When West Nodaway grad and Missouri Western freshman Tyler Blay sets goals he attacks them. His work ethic helped him become the most decorated male athlete in Nodaway County this season and is why he is the 2021 Nodaway County Male Athlete of the Year.
One thing that has always driven Blay was the desire to play a sport at the college level. Regardless of the sport he was playing, that goal always seemed to be in the forefront of his mind.
“Absolutely, ever since I was in elementary, it was football, then it was basketball, now it is cross country,” Blay said on his desire to play in college. “I've reached out to so many coaches about basketball and then I got second place in state and the offers started to roll in. Some coaches caught sight of my training and were like, 'this kid just ran 20 miles, we might want to make a move.' Then some more offers came in. I got a very good offer and I love where I'm headed.”
Blay loved football and basketball growing up, but as he approached high school, he began to throw himself into basketball. He even set a very high goal for himself before he even put on a varsity uniform for the Rockets.
In middle school, he knew that one day he'd like to break the school's all-time scoring record, which was held by one of the greatest athletes in Rocket history with Trevor Meyer. Meyer's record was 1,443 points and was set in 2015 as Blay was in middle school.
“My seventh-grade year, I set out to get that milestone going into high school,” Blay said. “I've put a crazy amount of hours in that gym, just working to get there. I knew I would get there and I knew it would be a lot of work.”
On January 11 against East Atchison, Blay was able to cross that goal off the list. Blay finished his West Nodaway career with 1,648 points.
“I am very blessed to have basketball in my life because it helped me in so many ways heading into the future,” Blay said. “That milestone definitely was a blessing for me. I set that goal out when I was young and I got it.”
As a freshman, he joined a veteran team. With guards like David Hull and Korbin Koch guiding the offense, Blay had to find his place with the Rockets, but he quickly did and became one of the most lethal sixth men in the area.
West Nodaway underwent massive changes going into Blay's sophomore season with Hull and Koch gone, and Blay was counted on to be a leader with a much younger team. He went out and averaged 23.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range and 55 percent overall.
While Blay showed himself to be one of the best basketball players around, he discovered another love during the following summer.
He had run cross-country the year prior and not found great success as a middle-of-the-pack runner. He finished 21st at the district meet with 20:27.2. He did not qualify for state while his classmates Duke Ingraham and Preston Bateman each were in the top-10 and did.
Despite finding so much success in basketball and relatively little in cross country, Blay decided to fully commit himself to running. He began running 80 miles a week consistently.
“That is the whole weird thing about this,” Blay said. “I can't pinpoint an exact time when my mindset shifted towards this sport. I saw very good progression in it and the love for the sport just came slowly. … I guess I just fell into it and didn't even know I was falling into it.”
The seeds of Blay's work began to pay off as a junior. He became one of the best runners in northwest Missouri, but struggled to get past some of the elite runners in the area, including Mound City's Lane Zembles, the district runner-up the previous year.
Blay's break-through came in the 275 Conference Championships when he upset Zembles and beat him by nearly 30 seconds with a 17:26.03 to win his first conference title and lead the Rockets to a team title.
“Going into that junior year, I had zero expectations because the season before, I was still running 22-minute 5Ks,” Blay said. “Going in, I had nothing to prove really. It just came along — each race I was PRing.”
His times only continued to improve. His district time went down by over three minutes from the previous year as he ran a 17:22.1 to win.
At the state meet that season, Blay found himself just short of a state title. He ran a 16:42.9, but he couldn't catch The Fulton School's Jace Cavness, who held him off by three seconds.
“At state I was ranked sixth and I was like, 'that is crazy, sixth place in the state, that would be crazy,'” Blay said. “We go in and I'm racing and I'm in second and third, going back and forth and I get second. At the line, I was disappointed that I got second, but you come to realize that you are second in Class 1 state, it is definitely a moment to remember. It is crazy how it all happened and how it developed into that.”
Those three seconds drove Blay during the offseason, which became longer than he originally thought as the track and field season was cancelled.
He was the most dominant runner in northwest Missouri as a senior and when he got to state, that was on display as he won the title in 16:30.3 over 33 seconds faster than the next fastest time and over a minute ahead of Cavness.
“It means the world to me,” Blay said. “And it is something that I will always remember. … The moment that you realize that all the hard work you put in, all those 80-mile weeks, all of those workouts to get to that point — it is all the hard work paying off.
“That is the message I would show people. The hard work does pay off. It may not pay off right now, but it is going to pay off and it is going to be good when it does.”
Blay also led West Nodaway to a state trophy as the team took fourth.
During basketball season, it wasn't a gaudy statistical season like his sophomore year, but Blay led the Rockets to their first .500 season since Meyer's senior campaign.
Track and field was what Blay was waiting for though. He hadn't gotten to do track since his dedication to running began and he was unstoppable all season. Blay dominated the mile and two-mile races throughout the season. It culminated at state where he finished second in the 1,600 meters and set a new Class 1 record with a 9:34.49 to win the state title in the 3,200 meters.
Now Blay is set to check off the goal that has been on his list the longest. He is set to run at Missouri Western in cross country and track and field and is already working on some new goals.
“I definitely have some goals,” Blay said. “My main ultimate goal is to become an All-American in cross country and an All-American in track.”
Runner Up: Dylan McIntyre
As just a sophomore, McIntyre was a force in whatever uniform he wore.
In football, Northeast Nodaway co-ops with Worth County, so McIntyre donned the black and gold and finished as the team's second-leading receiver and had 49 tackles and a team-high four interceptions.
He exploded onto the Nodaway County scene in basketball when he averaged 17.8 points per game and seven rebounds for a 17-9 Bluejay team.
He was the Jays' top pitcher this spring and had a 3.53 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings. He finished with a .471 batting average with two homers at the plate for a team that made the district championship game.
Honorable Mention: Trey Houchin, Maryville; Trever McQueen, Platte Valley; Karson Oberhauser, North Nodaway; Garrett Dumke, Maryville; James Herr, Nodaway-Holt.