When Bryan Flannery was younger, he used to run laps around the track at Portage with his brother Jim, a former Indians runner whose teams reached the state cross country finals in 2003 and 2004.
At least that's what his parents tell him.
"I don't remember," Bryan said. "I went to all of his meets when I was little, getting up early in the morning."
A few years later, the Flannerys moved to Union Mills. Bryan took up running in sixth grade at South Central, though his passion for the sport wasn't immediate.
"The first year, he told me he didn't really like doing it, but you never would've known," said Satellites coach Rachel Werner, who also coached Flannery in junior high. "He was a decent runner, but not a standout. He learned to love it. He decided he wanted it more and he really started putting in the workouts. He's got a very supportive family, which is awesome to watch."
Flannery's interest began to grow last spring during track.
"I needed something to do, something to push myself," he said.
Running on his brother's old oval, the freshman finished fifth in the 3,200 meters at the Portage Sectional, one place out of a regional berth, behind three seniors and another frosh, Wheeler's Joel O'Shea. His hip problems abated, Flannery showed marked improvement from cross country, where he placed 46th in the Chesterton Sectional.
"It made me realize I could actually do well, go far in the tournament," he said. "I wanted to do better. It made me work harder. I did a lot more training than last year."
Over the summer, Flannery put in between 55 and 60 miles a week, and he's been earning dividends on his investment since. On Tuesday, he took third in the Porter County Conference Championship -- up from 14th as a freshman -- to head into Tuesday's sectional with a jolt of confidence.
"He has a good chance to get out," Werner said. "Even with the old (format), he had a chance. He's pretty serious about what he's doing. He's running in the winter, lifting weights, doing everything he can. He's got the (physical) core. He can go, go, go and kick at the end. He knows not to go crazy at the beginning, to pace himself, when to surge, when not to surge."
For Flannery, like most runners, the physical side of running is just half the battle. Ranked third in his class with a 4.2 grade point average, he understands a strong mind is just as important as strong legs.
"It's really a mental sport," he said. "You push yourself to run the best you can, try to ignore your body, the pain you feel, and push through it. I always used to go out real fast and the third mile, I was just dead. I've learned control. If I need to start out fast, I can do it. If I need to surge at the end, I can do that. If I need to stay consistent, I can do that. It's not where you start that matters. It's where you finish."
While Kyleigh Werner has become the face of S.C.'s girls program, Flannery hopes his success can spur interest in the boys ranks. This season's roster of 13 is coach Werner's largest.
"My focus is on getting out of sectionals. The end goal is to get to state," Flannery said. "I just want to have more guys realize that we can be good, we can do something. You can run well if you set your mind to it. It's hard to run by yourself. It's more fun to run with other people."