Published July 10. 2013 4:00AM
As the youngest of five athletically gifted children in his family, Tyler Latham regularly deals with boulder-sized expectations.
Judging from his results, he's been as steady as granite handling the pressure.
He's thrived under those challenging circumstances, relying on a competitive edge sharpened from battling his siblings in everything from wiffleball to ping pong to games of H-O-R-S-E.
"People look up to me to do well because everyone else (in my family) has been successful in sports," Latham said. "They've all mastered their sports.
"? There's always competition in my family, who can get the most achievements or go the furthest. They're all out of high school now, so I have another year to top all of them."
Latham, The Day's 2013 All-Area Boys' Track & Field Athlete of the Year, is working his way up the family achievement ladder. He had an impressive junior season at Fitch High School, leading the team in points.
His accomplishments included pacing the Falcons to the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship by winning the 110-meter hurdles and 300 hurdles and placing second in the javelin. He was the Class L 300 hurdle champion and earned runner-up status in the 110 hurdles and javelin to help Fitch take second.
He competed in the State Open and New England Championship, finishing second in the 300 hurdles, fifth in the javelin and seventh in the 110 hurdles in the former and placing fourth in the 300 hurdles and 15th in the javelin in the latter.
He also helped Fitch break the school record in the sprint medley at the New Balance Nationals in North Carolina.
"It's hard not to overuse him because he wants to be overused," Fitch coach Rich Kosta said. "He would do every event every meet if he could."
Tyler's family, including parents Mark and Jackie, often attend Fitch meets. All of his siblings - Jen (track), Sarah (volleyball, basketball, track), Ben (track) and Aubrey (softball, volleyball, basketball), who each excelled in his or her respective sport - still live in the state.
"They're the most competitive family I've ever met with one another and other people, but it's also fun for them," Kosta said. "Even though they're competitive, they have the ability to keep things in perspective."
Ben, a former State Open champion in the javelin and once ranked as high as second nationally, trains Tyler. An injury eventually ended Ben's athletic career at Oklahoma.
"For the most part, Ben is right by my side when I'm competing," Tyler said. "He's always a help."
While Ben admits that he gets frustrated with Tyler at times, he's also his brother's biggest fan.
"I always told him that he could be the best in the family and the most accomplished," Ben said.
It was Ben who convinced Tyler to give up baseball and basketball in high school for track. Tyler made the switch after his freshman year.
Tyler is a quick study, becoming the State Open javelin champion as a sophomore. He has a shot at breaking Ben's school record of 212 feet next spring.
"I thought he would break it this year," Ben said. "But he had to focus on other events."
Tyler Latham's versatility makes him a perfect candidate for the decathlon. He also has the ability to quickly push aside any disappointments and focus on the next event.
He did just that at the CIAC State Decathlon Championship last month. After posting a no-height in the pole vault, he recovered to place fourth overall.
"He's tenacious and very athletic," Kosta said. "It's one of the reasons why he's having trouble getting pole vault because he wants to attack. He attacks every event. The pole vault takes a little more finesse."
Latham's goal is to win the decathlon next year. He's also shooting to set school records for the 300 hurdles and javelin.
College coaches already are flooding Latham's mailbox with recruiting letters.
While track season is over, he's not sitting on the sidelines this summer. He's playing baseball and soccer.
Chances are his family will be there to support him.
"It makes it more enjoyable and makes me feel happy," Tyler said of having his family at his sporting events.