Alexus Pyles is a two-time state champion and five-time county champion after just two years of high school. She enters her junior year as Montgomery County's top returning athlete in the 55-meter hurdles (8.28), 100-meter hurdles (14.47), and 300-meter hurdles (45.24). The new season started with a bang as she immediately set personal records in the triple jump (37-02.50) and high jump (5-06.00) at MCPS Meet #2. She won four events at last year's indoor county championship, leading Clarksburg to the indoor team county title, and also posted outstanding marks in the Heptathlon at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals, The Potomac Valley Association Junior Olympics and the USATF JO's in Texas. Read on to learn about how she got her start at a young age and continues to improve through dedication and hard work.
MoCoRunning: We know that you and your sisters have been competing on the track since you were little kids. Can you remember the feel of the sport back then? How has your attitude towards the sport changed over time?
Pyles: When I first started track and field with the Maryland Titans, I had a hard time figuring out what my "calling" was. I was the "runt" and tried basically every event (minus the 3000) trying to compete. I was pretty versatile but never stood out in anything. I decided to try high jump and picked that up pretty quickly and then moved on to trying the hurdles once I was old enough (you had to be in the 11/12 age group to hurdle). After I had those two events it seemed to make sense to take my chances in the pentathlon since I already knew how to do the majority of the events (minus shot put and long jump; but I worked on my throwing and horizontal jumping and picked those skills up as well). Once I got too old for the pentathlon in the summer track season, I started the heptathlon.
MoCoRunning: Speaking of sisters, the state of Maryland is about to find out what the three Pyles girls can do on the same team at the high school level. Do the three of you get competitive when training or competing?
Pyles: Me and my sisters naturally are competitive towards one another just because we do many of the same events. But it's a positive competition and we love seeing each other improve and use that as drive to work even harder.
MoCoRunning: Obviously you have some great coaches around you with the track clubs and Clarksburg program. How much time do you put into events such as the javelin, shot put, and 800m? Do you rely on your fitness and just execute when it counts or do you seriously try to learn and improve in these events?
Pyles: The added events of javelin and the 200 required even more practice. Technique for javelin did not come easily and still isn't perfect which is why I have to practice it on a regular basis during the outdoor season. Surely my fitness plays a role in my ability to execute the new events, but I always try to reach my full potential in every event regardless if it is one of my "strongest".
MoCoRunning: Let's forget for a moment the amount of talent required to win four open events at a track meet. Describe the concentration required to juggle four technical events in a standard single-day track meet. All the checking in and out must be crazy.
Pyles: When it comes to track meets, participating in multiple events that are all occurring almost simultaneously it can be overwhelming at times. As I've gotten older it's gotten easier because I follow my Coach Mathias's philosophy of "every event is a new chapter." Once I finish one event, I put it behind me (regardless of how I did performance wise) and focus on what's next. This has helped me to stay collected at the meets and keeps me from dwelling on what has already happened and can't change.
MoCoRunning: Pick your poison. Which do you prefer and why: the chaos of four events in a standard meet or the strenuousness of a 2-day multi-event meet?
Pyles: I would have to say I prefer the 2 day multi event meet. In the multis I don't have to worry about checking in and out or rushing through jumps to make it to hurdle check in on time or having to leave one event early to go to another then going back and finishing the event with which I started. During the multis everything is much more structured and we move from event to event as a group--no worrying about missing my event because it impedes with another.
MoCoRunning: How has your training differed this year? Are you on the track as much? Spending more time in the weight room?
Pyles: This year my training hasn't changed too much. I definitely spend more time in the weight room then I previously had. I started lifting a long time ago and since have been building my strength. My dad supervises my workouts and makes sure that I am focusing on power and building the muscle needed to increase my performance. Even on the days when I want to be lazy he's there to remind me that it's not just going to happen if I don't put the work in. He's definitely one of the main ones I thank for all of my success thus far.
MoCoRunning: What is your favorite lift?
Pyles: When we work out, I always find myself enjoying the squatting the most. It's exciting when I can say that I can squat 225. It makes me feel like I'm really getting stronger.
MoCoRunning: What kind of work do you put in that really makes you think, "I am getting better?"
Pyles: Waking up at 4:30 and going to the gym before school, working out in my basement at home, and extra practices at Georgetown Prep also makes me feel as if I'm really improving.
MoCoRunning: What are some goals you have for the upcoming year?
Hurdles- sub 8.1
High jump- 5'8
Triple jump- 38'6
Long jump- 18'6
Shot put- 35'
55m- sub 7.5
MoCoRunning: Everyone's got one. What's your most embarrassing moment on the track?
Pyles: I was doing one steps over the hurdles at practice on a really cold day and my coach had just finished complimenting my technique and was using me as an example for the other hurdles. I started the next set and before I knew it I hit a hurdle and fell and cut my shin. It was embarrassing but thankfully I'm good at laughing things off!! (It really hurt though)