Griswold sophomore Alyssa Brehler was born with athletic ability. Growing up, Brehler was a standout in soccer, basketball, and softball. She had never tried track and field until the seventh grade. It was when her friends had told her about their enjoyment with the sport that she decided to test it out herself. She quickly found out how good she was, and says she then had a decision to make.
"In eighth grade I tried cross country and track again and liked it. Then I had to make a choice for high school because soccer was my life to that point. I had to decide if I was willing to switch from soccer to cross country."
The verdict was cross country, but the decision to give up soccer wasn't an easy one. Brehler had been playing soccer since she was five years old in a recreational program. In first grade she played for the town travel team. In fourth grade she played for a premier team until freshman year. She says it was tough to give up her first love.
"I played all year round it was really tough to leave behind all my hard work to take a chance with running. I had won most of my middle school races so I knew I was pretty good. I had to at least try it out in high school. Thank goodness I did because I did pretty well for a freshman."
During her freshman campaign, Brehler was one of the top runners for the Wolverines. At ECC's she got 12th and follow that up with a 7th place finish at state, and 40th place in the state open. She played an integral part in bringing home a class SS State Championship to Griswold. In track, she put up solid numbers for her first high school season running 5:11 for the mile and 11:42 for the two mile. Brehler could have gone faster, but understanding the sport and proper training was more important than speed at the time.
"I honestly couldn't ask for a better coach because he knows everything and exactly how to train me. He told me that last year he undertrained me so that I could understand the concept of running and how to run smart before running fast. He always reminded me that I was on a four year plan. So this year I actually I trained properly and wasn't held back so I did much better."
As a sophomore she vastly improved her season best time in the 5k from twenty minutes to just under 19. When it came time to the state series Brehler was ready. She had been in big races before and knew what it took to battle with the best. However, mother nature had a say in the game plan. A series of snowstorms postponed her state race. She says knowing that the times would be merged into the state open race was frustrating.
"I won my state championship race running completely alone. I had nobody to push me after the first 400 meters. I knew I was running against the clock in order to do well when they merged my time into the state open race and I was only 19th. I had beaten so many of those girls previously in the season that were ahead of me in that race but it was different because I wasn't physically in the race with them."
The situation gave Brehler motivation. The Griswold sophomore new she had what it took to beat those girls and set out to showcase her skill at the New England Championships. She says she went into the race thinking positively and not focusing on the other girls in the race. Her plan was to just go out there and run her race.......and run smart.
"Going into the race my coach was telling me since it was my first time in a race of this caliber to just treat it as a learning experience. He obviously wanted me to do well, but he reminded me I still had two more years if it didn't happen this year. I knew I couldn't go out in front at the beginning of this race like I was used to doing."
Brehler stayed 20 to 30 runners back and waited to make her move. She settled in judged her pace girls she knew from Connecticut. Knowing how she did against them in previous races gave her a point of reference, and had confidence in her ability to catch them. Slowly, she picked them off one by one and eventually made her big move.
"When we hit the hills each time is when I passed the most people because I work hard on hills and don't lighten up. Eventually I was behind Reid Watson and Ann Tuxbury the top two girls in CT from the state open race. I was really surprised that I was with them and feeling really good. So I stayed behind them knowing I was in good shape at that spot and then on a hill I just took off and passed them."
The Griswold sophomore was the first in her class to cross the finish line and the first from the state of Connecticut. Her 12th place finish was also in a new personal best time of 18:51.00. Not only was she excited for the outcome, but she also learned valuable tips for future races.
"I learned that you don't always have to go out hard and be out in the front of the race in order to do well. As long as you race smart you can catch most of those who are dying out when you are still feeling good."
Feeling good is the way Brehler wants to start the indoor track season. Last winter she played basketball and focused on outdoor track, but this year she is running indoors and training year round. The excitement of her first indoor season has her rearing to go. Brehler has high expectations for the remainder of her sophomore year, and for the remainder of her high school career.
"In the mile I'd like to break five minutes this year whether it is outdoors or indoors. Last year, I got 5:11 so I think it is definitely possible. In cross country I want to win a State Open Championship and hopefully top five at the New England Championships."
Over the past two years Brehler says she has learned to love the sport of running.
"I have learned so much and worked so hard to get where I am at. I dedicate so much time for this sport. My team has been great both years and I have no regrets. I've learned that even good can come from bad races. I think the best is yet to come. I can't wait to continue the rest of my running career and hopefully it keeps getting more and more successful."
Getting To Know Alyssa
What are three things most people might not know about you?
"I've never gotten anything below an "A" on my report card in my life. I really like Spanish classs. My favorite food ever is ice cream. I love oreo. My favorite sports team is the Boston Red Sox. I am a huge Jacoby Ellsbury fan because he was super good right when he came up, he is really fast, and cute."
If you weren't running what would you be doing?
"I'd be a soccer, basketball, and softball player."
What is the best advice anyone has given you?
"Probably my coach telling me to not worry about other girls in my race and what they are doing because I can't control what they do. I can only focus on myself and control my own race."
What's on your i-Pod right now?
"I like to listen to everything so I have a variety of music. 'Pumped Up Kicks' by the Foster Children, 'Someone Like You' by Adele, and 'Amazed' by Lonestar are all on there.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
"Of course I'll be in college by then. I don't what college I want to go to or even what I want to be so I can't give too many details there. I know I want to go for running so I see myself living the college life and hopefully doing very good things with running. I'd sure hope by then I have a plan for what I want to do."