PULASKI — Luke Tighe has taken extreme measures to prepare for his senior season with the Pulaski High School boys cross country team.
The fifth-year varsity standout is coming off an eighth-place finish in the Class D state championship meet and has since spent the past year endurance training through a variety of courses and weather conditions.
Tighe opened the new campaign Sept. 6 with a 5K run of 17 minutes and 30 seconds to push the Blue Devils to their 44th straight dual meet victory dating back to 2017. He has shined through Pulaski’s active four-year streak of unbeaten Onondaga High School League Patriot National Division titles.
“He has understood the last few years that it takes a lot of miles, it takes building a base of endurance,” said Scott Jones, beginning his 12th season as Pulaski head coach.
“He has been doing that and that’s what has put him to another level and why he’s one of the top runners in the state. He understands how important that is.”
Tighe spent a portion of his recent summer working toward the Wakely Dam Ultra, which is a 55K ultra marathon trail race through the Adirondack Park at Piseco Lake.
He completed the 34-plus mile endeavor on July 30 on the unforgiving Northville Placid Trail.
Tighe said he had attempted marathon distance runs in the past but had not previously entered a competitive race of that nature.
“It was completely different, not just in terms of distance, but also the training,” Tighe said. “It was a lot more of a rugged terrain than you’d ever experience here in a cross country race with downed trees, swamps, mud-pits and all sorts of stuff. That was good to build up endurance for the season.”
During the winter, Tighe took first place in three snowshoe marathons at Winona Forest Recreation Association at nearby Lacona. He competed in The Norway 5K, The Stone Wall 5K/10K, and The Orange Course, sweeping the three long-distance races held in January and February.
He took up snowshoeing in middle school, discovering an enjoyable offseason hobby that will benefit him deep into the cross country postseason that often ends in cold temperatures around mid-November.
“Those were really cool to do in the offseason just to have some fun up there,” Tighe said. “I remember the first time I went it was like negative 10 degrees out and we didn’t really run the whole thing. But over the years I started to get faster and those have gotten pretty fun.”
Running has become a family affair for Tighe and his parents. His mom, Alyson, raced road marathons and originally encouraged Tighe to try cross country when he was entering seventh grade.
His dad, Tom, has taken to distance running in more recent years and this past June, entered the Western States Endurance Run, which is a 100-mile ultramarathon on California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains trails.
Tighe accompanied his father and worked as one of his crew members, meeting him at eight designated stations along the 26-hour adventure. He spoke to the fun of visiting the area and the experience of witnessing such a demanding challenge.
“When I was younger, I thought a marathon was like the farthest distance a human could possibly run, and then he starts getting into these races that are 100 miles and it’s like: ‘Wow, people can do that,’” Tighe said. “I think that helps, it kind of opens your eyes to what your body is capable of doing.”
Tighe also biked 12 miles to his summer job at Sandy Island Beach State Park about three days per week and helped lead voluntary summer runs with teammates to log regular miles over the off months.
“I find every year when I run more miles over the summer, that’s when I really notice that I make improvements with my speed,” Tighe said. “My training volume in the preseason is huge toward how my season goes.”
Tighe placed third in the Section 3 Class D championships last year and followed up with an eighth-place finish at states. He entered the season as the seventh-ranked runner among Class D returners, according to the tullyrunners.com speed ratings.
He has established besting his state finish and reaching the Federations meet as goals for the upcoming season, while aiming to guide the Blue Devils to a fifth straight unblemished dual meet slate.
“We’re really excited about Luke this year,” Jones said. “He’s ranked seventh in the state right now, and I think he’s going to do better than that because he’s the type of kid that works tremendously hard and puts in more miles than most high school cross country runners.”
Tighe is considering Binghamton and Rochester Institute of Technology, among other colleges, and plans to study engineering. He is prioritizing academics and said that he would welcome the chance to walk on a cross country team if the opportunity lines up.