Falcons runner making big strides
River Valley senior has lost 45 pounds
Long after the top runners had crossed the finish line, River Valley High cross country runner Alex Tai finished the 3.1-mile course at the ninth annual Yuba-Sutter Invitational at Beckwourth Riverfront Park on Saturday.
Like much of his life prior to the past 12 months, few took notice of his 26-minute, 52-second run.
Falcons coach Paul Odegard certainly did.
“He’s a real feel-good story,” said Odegard, who has watched Tai trim 45 pounds off his frame during a journey in which the senior has become a three-sport athlete.
“I just wanted to see how I could do. I had never been in sports and I had heard a lot about it,” Tai said about his decision to join the cross country team last fall. “And I wanted to get healthier.”
When Tai joined the team, he weighed nearly 225 pounds and could not run any real distance.
“Even a mile was hard for me. I could maybe do 400 meters or so, and then I had to walk,” Tai said.
Now, Odegard said, he runs the full 5- and 6-mile practice runs.
Tai also joined the wrestling team and threw shot put, discus and ran a little for the track and field team as well.
During the summer, he went on runs with his coach, and he is down to 180 pounds.
The transformation has been more than physical. Tai said while his schoolmates were never mean to him, they did not pay much attention to him, either. That has changed.
“Their attitudes have changed,” said the 17-year-old senior, who is still getting used to the extra attention. “It isn’t discomforting, but it is weird.”
Now a year later, the Yuba-Sutter Invitational became a kind of benchmark.
The 26:52 time may not have put him among the leaders, but it was more than 15 minutes faster than his time last year.
“It took me 45 minutes to finish the race last year,” Tai said. “It feels good, and I am a lot healthier.”