After spending much of his young life on a soccer field, Andrew Lyp took his running in a different direction this season.
Valparaiso coach Mike Prow welcomed him with open arms.
"He's one of those nice guys who was really hard to try to recruit," Prow said. "I don't try to steal guys. He'd run track and the week of the state meet, we run a 5K on the track and he had done real well in that. I just commented that he could definitely help us, we have a good team and we'd love to have him."
In the spring, Lyp told both Prow and soccer coach Danny Jeftich that he was considering the switch. A starter at outside midfield as a junior, his season was slowed by a hamstring injury that ultimately swayed him to choose cross country.
"I wouldn't say I regret the three years of soccer," he said. "It's been fine with me. Soccer, for me, was kind of stressful. It was just one of those things where I didn't want high school to end without knowing about cross country, having the experience."
Distance running wasn't foreign to Lyp, who ran in grade school at St. Paul's, where his mom Jody was the coach.
"I was pretty fit to begin with," Lyp said. "I did some running on my own, swimming. Cross country was something new to me, running on grass, running with teammates. But I got used to it gradually where I was up running with the top guys. Just the work, the effort you put in, helped throughout the season."
It wasn't too long before Lyp had found his way into Valpo's talented and experienced varsity lineup, which far exceeded his initial expectations.
"At the beginning, I didn't think I'd ever be here, get this far, for sure," he said. "I just wanted to get better. One of my goals was to help any way I could, to show a good example of running. It's been great."
Prow credits Lyp's progress, plain and simple, to his effort.
"He's here every single time," Prow said. "He's a really hard worker, super quiet. When we're in the weight room, if I yell, 'All done?!' and Andrew says yeah, I know we're ready to get out because I know he's working down to the last second."
Saturday's state meet will obviously be Lyp's first, but it won't be his first trip to the Lavern Gibson Championship Course. The Vikings ran in the early-season state preview meet at the Terre Haute site.
"His best race was (conference) at Lemon Lake, where he was sixth overall," Prow said. "We told him the state preview meet course is exactly like Lemon Lake, so he should race well Saturday. He just smiled."
It's all played out well for Lyp, who doesn't rule out the possibility of running in college if the opportunity presents itself. He's happy for his friends on the soccer team, which reached the semistate, and is looking forward to aiding Valpo's bid for a state title.
"I miss the soccer aspect of it, but not the structure, fitting in at the right place at the right time," Lyp said. "It helped with the mental aspect (of cross country). It's been nice to try something different."