour it.
School subject: Math
I’ve always been good at math. I’m in pre-calculus, so I’m a year ahead, and I really love my teacher, Mr. Wear.
Cartoon character: Spider-Man
I just like what he looks like. I went as Spider-Man for Halloween a few times.