You Might Not Know Tyler Azcano Yet. You Should.

* Tyler Azcano graduated from East Ridge High School in 2022 with zero offers. So he took a gap year and worked on his craft. 

Photo Credit: Bobby Reyes/MileSplit

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By Cory Mull - MileSplit

The great American story is that of the man who builds himself up from scratch, parts unknown, into a complete and utter success. 

Few could have expected to see Tyler Azcano on that path in track and field. 

Roughly a year ago, after graduating from Lake Minneola High School without a single college scholarship offer and a personal best wind-aided 100 meter time of 10.87 seconds, Azcano took a gap year and worked side jobs to keep things going, at one point flipping a sign on the side of the road for money.  

He had not run track times that were exemplary, but he had a family who believed in him and a coach by the name of Maurice Campbell who would form the athlete he would become. 

Midway through that year, now out of school and working with Campbell full-time, he began to see what the vision was. 

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"It was a feeling," Azcano, now 19 and a recent Florida A&M signee, said. "I believed in myself. I knew I could be something. He motivated me and made me believe in myself even more." 

A year later, it all came to fruition.

On Saturday at the USATF Under 20 Championships in Eugene, Azcano clocked a wind-legal time of 10.09 seconds, finishing second in the race and booking a trip to the Pan American U20 Championships in Puerto Rico. 

The full-circle moment was dizzying. Azcano had gone from a track nobody to arguably one of the best recruits in the Class of 2022 in an instant. His reward was an opportunity to represent Team U.S.A. before he was even 20. 

Azano later went on to clock two straight wind-legal times of 20.97 and 20.97 in the 200m, finishing up a meet that saw him warp through the track and field world like a yearling who formed into a prized racehorse. 

His 100m time, however, was the gold standard result. The performance would have been the sixth-fastest in high school history. Athletes such as Anthony Schwartz and Jaylen Slade had managed to clock those times in high school. A total of 21 athletes had run 10.09 or faster in the NCAA this year, too. 

No part of Azcano felt like it was undeserved. 

"I know it's pretty surprising for anybody looking on the outside," he said. "But for me and my coach and my teammates and everybody that supports me, I'm not going to say we didn't expect it or that we thought it was impossible. We knew my potential. My coach and I had the training. I put in the work every day. It's not something I ever looked at as impossible." 

There was a good reason why Azcano never rocketed up the national leaderboard in high school and why he was a late-bloomer on the scene in 2023.

As a sophomore, COVID had taken away his opportunity to run at East Ridge High School. His junior season saw him run infrequently because of his focus on football. 

And then his senior season, which he spent at Lake Minneola after he transferred from East Ridge, was cut short entirely after he tore both of his hamstrings at New Balance Nationals Indoor in New York City, incurring a grade 2 partial tear in the process, he said. That same season he had run 6.91 in the 60m.

It took him a full year to recover, both physically and mentally. 

"When I came back, it was July or August and I was still timid to run," he said. "I was still a little scared to run on it. But I ran 11.1 and 10.9 by the end of the year." 

His performances didn't have recruiters flocking to his door, either. At that point, no college programs were willing to take a shot on him. 

Azcano decided to take a gap year to work on his craft. He joined the Wind Speed Athletics Track Club with Campbell, who had also moved on from Lake Minneola to West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Florida. 

Campbell implemented techniques, moved Azcano through the paces, worked on his block starts and flying starts and then narrowed his focus to wickets and form and explosion. 

"He's telling me I can run 10.4," Azcano said. "At first I think, 'He's probably lying.' But then I start to realize, he's legit." 

Azcano may have been flipping signs on the side of the road in the meantime, but things were starting to happen on the track. Shockingly so. 

In March, he opened his season with a time of 10.60 seconds at the Florida Youth Invitational, then he lowered his 100m bests to 10.29w and 10.14w at the PURE Athletics Springs Invitational -- he even featured in Heat 2, just before Issam Asinga would run 9.83w seconds. 

Azcano's performances were jaw-dropping. A month later, he ran 20.91 seconds in the 200m. There, he lined up against Noah Lyles' brother, Josephus, along with collegiate and professional athletes. 

"Nobody realizes, it takes time and training," Azcano said. "Nobody said it to me (that they doubted me), but I don't doubt that (people may have thought it)."

By May, well into the Class of 2023 recruiting cycle, Azcano was getting calls from Florida A&M, South Florida, Louisville, Boston University, Maryland, Eastern Washington and Grambling State. 

Azcano wasn't quite sure what to do.

As a Class of 2022 athlete, many programs had no idea who he was. He wasn't a star in high school. 

"I'm stuck," Azcano said. "Do I commit to the first place that wants me? Do I wait it out?" 

Two weeks later, a school offered him a scholarship and scheduled a visit. Two weeks after that, Azcano said, he got another phone call from that same school telling him, "We had someone take your spot, so we have to cancel the scholarship." 

The world was spinning.

But Azcano leaned on Campbell, who had a good relationship with the Florida A&M's Garfield Ellenwood, who was Director of Track and Field and cross country at the NCAA Division I program. 

Azcano is white and Florida A&M University is a historically black college, but no part of him ever doubted the campus or the experience. If anything, the Rattlers felt like a part of home to him. Much like his parents and his coaches and his teammates, FAMU believed in him, he said. It really was the only program to go all-in on him. 

Azcano ran a wind-legal 10.22 seconds in the 100m on June 10. Garfield offered him a full scholarship and signed him soon after that. 

Three weeks later, Azcano dropped his 100m best down to 10.09.

More schools came calling -- maybe even the same ones who said they had no money to sign him, Azcano said. 

"It's funny how that works," he said. 

Azcano will now represent Team USA at a major championship, which is a wild result considering Azcano never even competed at the Florida High School Championships as a high school athlete.

But sometimes, that's how these things happen in track and field. One minute you're nobody, the next you're somebody and from there, you're a possible candidate for the U.S. team. 

With a few weeks before his final meet of the track and field season, Azcano is looking forward to wearing red, white and blue. 

He's pushed his goal post forward, too. 

"I want to run 9.9 at the next meet," he says. "According to my coach, I haven't peaked this season yet. So that's my goal. Obviously, the first goal is to win. But the second goal is to run 9.9." 

"Just to be able to compete for Team USA," he added, "that's special." 

"I mean, I'm ready for it. It all has hit me very fast. But I believe I can do great things. And whatever comes with that, I'll be ready for it."