Biglerville sophomore Brady Wilt remembers it like it was yesterday. He was 11-years-old and was running in his first ever 5K. It was at City Island in Harrisburg. When the gun sounded, he and 149 other racers took off.
"When I came down the last 100 meters over the walking bridge I saw the look on my parents faces," Wilt said. "They couldn't believe I was in the front of the race."
Having just defeated 149 racers of all ages, Brady and his family had a wake up call and realized that this could be something he is good at.
Five years later, he has continued to perfect his craft and turned in such a strong year that he was named The Evening Sun Boys' Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
"Winning that first race was definitely a positive step," Wilt said. "It made me want to come back for more. It made me want more success."
Running track almost never happened.
Wilt had played soccer since he was 3-years-old and loved the sport. It was not until he was 11 and practicing with a club team that his teammates said he should try cross country and track because he was so good at running. Up until that point he had never heard of the two sports.
"The kids on my soccer team had a huge impact on me and my running career," Wilt said. "I started running 5K's to get in shape for soccer season and then it just kinda turned into something bigger. I started running 5K's competitively and then my freshman year I had a decision to make, do I play soccer or do cross country and track. I think I made the right decision."
At the beginning of the season, Wilt made a goal of getting back to the state meet and dominated the 1,600 and 3,200 all season long in dual meets. He also found himself running in the 800, 4x800 relay, 4x400 relay and the 400. He believes part of his success this season came from racing in the 800 and 400.
"It definitely had a positive influence in me," Wilt said. "With the 800, it really helped me have a stronger finish for the 3,200."
Despite all his success throughout the season, Wilt's goal of making a return trip to states almost came up empty.
A week after winning the 1,600 at the YAIAA Championships, Wilt found himself on the outside looking in of the 3,200 state qualifiers on the first day of the District 3 Class AA meet.
"I was really disappointed," Wilt said. "That was a big set back. I remember riding home that night and having a lot of negativity going on in my head."
Wilt came out the next day and dominated the 1,600, punching his ticket to his second straight state meet.
"I had a lot of pressure going into that race on my shoulders," Wilt said. "To run the race that I did after the two mile, I was really proud of that. It was one of the bigger points throughout the season."
Wilt credits a lot of his success to the opportunity to train and get to know guys like Littlestown's Xavier Sauvageau and South Western's Ryan Hertzog.
"Those guys have had a tremendous impact on me," he said. "I have learned a lot from them. I learned race strategy and their training habits. I trained with them a few times over the summer and to see how hard they train at practice drives me to work harder than I do."
Now that he has two state appearances under his belt, Wilt plans to set his goals even higher for his junior year.
"That is the most important year in high school, when colleges look at you," he said. "I plan on training even harder and really watching what I eat and controlling my diet. Next year I want to repeat at districts and if everything goes the way it's supposed to, I want to win the state meet. If everything falls into place, there's no reason I shouldn't have a chance at that."
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