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Tribune top 5 males: No. 4 Andrew Hylen

Duncan MacLean • Jul 20, 2019 at 12:15 AM

The Grand Haven Tribune is counting down our top five female and male athletes, as well as teams for the 2018-19 athletic season. Our No. 4 male athlete of the year is Andrew Hylen after finishing as an All-State honoree on both the cross country course and track, while picking up a third sport in his senior year.

Nobody does 2-mile runs like Andrew Hylen.

Most cross country and track runners go through the pain of distance running in the fall because it is good for them, before shedding long runs in the spring in favor of half-miles or sprint events. Spring Lake’s Andrew Hylen just can’t get enough.

By the end of his senior year, Hylen had claimed Laker records in the 5,000-meter cross country run and the 3,200-meter run on the track, along with the third-fastest 1,600 time ever.

A stellar cross country season kicked off Hylen’s quick year. The Lakers took part in 11 races this fall. Hylen finished outside the top three just three times over the entire season. On top of that, three of the 5,000-meter races clocked in at less than 16 minutes.

The 2018 postseason was a good one for Hylen, as he took second overall at the O-K Blue Conference championships, second at the regional championship race and seventh overall at the Division 2 state finals, earning him All-Conference, -region and -state awards.

The rapid year also defended his place atop the Lakers’ record board. While his season record of 15:47.4 tied for second all-time, his 2017 time of 15:37.2 went assailed as the fastest ever.

“Andrew does some crazy workouts,” said Spring Lake head cross country coach Todd Mitchell. “He is a very hard worker. He’s one of those that you just can’t give enough to do.”

Typically, winter for Hylen means just more running, preparing to circle the track come march. This year, he took a right turn and found himself learning a new sport from the ground up, as he joined our No. 4 team of the year, the Spring Lake boys swim and dive squad.

Having never swim competitively, getting used to the pool was a learning process for Hylen, but one he picked up quickly.

“It’s great to have him,” said Spring Lake varsity swim head coach Rob Peel. “He is obviously an incredible runner so he knows how to fight through sets and has been getting faster.”

Despite the new sport, Hylen never shed his running shoes for long, to the slight chagrin of Peel.

“He has been running all season,” Peel said. “We will do a full week of morning and afternoon practices and he still finds time and energy to run. It’s amazing.

“I asked him, as we approached the conference meet and started to get ready to taper our training, if he could maybe cut out the running for just two weeks. He smiled and said, ‘Maybe.’ The kid is unbelievable.”

By the end of the swim season, Hylen brought his 50 freestyle time down to 27.80, good for 71st in the conference and his 100 freestyle down to 1:04.96, good for 79th.

His time out of the top 10 was short-lived as he returned to the track ready to take on his final season.

Unfortunately, that final campaign was hampered by injury with a bum hamstring slowing down Hylen’s training pace to nil midseason for the first time in recent memory.

Hylen ran the first meet of the season on March 27, clocking in at 10:25 in his 3,200 and 4:43 in his 1,600 before coming up injured. He was relegated to the cheering section until the final meet of the regular season on May 7 against Sparta. In his first meet back, he took first place in the 3,200 at 10:07 and second in the 1,600 at 4:36. He was back.

The postseason continued as planned, with a second-place finish in the O-K Blue Conference championship 3,200 (9:52), as well as the 1,600 (4:32.89).

Times continued to drop at the regional with a fifth-place 9:47 in the 3,200 and fourth-place 4:31 in the 1,600.

Hoping to give his best effort to just one event at the state finals, Hylen elected to sacrifice the 1,600 and go for it all in the 3,200. The investment paid off, as the Spring Lake senior dropped another 20 seconds off his time for a lifetime best of 9:27.57, setting a new Spring Lake school record.

“He had a tough season with the injury,” Mitchell said before the state meet. “Having him back for the end of the year was great for our team. He would have liked to get right back to winning, but seeing him back into it just two weeks into training is great. It really shows the kind of athlete he is.”

With his high school career well documented in the Spring Lake record books, Hylen will continue running both cross country and track at Grand Valley State University in the fall.

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