Feature Friday: Tucker Has Unique Blend Of Speed And Stamina

When it comes to listing the biggest track and field stars in the state, Bryce Tucker's name is right near the very top.

With personal bests of 52.17 in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, which he ran to win the Meet of Champions title as a sophomore at Pennsauken last June, 1:55.00 in the 800m, 48.64 in the 400m, Tucker's T&F resume stacks up against anyone in the state.

And Tucker, who has a unique blend of speed and stamina, is one of those guys who puts his team first, always willing and ready to run whatever is needed to help the team.

A perfect example of that came last Saturday when Tucker showed off his great range by running on four relays to help lead Pennsauken to the State Group 3 Relay title at the Bennett Center in Toms River.

Tucker anchored the winning 4x400 with a 52.0 carry (a video of that race is at the top of this article), led off the winning the 4x200, ran a 2:02 and change as the anchor on the victorious sprint medley relay, and ran a 2:02 and change on the fifth-place DMR.

Led by Tucker, Pennsauken edged Timber Creek, 32-30, for the team title. It's the second state relay title ever for Pennsauken, who shared the championship with Timber Creek in 2018.   

It was obvious in his first season of high school track that Tucker was destined for stardom.

At the 2020 Indoor Meet of Champions at Ocean Breeze, Tucker broke the state freshman record when he ran 1:56.75 to place 11th in the 800.

Then last spring, Tucker put himself on the national map when he ran the 52.17 in the 400m hurdles at the Meet of Champs, which was the fifth fastest time in the nation overall, and the fastest in the nation among sophomores for the season.

While he's focused on this season and trying not to look ahead, Tucker is extremely driven and hungry to try to chase down more records this spring, especially the state 400 hurdle mark, which is in crosshairs.  

NJ MileSplit recently caught up with Tucker for an in depth Q and A where he talked about his pursuit of the state 400 hurdles record, and he shed some insight about a variety of topics, including his big personal and team goals, how he got started in the sport, and a whole lot more.

So kick back and enjoy our latest installment of Feature Friday as we shine the spotlight on Pennsauken junior star Bryce Tucker.

NJM: First of all, congrats on helping your team win the State Group 3 Relay title last weekend. What did it mean to you and your teammates to win that title?

Thank you. It felt great to win the state title. To me it shows that all the hard work my teammates and I went through paid off, and we got the results we wanted.

What were your thoughts heading into the 4x400 relay knowing your team had to win the race to overtake Timber Creek to win the team title?

Just to protect the baton, and get it around the track.

You had a very busy meet as usual by running on four relays. How do you feel about the way you performed, and of all of your performances in the meet, which one are you most proud of and why?

I felt great going into each race, and I did my part to help secure the state title. I'd say the 4x200 was the race I was most proud of because I knew I had to get my team out in the lead, being that I was first leg. 

Your 4x200 and 4x400 relays had the fastest times of any teams in the state at the Bennett Center this season. What are your thoughts on how fast you think your team can run in the 4x200 and 4x400 when you guys run those races fresh and on much faster tracks, and what do you think the chances are that your team could be the fastest team in the state in those relays by the end of this season?

Without a doubt, I know my team can run both the 4x200 and the 4x400 much faster than what we ran. The chances of my team being the fastest team in the state is very high, because we haven't ran on a fast track all season.

What are your biggest personal goals this season in the 400 and the 800, and how much of a goal is it of yours to win the Meet of Champions title in one of those races?

My goal in the 400 is to run a comfortable 47 seconds by the outdoor season. In the 800, my goal is to run at least 1:52 by the end of the season.

When is your next meet and what will you be running?

My next meet is Saturday and I will be running the 600 and the 55 hurdles at the New Balance Games.

Let's go back to last spring for a minute. What did it mean to you to win the 400 hurdles at the Meet of Champions, and become the second fastest sophomore in state history with your 52.17. That was an incredible accomplishment, especially considering that not many sophomores win Meet of Champions titles.

It meant a lot to me to win the 400 hurdles last year at Meet of Champs. It was a big goal at the time that I was able to achieve.

What are your thoughts on trying to break the state record of 50.14 in the 400 hurdles? I'm sure it's something that motivates you, and you have two years to do it. It definitely is within your reach!

With me still having two years to break that record, I just have to trust my coaches, my training, and myself to get me to where I need to be to achieve that.

What do you feel you have to work on specifically (speed, technique etc.) to cut two seconds in the 400 hurdles to break that state record?

Specifically, I have to work on my technique, so I can stutter less to each hurdle.

You started out your high school career by breaking the state freshman indoor record in the 800, and then won a Meet of Champions title in the 400 hurdles last spring. How surprised are you by all that you've accomplished so far in your high school career? Or is this what you expected from yourself?

It's a bit of both. I was both surprised and I expected myself to perform the way I did because I know I put a lot of work in prior to breaking the record, and winning Meet of Champs.

How and when did you get started in the sport of track and field? How did this all happen?

I started running track & field when I was about eight years old. It all happened because when I was younger I used to run non-stop and not get tired. That's when my parents got the thought of putting me in track.

When was your big breakthrough, when you realized that you could really be a great sprinter and do big things in this sport?

My biggest breakthrough was when I was 12 years old, and I was winning a lot, and I enjoyed the feeling of running and winning.

What do you love the most about being a track and field athlete?

The main thing I love most about being a track athlete is after I win a big race, I get that rush of adrenaline and I think to myself, "I just did that".

You've had a lot of great highlights during your track and field career, but which one are you most proud of and why?

The highlight I am most proud of is when I ran 1:56:75 in the 800 freshman year and I broke the state freshman indoor record.

What do you consider your greatest strengths as a sprinter, hurdler, and half-miler? What makes you as great as you are, especially in the 400 hurdles?

What makes me as great as I am is that I never back down from any race no matter how difficult people say it can be.

How much does running so many 800's help you prepare for the 400 hurdles. Obviously, the 800's help you build up your strength and will help you drop those 400 hurdle times.

Running 800's builds my strength and endurance, and gives my body that same feeling I get when I run the 400 hurdles

Which track and field athletes do you watch videos of to try to pick up things that can help you? What do you learn from watching them?

I mainly watch a lot of Karsten Warholm's 400 hurdle races because of the way he starts his race. He always shoots out like a cannon, and I will try to apply the same with my races. Note: Warholm is the world record holder in the 400 hurdles and won the gold in that race at the Olympics Games in Tokyo last summer. 

A lot of track and field athletes feel the 400 hurdles is the toughest event on the track to run. What do you think about that, and what makes it as tough as it is?

I think the 400 hurdles is the hardest event to run. It really is more of a mental race than physical. Most athletes find it difficult or "scary" because they could fall over the hurdle or they may get too tired. I tell them "Your going to feel the same pain either way so just run it hard, endure the pain and the results will be what you expect"

What do you love the most about running the 400 hurdles?

What I love most about running the 400 hurdles is that when I'm coming down the home stretch and I'm in the lead, I get that rush of adrenaline and it just feels great knowing I'm taking home the gold.

I notice that you also run cross-country? How has that helped you prepare for track and help your times come down on the track?

Cross-country was to keep me in shape and help my stamina before the indoor season started.

What has your training been like this season? Any specific workouts/drills you are focusing on, and what areas of your races are you focused on trying to improve the most?

Overall my training is proving to be great and is helping the process of getting me closer to where I need to be.

How about the future, Bryce? What are your biggest long-term goals in track and field. I'm sure being an Olympian is a dream of yours!

My biggest long-term goal is coming home with a gold medal in the 400 hurdles at the Olympics.