Tyler Shue extended his arms out as wide as he could.
The Ephrata junior knew a few meters before the finish line that he'd just won his first state title. He enjoyed the moment as anyone would have. That was in the 800 meters, his second race of the day.
It wasn't exactly what the speedy middle distance wanted, though. He wanted to leave Penn State's Ashenfelter Indoor Track with a pair of state titles. But in race number one, the mile, Shue found himself in a place no runner wants to be: face down on the track, lifting his head to watch his fellow competitors race away for the state title.
It ultimately was a happy ending for the Shue, but nonetheless it was a tumultuous state meet.
Shue had put himself in perfect position in the mile. Knowing he had some of the best closing speed in the field, Shue put himself right on the shoulder of race leader Patrick Anderson of Mount Lebanon with two laps to go.
Anderson is a talented miler, but he made his name this fall grinding it out on the cross country course, where he became a Class AAA state champion. Shue, on the other hand, ran 1:53.85 to finish second in the 800 at indoor states a year ago.
A kicker's race likely favored Shue.
"The first half (of the race) was pretty slow. We went through around 2:09," Shue said. "So I knew with my speed, I'd have a shot."
Around that bend with just under 400 to go, Shue looked to make the pass, but Anderson wouldn't yield the rail. Their legs got caught up and Shue hit the deck, as Anderson stayed upright.
"From there, there was really no recovering," Shue said.
As virtually the entire rest of the race went around him, Shue would get up to finish 12th overall in 4:27.65. Grove City's Jonah Powell unleashed a big kick to take the win on the last lap in 4:16.39 over second place Anderson (4:17.64).
Refocusing for the 800
Track and field isn't always a sport for second chances, but Shue would get his later in the day with the 800. Howeve, in the aftermath of the fall in the mile, Shue couldn't help but feel that disappointment.
"After the race I was pretty upset," he said. "I just went back to my stuff, grabbed my sneakers and went on a long cooldown to clear my head."
By the time he got back, it was time to get ready for race number two, the 800 meters. He through on some music and started his warm up.
"I wanted to go home with two gold medals, so when I didn't get the first one, it definitely was motivation to work really hard in that 800," he said.
The formula wasn't all that different in the 800 than it was in the mile for Shue. On somewhat tired legs from the mile, Shue was content to hang back in the field in the 800.
"Going into the race, I wasn't comfortable with leading because I knew some guys were coming in fresh," he said.
A few of the races top contenders, David Endres of Central Bucks East, Jonah Hoey of Bishop Shanahan, and Seth Ketler of Seneca Valley were all coming into the 800 as their first race of the day. Others like Matt Eissler of Pennridge and Collin Ochs of Council Rock South had only run the 4x800, much earlier in the day than the mile.
Even still, after a first lap fall took out Eissler, the field was fairly shaken up and Shue made his way to the front about 300 meters in, much earlier than he would have expected.
The field then bunched up quite a bit. With under a lap and a half to go, the top seed coming in Endres went to the lead and Hoey followed him into second. Shue just stayed right behind them on the rail. Both Endres and Hoey went for broke on the backstretch and Shue saw the opportunity.
Shue was right on Endres' shoulder coming around the final turn.
"Sitting on his shoulder, I always feel more comfortable because I am confident with my leg speed," Shue said. "Coming off that last turn I swung out a little wide and passed him."
From there, he was home free. Shue left no doubt about it, bringing it to the line for the win, complete with an outstretched arm photo-op. He went 1:54.28 for the win .. It was no PR, but in a tactical final after running a mile beforehand, he'll certainly take it.
Last year produced two state silvers for Shue between the winter and the spring. Getting a state title was huge for him this time around.
"It was huge because I know last year I got second indoor and outdoor in the 800," he said of his win. "I was the top returner, so I was hoping I could do that.
"After the disappointment of the mile, that was just even more motivation to just give it everything I had and it all worked out for me."
Shue didn't return to Ephrata with the two state golds he had hoped for on Sunday. Of course, there's always outdoors.