Tanner Geary (left) credits The Valley Royals and coach Sue Northey for his track and field success this season

Tanner Geary (left) credits The Valley Royals and coach Sue Northey for his track and field success this season

Sardis Falcon runner ready for next-level leap with UBC

Tanner Geary capped a successful senior season with a strong showing at the BC High School Track and Field Provincials.

Sardis Falcon track and field star Tanner Geary is joining a new flock of birds next year, securing a spot at the University of British Columbia.

The Grade 12 athlete, a standout in the 800 and 1500 metre distances,  signed his letter of intent April 12, capping off a season that exceeded all expectations.

After missing his entire Grade 11 year with an injury that affected his back and hip, Geary entered his senior season in catch-up mode.

“I did no running from February to June, and if you miss that much time in distance running your base starts to break down,” the teenager explained. “You start to lose some of the mileage that you’ve build up.”

At the start of the season, UBC was interested but cautious, wanting to see a show-me performance from Geary.

They got it in April.

A race at Simon Fraser University was the breakout Geary  needed, a first place finish and a personal best in his first 800m race of the year.

The result tipped the scales in his favour.

Before, he was asking UBC for a spot.

Now, they were in recruitment mode.

“Up to then, any CIS coaches looking at me only had my Grade 10 times to go off of,” Geary explained. “They could either view me as someone with huge potential or, because of the injury, someone who was really fragile and they’d have to be careful with.”

Geary had doubts in his own head.

Any athlete will tell you the physical rehab is the easy part of a major injury.

The hard part is mental, trusting your body to not break down again.

“There definitely was a mental hurdle to get over,” Geary admitted. “Sue Northey is my main coach with the (Abbotsford-based) Valley Royals, and our main focus was to stay healthy and gain mental toughness.”

“She was there through the winter when it was rainy and dark, keeping me engaged and making sure I made it through all of the workouts.”

“I did all of the off-day runs so when it came time to race I could handle it and have a positive mind-set.”

Geary started the season with modest goals and surpassed them all.

He wanted to run the 1500m in under four minutes and consistently run under two minutes in the 800m. He also wanted to make provincial finals in both distances.

Not only did he make finals, he came within a whisker of winning the 1500m.

Geary finished a split second behind Reynolds secondary school’s Brendan Hoff, and counted it as a victory.

“I ran a personal best of 3:53 and finished second by half a second,” he said. “People might view it as, ‘Half a second, he was so close.’”

“But the guy I lost to is a great runner having a great season and to me and my coach, we viewed it as a win.”

“It was really good validation for all the hard work I’ve put in, to go there and perform when it mattered.”

Provincials were in early June.

Since then, Geary has been named to Team BC for the Canadian Junior Track and Field Championships. That meet runs July 7-10 in Edmonton.

He’ll compete in the 1500m.

“I’m really happy to go and experience it, and because I’ll still be a junior next year I might be able to go back,” Geary said. “My goal there is get through the heats to the finals and then see what happens.”

After that, he’ll switch to summer mode, taking it relatively easy for two or three weeks.

“I’ll get out and do what I want at the lake and hiking,” he said. “By the end of that, I usually feel really restless, so I’ll be happy to get back into training.”

Geary will have two familiar faces at UBC.

Sister Caitlin Geary runs the 400 and 800m distances and heads into her third year. A former Sardis teammate, Kristian Biela, rejoins the T-Birds after spending all of last season on the injured list. Their advice will be helpful as he makes that next-level leap.

“I feel this season is a really good launching pad towards my next few years, and hopefully I just continue to improve,” he said. “I’ve just got to put in the time and the work and know it’s not going to happen all at once.”

“It’s committing to the program, letting go of doubts and not being afraid.”