MU's Tylock has special time at Penn Relays
It was the final mile for Rachael Tylock at the Penn Relays.
The Mansfield University athlete was on her way to a seventh-place finish in the Olympic Development race walk as she went past a familiar face offering her encouragement.
It wasn't the first time Tylock competed at the Penn Relays, and it probably won't be the last.
But, last week was extremely special as Tylock had the chance to share the experience with her younger sister Melissa.
Melissa, a high school sophomore at Penfield High School, was competing in the high school race, which ran at the same time as the Olympic Development race.
"What happens with the race walk at the Penn Relays, they start all the divisions at the same time. You start on the same starting line and you do the same race at the same time, they just score it separately."
Rachael knew that she would likely pass her sister at some point during the race, and she did in the final mile, getting some words of encouragement as she raced toward the finish.
"It was so exciting," Rachael said. "Going into it the days leading up she was saying she was saying I'm going to beat my big sister. In all likelihood we knew I would probably lap her and I did, but I was impressed I didn't pass her until the last mile. As I passed her she told me go Rachael, go, it was the sweetest thing."
For Melissa there were plenty of nerves competing at the Penn Relays for the first time, and doing a longer distance with her first 5K.
"It's always a great feeling when my sister is there," Melissa said. "I was really, really nervous about this. I had never done a 5K before. It was nice that I was able to accomplish all I wanted with my sister there."
Rachael knew that her sister was going to be nervous in her first 5K and as she tried to qualify for the Junior Olympics, which she did.
"I wasn't particularly nervous for my race, she was more nervous for the race," Rachael said. "She was trying to get a qualifying time for junior nationals."
Having family there is something that made things easier for Melissa.
"I was there, my dad was there, it was good," Rachael said. "When I went down for my first Penn Relays my high school coach was able to bring me down, but my parents were not able to come down. I'm glad she was able to have family right there."
For Rachael the one thing she had to remember about her seventh-place finish is that the race walk field included some of the nation's best, and was won by an Olympian.
"I have to keep that in perspective," she said. "I go there and finishing seventh is good for me, competing against other people, Olympic candidates. It was a good experience, I can see them right in front of me."
And competing with the best in the sport helps prepare Tylock for when she faces them again.
"I have already qualified for outdoor nationals, the 20k," she said. "Competing against all the women I have already competed against before. I'm not really stressed with competing against these people so it does help me in that respect."
For Melissa the 5K was a step up in distance, but as she watches her older sister compete in longer and longer races, it helps let her see what she can do in the future.
"She went from race walking a mile to doing a 20k within a year almost," Melissa said. "I'm definitely impressed with that. My transition won't be as aggressive as hers was, but I definitely think with these four years of training I will be able to reach the same level, or even more."
As good as Rachael has been in the event, she realizes her little sister has the potential to be as good, or even better.
"We actually started race walking at almost the exact same time," Rachael said. "She started at a younger age. My first Penn Relays was as a sophomore in high school, the same as hers. She has a faster time at every progression. When we become older and both become more mature athletes I think the playing field will be even."
Melissa sees her older sister travel around competing and it makes her think about what she might be able to do one day.
"I am extremely jealous of her when I hear she is going somewhere to compete," Melissa said. "I know my time will come. I am one of her biggest supporters and In the future I know she will be one of my many supporters. It's a great feeling to know what she has accomplished."
Both sisters know the day will likely come when they will compete against each other in the same race.
"She's definitely developed more as an athlete," Rachael said. "When I was in high school she was only racing a 1500 at that point. At that point she would go out with me and hang on as long as she could. Now she is running her own race."
While one day the two might have to compete, no matter who wins, they both will always be each other's biggest fan.
"When she was in high school, when I was in seventh and eighth grade I used to race with my sister," Melissa said. "It was never really a competition. We are both supportive of each other."
Race walking is something that the two sisters get a chance to share together.
"We definitely have gotten closer as she becomes more involved with the race walking," Rachael said. "I call home and we will be talking and it always changes to race walking."
With a few years age difference it can be hard for siblings to have something in common, but both sisters love that they can share this together.
"Most siblings don't really have something they can share," Melissa said. "Most siblings try not to do the same thing, it is kind of difficult to have an older sister that is amazing in something and then you come along. But, I think I uphold myself properly."
While Melissa might have an older sister that excels in the race walk, both sisters know that she is making her own path in the sport.
"She doesn't necessarily want to follow in my footsteps, she is creating her own path," Rachael said. "Over the past year I have seen a lot of growth and athletic maturity in her training. She is growing as an athlete."
While Melissa looks up to her older sister she always wants to make sure she doesn't try and become her.
"It's probably a struggle of mine to make sure I'm not following her footsteps," Melissa said. "It's not something I want. I have started at an earlier age, so I do have more years that I can be doing this compared to her. Within my many years of race walking I hope I can create my own path and do my best to not make other people say, 'you have a sister that's so good.'"
While she wants to create her own path, Melissa knows that her sister's experiences can help her a lot.
She has two more years of high school and after that she will likely start looking at colleges.
For Melissa the key to a college will be if they have the academic programs she wants, and also if they have a race walk program, something she knows not every school has.
"I know a lot of my race walk buddies that graduate, they have a hard time finding places so they have to give it up," Melissa said.
Seeing her sister compete, seeing what schools have race walkers gives Melissa an idea of where to look.
"I definitely would say it's an advantage," she said. "That doesn't necessarily mean you know where to choose, but she has a college list that has who have it and I can look at that and see which one would be best for me."
Melissa knows her sister is in a great spot at Mansfield. She knows that Mike Rohl, and his wife Melissa, are coaches that know race walking and where they are in the future is someplace she might have to consider.
Right now Melissa finds out some of the things her older sister does to train and uses that for herself.
"It's probably the sweetest thing, she has helped me with my form from the beginning," Melissa said. "She critiques me here and there and let's me know what possibilities are out there, like the Olympics. I am trying as hard as I can to get there like she is.
"We talk a lot about training, she knows more about training than I do. Me and my dad go to see her and see a little of what she's doing and then I tame it down a little for myself. It is very helpful."
The goal for both sisters for the future is the same, both dream of one day getting to the Olympics and both hope the dream might be able to be achieved by both of them.
"It would be an amazing experience to share with my sister to go to the Olympics with her," Rachael said.
Melissa believes that it would be a special Olympics if the two sisters both made it.
"Honestly that would probably make it the best Olympics in my opinion because you have a sister team," she said. "And, we both would have to earn it, we both would have had to be really fast to get in the Olympics."