Tyler Henseler is the third runner from Hendricken to be featured in this series. As you can see by the answers he has provided, he has a lot to say. Well, we also have a lot to say about Tyler. On most teams the Hawk runner would be the No. 1 distance runner, but at Hendricken he’s included among a long list. He specialized in the longer distances throughout his career with a number of quality finishes. He placed seventh at the state cross-country meet this past fall, helping the Hawks win their fifth consecutive team title. He was also Hendricken’s No. 2 man and fifth overall at the Manchester Invitational in September, another championship earned by the Hawks. Tyler won the 3,000 at the Classical Classic in May with a time of 8:50.20, just a half a second from his all-time best of 8:49, achieved at the Yale Track Classic his junior year when he finished fourth.
What would you consider the highlight of your high school career?
The highlight of my high school career was definitely being a part of such a great team and eventually being honored with the position of team captain. There are a lot of great teams out there but Hendricken is different. We're one big family that eat, sleep and breathe a common goal: to win the next state championship. We would celebrate victories together and suffer defeats as well but it was always together. It was never about just me in my four years here. It was always about the other guys on the team. You had to be willing to sacrifice personal glory for the betterment of the team. Every one of us could have been a stud in our own town and we would have been hometown heroes at our different public schools. But that was knowingly sacrificed because no one on the team was thinking about themselves. I'm grateful to even have the chance to be a part of something that rare in today's world for four years, let alone be a captain.
What was your most memorable performance?
Personally, my most memorable performance was the indoor state meet in 2012. I came in 4th in the 3k in 8:55 and 5th in the 1500m in 4:12, and then I came back in the 1000m. I didn't run too well in that, but I barely finished so I knew I gave it all I had. This was the most memorable because I knew that when I was done I had truly done everything I possibly could to help my team win a state championship. Unfortunately we fell short of that goal, losing to the amazing distance squad Chariho had. They would go on to set a national record in the 4xmile. Although we beat them in cross country, they were just too strong for us on the track. As a team, the most memorable performance in my mind was the 2012 Manchester Invitational. Everyone on the team was having a great race on a humid day when our team leader and captain Mark Vuono collapsed with 100m to go. In the first race of the year, even without our projected number one runner, we were still able to put 3 in the top 10 and all 7 in the top 25. It showed the strength of our team and our ability to win even if our top guy had a bad day. This would also start a trend of our team not having a consistent first man for the next two years. We had much more prominent and prestigious wins, but this early and modest invitational stands out to me because it was the beginning of a great team that I could actually call my own for the first time.
What was your most difficult obstacle to overcome?
The most difficult obstacle for me to overcome was my injury junior year. I was coming off of a great indoor season and I was on pace for some really good outdoor PRs when my IT band acted up and I was out for a season. I had to sit out and watch as my teammates had awesome seasons, and although I was happy for them I wanted nothing more than to be out there. So that summer when I was cleared to run I started full training in June and was back to full strength by mid-July, with our minds set on another state championship. We would go on to win it, making the 2013 state championship the fifth in a row for the Hawks.
What advice would you give to younger athletes?
Work hard and listen to coach. That's all there is to it. If you do what he says, such as hitting the splits he says during workouts, doubling when he says to double, and taking all the precautions to not get injured (although with Coach Doyle this list is too long to write down because of the extensive research and experience he has over his 30-plus years of coaching). Also devote yourself to the team and keep your teammates focused through example. Every morning when you wake up you should think "Man, I want to win a state championship this fall." Every time you're hurting and in pain during a run or workout you should think of winning a past freshman or JV state championship and multiply it by 1000 when it gets to the varsity state level. Also if your teammates aren't focused (juniors) lead by example. Simply work hard and get better and they will follow if you prove yourself a good leader. And believe me there is no better way to do this than to simply go out and get the job done in practice or a race.
What will you miss most?
I will miss everything. The water break conversations with coaches, the last five minutes of the Karate Kid played over and over with equally enthusiastic shouts even after the 30th time, core workouts on the football field where you have never hated a bicycle more in your entire life, makeshift workouts in the rain, sleet, snow, and mud where everyone is miserable but continues to pound the workout anyways because we know we are miserable together. They don't lie when they say four years goes by fast. Of course I'll miss coaches Doyle, Brennan and Lourenco (and Manning Jr. too) and especially my teammates, but it's the little moments that we had along the way to winning seven state championships that I'll remember forever that I will miss the most.
What are your future plans?
I plan to run at Stonehill College next fall, and hopefully become part of a team that has as much to offer as this one has already given me.
What influence has your coach (or coaches) had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
Coach Doyle has taught me that if you work hard, harder than anyone else, then your results will come. We ran more miles as a team than anyone else in the state this year and it paid off. In life, he taught me a lot of things. Some things that I can and cannot mention. I will say this though, through all his craziness, he is the best coach I could ever ask for.
Coach Brennan taught me a lot of practical team things in regard to performance. How to manipulate weaknesses in other teams, how to maximize point value in track meets, and how to bring a team together as one? In life, he taught me to stay organized. Anyone can learn this if they go and look at the two dozen binders filled with training and races from the past eight years. All color coordinated. He also taught me that it is necessary to babysit teenagers and even beavers while away on trips.
Coach Lourenco joined the team my junior year over the summer. He was in charge of all the core workouts after runs and making sure we stretched every muscle out. We didn't like him very much to begin with. We spent more and more time with him though and he grew on us, despite endless ab-45s. He was an awesome mid-distance runner for PC in college and he passed all he knew about technique and strengthening to us. In life, he taught me that you're never too old for N64. He also taught me that you should pass on the secrets of your own success to others, and I'll try to do that I the future.
Who would you like to say Thank You?
This is a really long list. Coach Doyle of course, for all the sacrifice he made at weekend practices and after school every day, and for the endless race plans and expertly devised strategy talks that started the afternoon before and didn't end until you were about half a lap into the race. He would take the time to individually create training schedules for each kid on the team though, and that struck me as dedicated. I want to thank him for all he has done for me, and all he has done and will do for kids like me. I'd like to thank coach Brennan for letting me bother him almost every morning before home room and also for letting me print every paper I ever wrote over five pages in his room. I want to thank him for the sacrifice he made at practice and races also, and for all the splits recorded and miles run by him at Ponagansett trying to get from the mile mark to the two-mile mark and back to the finish in time. I also want to thank him for not talking to me during freshman basketball season to show his disapproval. Because I liked him so much I didn't want him to stay mad at me so I ended up not going out for it sophomore year, a decision that I'm glad I made. I want to thank coach Lourenco for letting me trade phone cases with him a few times. I'd also like to thank him for his sacrifice, and for being there all summer waiting for the core workouts afterwards, and for sometimes running with us. I call it sacrifice, but I know these three would address it differently. Sacrifice is something that you give up when the truth is, these three amazing coaches wouldn't miss a second of it. Believe it or not they thought it was fun. They want to be there and they want to see us all get better, to see the fruit of their efforts. I feel like just knowing them for as long as I have and paying attention that I could coach a team right now. I want to thank them for making me a better runner and also for making me a better person.
I'd also like to thank my family, especially my parents. They were at every meet they could come to and I'd like to thank them for supporting me for four years and traveling with us all around the East Coast. I'd also like to thank them for sending me to Hendricken, because without that determination to make it work, I would not have had the best experience of my life.
Lastly I'd like to thank all my teammates that I've had from freshman year when it was me Doherty, Doyle, and Greg training in "group 1", to sophomore year where For the first time in my life I was on a varsity team and I had guys like Ryan Meehan and Andrew Andraka as captains to lead us into battle, to junior year where we were the youngest team at New England's and were still able to pull off a 60 point victory, to senior year where we had the faster average team time at the Ponagansett course in history. There's about 40 of you and too much to be said about each one to say here, but I would like to specifically point out the guys that I've grown the closest to. Connor Doyle, we've been teammates and bunk buddies since freshman year, and I couldn't ask for a better teammate that pushed me as hard as you did while at the same time making fun of someone that we had passed on the road. You'll always be my teammate, even though we're at rival schools next year. Alex Doherty, we've also been together since freshman year and I've never met a better leader than you. Without even trying you could set an example for others by powering through runs and workouts even though you were in pain because of the kankle (it's not an official Doherty reference unless you address the kankle). Collin Manning, I've never met a tougher kid than you. You've had a lot of setbacks the past few seasons but you're still able to keep a positive attitude and continue running. I myself am a firm believer that no matter what shape you're in, with the state meet on the line you will always be able to pull out at least a 16:30 at Ponagansett through willpower alone. Colin Tierney, you really are Mr. Vicious. I've never seen a kid with so much fight and tenacity inside him that acts so goofy and hyper when he's not running. You guys are all great runners and it’s been a blessing to be given the opportunity to run with each of you. I can't thank you enough for being not only my teammates, but the best friends I've ever had. To the team next year, which includes the last two guys I just mentioned I'd like to thank you for letting me be your captain. I know you'll do big things next year and I'll be there to see them.