Salute to Seniors: Ethan Lillycrop

Ethan Lillycrop's running career won't end in high school even though his senior season was taken by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University School of Johnson City senior is headed to Milligan College in the fall.

He took the time to share some of his favorite memories with us in our Salute to Seniors series. 

What made you get into track and field in the first place and what does this sport mean to you?

I first got into running in general because of my mom. She was always encouraging me to go out and be active since I was very overweight at the time. As for track specifically, all of my friends at my middle school wanted to do track just for fun. I decided I would join them and even though I wasn't fast, I still fell in love with the sport and the competition.

What was your most memorable race/competition?

My most memorable race would probably be the 2019 Ballad Health Relays at Dobyns Bennett. I had qualified for that meet in the 800 by under a second. I was really worried about getting absolutely smoked by all the great runners that were there, so I tried sticking with the person that was right in front of me and landed a 4 second PR from the previous meet. I'll always remember the feeling of crossing that line and seeing a 2:10 on my watch.

Where did you face your biggest competition?

I would say my biggest competition was at the Tri-Cities Classic at Science Hill High School. Many runners from all over the state would come to that meet and the competition was very fierce. I had run in the 800 and mile at this race and neither time was I in the top two heats in the events. And despite not being in the first two heats, I was nowhere close to the front in either of those events even in my own heat.

Out of all of your high school accomplishments, which stands out the most?

I think my biggest achievement was not done by me individually but as a team. During cross country, we did not do nearly as well as any of us wanted to. We kind of got worse in my opinion before we got better. We had come off of a back to back cross country team state title for two years, so we had a lot of pressure to three-peat which did not happen. Our team had only gotten first in the region by two points and were ranked No. 11 in the state. All the guys really showed up that day and brought us to a solid 4th which was a lot better than not even being in the top 10.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change about your athletic career in high school?

If I could hit rewind, I would train a lot harder and actually run over the off season earlier in my career. I only started doing that for cross country this year and for track. Track off season training brought my 5k PR down by over two minutes. I think if I had been doing the training behind the scenes consistently the whole time, I would be a much better runner than I am now.

What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?

The first biggest obstacle I had to overcome was my race anxiety. It had gotten to the point where I couldn't sleep very well the night before a big meet which would hinder my performance the next day. The second obstacle was my hip injury. I had been prepared to run in the 18-minute range, but I didn't even run close to my previous season PR which got me really discouraged. The final obstacle is definitely coming in last in my heat at the sectional meet last year. I was ranked eighth in the section, but dehydration got to me and I ran one of my worst races of the season which also got me very discouraged.

What will you miss the most?

The thing I will miss the most is running with all the guys. They are a great group and always made me laugh even on my worst days. I wish I would have known that the last day of practice for track would have been the last day I would get to run with the guys as a team.

Do you have any advice for younger athletes?

My advice to younger athletes is to do the work even if you don't want to. It will be a lot easier to run if you have the right head space and only training will do that for you.

How have your coaches influenced your performances and your life goals overall?

Maggie (my coach) has influenced my performance by always believing in me. Even when I run poorly, she's always the first one to try to make me feel better about my race. Time wasn't that important to her, but effort was. Her expectation of me putting in the hard work was a great motivator for me to continue to train as best I could to this day.

What are your post-high school plans?

I plan on attending Milligan University in the fall and continuing my running career in their successful Cross Country and Track programs.

Any shoutouts?

I would like to shout-out my friends and teammates Thomas, Hayden, and Camila for always encouraging me to push myself and to work hard. I would also like to shout-out my girlfriend Anna who, like Maggie, always tells me that I did my best and to keep working hard even when I don't achieve my goals.