October 21st – The Parker West Story
We at Indiana Runner have gotten a chance to get to know a young man named Parker West. If you didn’t know, he loves to run, read, and write about running…quite possibly more than you. Taking a glance at his social media, or even having one conversation with him will teach you that. We’ve even given him a chance occasionally to write for IR as he hopes to pursue a career as a sports journalism, specializing in distance running.
“What a lot of people don’t know, though, is that I probably shouldn’t be running”, says West. From the time he was born until he was in 2nd grade, his family noticed something wrong with his left knee. A large deformity appeared on his left kneecap. After going to the hospital and getting X-Rays done, he was told by doctors that a tumor the size of a golf ball had grown underneath his kneecap and had wrapped around his knee. “That seemed like a valid reason as to why I could only bend my knee 90 degrees before it literally stopped.”, said West.
After going through two surgeries in 2nd and 4th grade, he began playing sports, starting with baseball in the 5th grade, and football in the 6th grade. His 6th grade football season was cut short, however, as the tumor had grown back and needed removed once more. Over the next two years, it forced him to quit both sports and it brought West to a crossroads in his life. He made the decision that it was best he stop trying to be involved with sports in High School completely.
Midway into West’s freshman year, he found some unexpected motivation. He traveled to watch his cousin, former Greenfield-Central standout Tyler Wilcher, compete at the Artesian Classic. Wilcher finished 24th that day, and his race helped West fall in love with the sport. “I was fascinated by the sport. Tyler also helped inspire me, because he didn’t join Cross Country until his junior year of High School. Seeing Tyler have so much success with the sport made me just HAVE to try it.”
Team participation numbers were short at Eastern Hancock High School, so the coach certainly didn’t mind having West join the team even though it was midway through the season. He would end up being the #1 runner at the end of the season, running a personal best of 20:45 at the sectional with four weeks of training. Since then, West’s passion for the sport has only grown as has his potential. Just this season, West took some big steps in his young career, breaking 18 minutes multiple times and lowering his personal best down to 17:44, even though he admits, he didn’t get in the training he needed to this past summer. All his success hasn’t come easy though. The everyday battles he still faces with his past is evident.
“When I underwent surgery, the muscle in my leg was cut in half. So my left leg is literally half the size of my right. My left leg is also 2 and a half centimeters longer than the right, so I sometimes wear orthotics to even my balance. The length difference has affected me the most, because it makes my form a little weird. I often hear “Why do you run like you’re limping?” and it’s because I tend to put less pressure on my left leg, even when I’m walking.”
Still today, Wilcher influences West in his training and racing. The summer between his sophomore and junior season Wilcher came on to coach at Eastern Hancock. Wilcher, still able to run with the team, pushed West and his teammates in practice and made the workouts harder. To show how much he feels Wilcher has helped the EC program, he asked that I share some statistics of his teams improvement. This is a list of how much the team improved when Tyler showed up:
Jacob Mueller – 19:51 5K PR Junior season. 17:22 5K PR Senior season.
Parker West – 20:11 5K PR Sophomore season, 18:12 5K PR Junior season.
Gabe Blake – 18:19 Freshman season.
Nathan Kell – 20:00 5K PR Junior season. 19:13 5K PR Senior season.
Mitchell Scott – 21:35 5K PR Sophomore season. 19:34 5K PR Junior season.
Back to West…most will want to hear the final part of the story. Parker qualified for the Rushville Regional which took place this past Saturday. With dreams of qualifying for Semi-State as an individual, West entered the race prepared. Ultimately though, he would struggle down the stretch. With mere meters left in the race, West would crumble to the ground, exhausted, and finish his high school cross country career disappointingly at the Regional. It only stung more to learn after the race that the 10th individual qualifier that day ran just 17:42, only 2 seconds faster than West’s personal best. He realizes though, there’s no time to wallow as the future has much in store for him…
We asked West about his goals both long and short term. He stated he had two goals entering this season. The first was be to break the EC school record of 16:54. While that ultimately did not come to fruition, his second goal did… to earn the opportunity to run collegiately. Here recently, West was welcomed onto the team at IU East where he plans to compete at the next level.
“I would like to think that I don’t have limits. I’m very strong in my Christian faith, and absolutely believe that I can do just about anything through God.”