Tyler Scholl returns from injury stronger than ever as Junior National Champion

photo by Todd Straka | Kremmling athlete, Tyler Scholl, competes in a local mountain race to prepare for the championships. In mountain running you can experience huge shifts of elevation.
photo by Todd Straka | Kremmling athlete, Tyler Scholl, competes in a local mountain race to prepare for the championships. In mountain running you can experience huge shifts of elevation.

by Marissa Lorenz
The Kremmling community has always rooted hard for its student athletes and now has reason to celebrate once again after hometown hero Tyler Scholl’s return from the USA Track & Field Mountain Running National Championships in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire as an All-American in the overall men’s race and with first place in the Junior division. The first place in the Junior division gave him the title of Junior National Champion.

While mountain running may be a new event to many, it should not surprise anyone that this talented runner would have taken to it with a natural skill. But it may be news to some that Sholl won the race at the tail end of recovery from an injury that kept him from competing at the Colorado State High School Track & Field Championships this spring. With just weeks left in his senior year of high school, he had qualified for three events at the State meet and was favored to likely win two of those. He had been accepted to the University of Colorado (CU) and already signed to the university’s elite track team, ready to follow the lead of sister Tabor, currently on the team.
And then he suffered a tibial stress fracture, or broken leg.

It’s hard to imagine a more disheartening occurrence for a young athlete. Not only did it mean not competing among the other top track & field athletes his senior year, but it meant he would not be able to run for CU in the fall. Faced with the options of enrolling in college anyway but not being able to train and compete with the team or delaying enrollment for a year, Scholl decided for the second. “I decided to take a gap year and get my leg healthy,” he says.

Scholl speaks openly about his feelings following the multiple blows. “It was really emotional to come off the disappointment of a big injury and not enrolling in college. But my best story — my God moment,” he offers in language that seems to belong to one much more mature than his own 19 years, “was the realization that I hadn’t had any real peace about going to college all during my senior year. Now, I know it was a really good idea I didn’t go. I still needed some running development and still needed some time just to get healthy.” He says that, instead, he took the next six weeks to rehab his leg and to “focus on my growth as a person, my relationship with God, and my relationships with other people. In the end, all that only benefitted me on the running side.”

And so in his post-injury recovery, Scholl started mountain running. “It’s like running up ski hills,” he explains. “It is not just about speed. It is about strength and endurance.” And he notes that Kremmling is the perfect place to train for the sport. “In training, I’ve now climbed every mountain you can see. I’d get on Google Earth and try to find the hardest route, and have done Elliot’s Ridge, Wolford, Elk Mountain, the Continental Divide Trail, and some ski hills. It really allowed me to explore. Track running can get dull, but this gave me the freedom to not only rehab my body, but my mind– a fresh focus on fun in my rehab from the disappointing spring.”

Scholl next started participating in local mountain running events as lead-up races to the National Championships. Among those, he won events in Vail and Steamboat Springs and came in second overall at a Winter Park Event. The events ranged from four to nine miles in length and are basically powering up and down mountains.
Then in September, Scholl arrived in New Hampshire for a 7-mile race with a 3,000-foot elevation gain and an elevation graph that goes up and down, up and down, up and down, up, up, up and then down, down, down. The course included such major climbs as Governors Run, a 0.62-mile section with a 22% average incline; Oblivion, a 1.1-mile stretch averaging 19% uphill; and Tommy’s World Cup Run, 0.25 miles averaging a 26% grade… challenging enough to have hosted several World Cups.

Scholl would finish the run/race/power hiking endurance event just short of an hour. “We knew it would be a good day if you could break an hour,” he says. He would finish 20th overall, “even with all the old guys” — a placement that would make him an All-American — and first in the junior division, “for those under 20.” “It was one of the hardest, if not the hardest, race I’ve ever done. You’re just at your max heart rate for an hour.”

But the feat has greater importance to Scholl than just the athletic victory. “So many people in the community had given to me to get to college, I felt bad when I didn’t go. So winning Nationals was a way to say thank you to all those who supported me. It wasn’t just me winning. I was running for a greater purpose. I was running for the community. It’s what Tabor and I have always wanted,” he explains, “to put Kremmling on the map and show that kids from a small town can do great things.”

And onto greater things he will go. Tyler will enroll as a freshman at CU in fall 2020. And the Kremmling community will continue to follow him and cheer him on, as it does its athletes of all ages and stages.