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Anthony Tyler's friend talked him into trying out for the cross country team at Cabrillo High.

At first, Tyler hated it. Eventually, he learned to love running long distances and was very successful, especially in his junior and senior years.

Now, Tyler has signed up for more running.

Tyler, a senior at Cabrillo, signed a letter of intent to attend the University of California, Merced.

"I've put a lot of hard work and it's nice to get results out of it," Tyler said recently. "When I first started I hated it, I wasn't very good, but as time wore on I learned to appreciate it a lot more.

"It was very hard, but I was pushed to stay," Tyler continued. "In my freshman year I wasn't very fast at all, in my sophomore year I thought I could make varsity, then in my junior year I was in position to be the best on the team."

As a junior, Tyler was the co-MVP of the team along with Cameron Hernandez.

"Cameron and I went back and forth," Tyler said. "Then this year something clicked in my mind that I'm the man this year, this is my year. So I worked night and day on this."

This past fall, Tyler had some top finishes. He was first at the Righetti Invitational and the Santa Barbara City College Invitational. He came in second at the Los Padres League Finals, was sixth in the CIF Southern Section prelims and was 15th in the CIF-SS Division 4 Finals.

It was a nice finish to a race in Clovis where Tyler began to get notice from UC Merced coach Ryan Nunez.

"During the middle of the cross country season there was a 5K varsity race we went to in Clovis," Tyler explained. "They came down there and Daniel Pena, who went to Cabrillo, was telling the coach about me.

"So they came out to see me run and they were really excited to see me finish in eighth place -- and at that moment I said that Merced was the school I might want to go to."

Another selling point was that Tyler knew someone who was on the team in Pena, who will be a red-shirt senior after winning all-conference placement as a freshman and a junior.

Tyler said he owed a lot of thanks to Cabrillo cross country coach Peter Anderson, who in a way forced him to improve each year.

"When I first started out I hated him, he was so hard on everyone," Tyler said with a laugh. "But I realized that everything he was saying was correct.

"He's probably the greatest coach I've ever had and I would not be where I am or as motivated without him there -- he pushed me every step of the way."

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Tyler said he ran about 60 to 70 miles a week in training, but he will most certainly log more miles in college.

"They are actually going to bump that up for me in college hoping to get me to triple-digits."

Merced is a member of the NAIA California Pacific Conference. Tyler, who will major in psychology, made a visit and was impressed with what he saw.

"They have a lot of nice facilities there on campus," Tyler said. "They have a stem (cell) research lab and they have a lab under the ground which is completely dark because they do research that is only done in the dark.

"It's a small campus as of now, but they are expanding it and in about four years it will be one of the largest UCs."

Tyler has personal records of 55.2 seconds in the 400-meter run, 2 minutes, 5 seconds in the 800, 4:25 in the 1,600 and a 9:42 in the 3,200. His best three-mile time is 15:17.

At Cabrillo as a student-athlete with a 3.5 GPA, Tyler said he learned how important dedication, perseverance, focus and stress management are to be successful.

"It will be more stressful at college than it was here at Cabrillo," he said. "So I think I'll be OK."