signing day (copy)

Bozeman senior Wyatt May is photographed with his parents after signing to run for MSU-Billings on Wednesday at Bozeman High.

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Wyatt May added some undue stress into his life when, during his junior year at Bozeman, he wanted to pursue running in college.

“That’s usually kind of frowned upon and unheard of,” May said. “But I somehow made it work. I’ve been running my butt off.”

May, now a senior at Bozeman, said he originally wanted to pursue basketball but came to the realization he probably couldn’t play at the next level. He then shifted his sole focus to running his final two years at Bozeman.

“It was pretty hard but I was pretty driven,” May said. “I just set my mind to it and I was like, ‘Alright, we’ve got to start running harder every day and put the work in.’ It all works out as long as you just put the work in.”

That resulted in May signing to run cross country and track and field at MSU-Billings on Wednesday. May said he landed on MSU-Billings because his older sister, Mariah, was a thrower on the track and field team and it would keep him close to home.

“It’s pretty exciting,” May said. “I’m glad my parents will be able to watch all my races. That’s been a big part of the reason I do this because it’s fun having my parents out (at races).”

Bozeman cross country head coach Casey Jermyn said while he wished for May’s sake that a decision came sooner in his high school career, it will work to May’s benefit that he’s a multi-sport athlete.

“So (college coaches) know that he isn’t a runner coming in as a freshman that has just pounded his legs all four years (in high school),” Jermyn said. “They know they’re going to get a pretty fresh athlete. And there’s only upside once they get him into the program.”

Jermyn said at the beginning of each cross country season he talks to his team about potentially running in college. And while he does talk with prospective college coaches about his athletes, Jermyn said he likes to take a “hands off” approach to any final decision-making.

He was still available to give advice to May about the transition to college, though.

“Just run the easy days easy and the hard days hard,” May said. “And make sure you’re recovered. Race every day like it’s your last. Keep testing yourself and you’ll get the (personal bests) and the times you want.”

May’s college search consisted mainly of schools in Montana and Idaho. He was searching for the right team fit but also what felt like the right major for him. After two visits to MSU-Billings and landing on a construction management major, May made his final decision.

“It all just seemed to be the right fit at the time,” May said.

May added that the foundation built at Bozeman was crucial to getting him to this point. He said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his extended family that ran at Bozeman, like his cousin Hunter May, who’s a senior distance runner at Montana.

“I’ve had so many cousins run through here and win state titles,” May said. “So I kind of wanted to chase that image a little bit. Being a part of this program has been amazing.”

One of May’s defining traits, Jermyn said, is his leadership. Jermyn said May was a team captain and would lead warmups and regularly encourage his teammates.

As May moves on, Jermyn said having his athletes compete in college is “pretty important,” both for the younger kids on the team and the program as a whole.

“Whether they run at MSU-Billings, whether they run up here at MSU, (Montana), anywhere they go — kids are seeing that,” Jermyn said. “It’s a good testament to the program and I hope it gives kids coming into the program confidence that they can take those steps through and come through the program and run at that next level.”

May said he plans to put in even more work over the summer, especially as he makes the transition from the 5,000 meters in high school cross country to the 8,000 meters in college.

But before that happens, May is appreciating the feeling of finally making it.

“I’m just excited and it means that I’m going to be able to have a coach and just keep running,” May said. “(I really want to) just test myself and see where I can get in the next couple years — both in the conference and in the state in general. It’ll be good.”

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Braden Shaw can be reached at bshaw@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @ByBradenShaw

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