When Lynden track and field athlete Bryce Sterk completed his 300-meter hurdle race during last weekend's Class 2A Bi-District Meet, a teammate yelled down to him: "Yeah, offensive lineman!"
Sterk nonchalantly recognized his praise and gave a discreet bow.
For a starting football offensive and defensive lineman to find success in track and field, it typically comes in the shot put, discus or javelin.
Sterk has qualified for the shot put at state, but his trademark events are surprisingly the 300-meter hurdles and 4x400 relay. Not bad for a 6-foot-4, 220-pound athlete. And those weight and size numbers are based of last fall's football roster.
"I've had some other coaches ask if we're trying to intimidate other 4x400 teams," said Lynden coach Layne Hutchins, jokingly referring to Sterk and 4x4 teammate Trent Postma's stature in a phone interview.
Sterk may outweigh and tower over most of his competition, but his frame holds a ton of muscle mass, which helps him run faster than most athletes who are a fraction of his size.
Sterk, who played a huge role on Lynden's state title football team, helped the Lions' 4x400 relay team win a fifth-place medal at last year's state meet, and this season he'll be looking to add another medal in the 4x400 and earn podium spots in both the 300 hurdles and shot put Thursday-Saturday, May 29-31, at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.
Each season Sterk, who began running 300 hurdles as a freshman, has drastically improved his times.
His 400 relay split has been trimmed down from a 55.90 to a 50.30. His farthest shot put mark has increased by more than 8 feet from his sophomore to junior year and he set a new 300 hurdles school record with a 40.13 during last week's bi-district meet. The old record was a 40.44. Sterk's top 300 last spring was a 42.02.
"It's been exceptional," said Hutchins of what Sterk has been able to accomplish. "One of the challenges for us is making sure we give him enough time at practice to do everything he is doing. He is a candidate for a decathlete if a college wants him to."
Even at the state meet this weekend, Sterk's unusual event list has forced him to come up with a contingency plan since both the Class 2A shot put and 2A 300-meter hurdle prelims start at 1 p.m. Friday, May 30.
He'll be forced to compete in the 300 hurdles before heading outside the stadium to the throwing grounds.
Sterk has an abundance of athleticism and has built tremendous strength, but his success on the track wouldn't be possible without his strong work ethic.
"He is a hard worker in track, and it's a little bit different for him," Hutchins said. "He can lighten up and have fun. It's not all serious. He's having fun, and he's enjoying the process, too. He is a leader and a goofball out there, too. He keeps everyone loose and light."
Sterk is seeded seventh in the 300 hurdles, seventh in the 4x400 relay and 15th in the shot put.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
CLASS 2A STATE TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: Thursday-Saturday, May 29-31
Where: Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.