Belvidere North High School will turn six-years-old this fall, relatively young for school standards. Over that time, the Blue Thunder boys cross country team has struck early and often placing third their inaugural season, then rattling off three straight state championships after a runner-up finish. Head Coach Troy Yunk has lead the program from the beginning and has coached two of his sons, including senior Tyler. Tyler says running has always been in the family and always a part of his life.
"My parents ran in high school and my dad has coached for 25 years. I've been doing it all my life. I really was born into it."
The bond between a father and son is always strong, but what is the dynamic like when you also add "coach" to the title of "father"? Tyler believes it is an added bonus to have his father so close when a question about the sport arises.
"It's good because even when we are on vacation he gives me workouts. I never have to guess what I should do during the week. If I need my coach, I just walk upstairs and ask him. At practices and meets he doesn't try to push me harder than others, but being a parent it seems to happen. It's a lot of fun having him around and pushing me along."
Summer training is going well for Yunk. Recently, the senior and ten of his Belvidere North teammates attended camp at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Yunk got the opportunity to spend time with legendary coach Mick Byrne. He says it's a great experience for the team to bond and for himself to pick up a few pointers here and there.
" It was a lot of fun talking to Mick was great. He told me not to push hard in my early races. I also loved getting to know the people on their team. I also got to hang out with some friends from out of town like Grant Nykaza so that was fun as well."
Yunk admits he doesn't do much outside of running, but with the little time he does he have he enjoys video games and superheroes. He is a big fan of Pokemon and the Green Lantern. Unlike the comic superstar, the Belvidere North star will not need to dawn a power ring to be one of the top cross country runners in Illinois this season. Yunk finished second the past two seasons after dropping his time at the state meet by 10 seconds over that year. Last year, Class 2A saw 15 runners at or below the 15:00 mark for 3 miles. His personal best of 14:32 is the top returning time ahead of Charleston junior Riley McInerney's best of 14:40. He knows that every year will be a challenge, whether it's as an individual or as a team.
"Every year is a new battle, and we never thought Glenbard South was the main threat. We were looking at Yorkville, but that shows you that at any time a team can come along and challenge us and we have to deal with them when the time comes."
Yunk's favorite state title was the second one he experiences with his younger brother because he says, "everyone did so well", and it was a total team effort. No matter what the outcome of this years' Illinois State Cross Country Championship, his passion for the sport goes beyond winning and losing.