COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A leap of faith was all it took to get Lower Richland track hurdler Tyler Graves into a pair of cleats.
The Diamond Hornets’ star track hurdler followed fate to the sport. The discovery of his true talent happened by accident as a child. Or, if you believe in destiny, the path to the track was written in the stars.
"We were at my grandmother's house and he found out I had speed," Graves said.
Years ago, when Graves was about to begin the fifth grade, he spent time at his grandma's working in the backyard with his uncle. One fateful day, a tree came crashing down, which revealed his ability to fly.
"He reached down to grab me and I was already behind him,” Graves recalled. “He told my mama I had to get on the track."
In that instant, a runner was born. In the early stages of his journey, the hurdles frustrated Graves to the point he wanted to quit.
"In the beginning, I wanted to give up because I wasn't processing fast," Graves said.
But his mom and uncle refused to let Tyler toss his potential away.
"They made me get up and go to practice and put in the work," Graves said.
At Lower Richland is where Graves started to believe in the vision for his future with encouragement from coach Rickey Griddine.
“And I understood his struggles, as a young kid, trying to maneuver these 39- and 36-inch barriers,” Griddine said. “I knew, if he stayed patient and worked hard, this is an event he could do really well in.”
Graves' mother’s dedication to her son instilled a drive to strive for greatness.
"Nobody can understand the feeling,” Graves said. “Days she was sick and still went to the track meet and I couldn't drive. I really appreciate her. She gives it all to help me. I will give it my all to help her in the long run. She was there when nobody was there with me -- her, my brother, and my uncle. Every time I step onto the track, it's for my mama."
Patience and a strong drive created a champion on the track. This past season, Graves, won two Class 4-A state titles in the 110-meter high hurdles and the 400-meter intermediate hurdles. These performances helped him earn the coveted Gatorade South Carolina Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
"I was at a loss of words,” Graves remembered when he found out about the award. “Like, dang, I am really here."
Graves has his senior season left to run at LR. His next big goal is to have the fastest times in his event in the nation.
"You have to envision yourself doing it before you do it,” Graves said. “That's the only way I can see it."