It's been a moving last few months for Kyle Garland.
While small things have been tedious to work through this spring for the recent Germantown Academy (PA) graduate -- the minor injuries, the bumps in training -- nothing truly came close to influencing him like the death of a beloved aunt four months ago.
From that moment forward, he said, he vowed to make the most of his final season in the decathlon.
"Throughout these last four months, I've really been taking her with me with every single thing I do, whether it's on the track or whether it's in the classroom," Garland said. "Whether it's in training. I know she's right there with me."
Garland certainly made the most of his moment at the USA Junior Championships this past weekend in Bloomington, Indiana, scoring a career best 7,562 points to secure an automatic qualifier to the U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, in July. That mark was the seventh-best high school performance all-time with junior standards.
And it will be the University of Georgia recruit's second straight appearance for Team USA after finishing second at the Pan American Junior Championships in 2017. Garland scored 7,212 points in Peru.
"I came into this competition knowing that I could put up a good overall number, a huge composite score for me," Garland said. "I was definitely looking to PR. But 75 for a day like today, these past two days, it's really great."
Just a few months earlier, Garland had hoped to qualify for the senior USA indoor team in the pentathlon, considering it was a World Indoor Championship year. But a small injury derailed his hopes and Garland decided to play it safe.
With the spring arriving, Garland once again worked out on the track -- coached by his father, Keith -- though it often came with an asterisk: he would do it alone. That never fazed him, though.
"This year versus last year isn't a huge difference," he said. "I train by myself, it's no different. I'm used to being on the track by myself."
With just three meets under his legs in May, Garland ultimately put together one of his best days at USA Juniors. But interestingly enough, he only scored one PR, heaving the discus a personal record of 141-9.25.
Every other event, meanwhile, was close to his standard. He set the tone of each of his two days in the sprints, where he ran 10.95 in the 100m and 13.80 in the 110mH.
He was just eight-feet from his javelin PR with a throw of 174-0.25, ran 50.57 in the 400m, was near his PR in the shot put with a mark of 51-0.25 and high jumped 6-8 -- a clearance he says he can improve in time.
About the only event where Garland said he could put a good amount of work in was the 1500m, where he finished in 5:00.16. A year ago, he went 4:53 in Peru.
"I'll get more mileage working these next three and half weeks working into Finland," he said. "The decathlon in itself is just an event where you have to use so much heart, especially in that 1500. I'm not trying to pump my head up or anything. I know I have a lot of heart when it comes to the 1500."
With a few weeks of lead-in time for Finland, Garland feels like there's nowhere to go but up.
"I was just proud of how I was able to compose myself throughout event over event," he said.
And yet again, he'll be driven in Finland by the thought of his late aunt.
"I've had her as my guardian angel and these past two days she's really been with me and I've been able to feel her with every event I do," he said. "I really do this for myself, but I do this for her and it felt great to come out and get a huge PR and make my second USA team."