Stihl Snyder, who has been a cornerstone of the rise of the Poteau cross-country team, signed to run for the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith on Thursday.
"I'm happy I get to go to UAFS. It's a good college with a good program. I'm going for a good education as well," Snyder said.
Through all four appearances at the Class 4A state cross-country meet, Snyder improved in time. After getting 53rd in 18:30 as a freshman, he was 45th in 18:28 as a sophomore in 2020. In 2021, he clocked a time of 17:34 for 20th while helping Poteau get seventh as a team. On Oct. 29, Snyder ran a 17:18 while finishing 23rd and aiding the Pirates in getting a best-ever fourth place.
"I think I can improve quite a bit because I'm not at my max potential yet," Snyder said.
Since his freshman year, Poteau has improved 17 spots at the cross-country state meet. Poteau cross-country and track and field head coach Matt Aguero, who is in his second year coaching at the school, said that having runners train on Snyder's level and believing they can run 5K races in the 17-minute range with him helped the team improve.
Aguero said the best part of Snyder as a runner is his work ethic.
"He works hard. He's a guy who's going to do everything you ask him to," Aguero said. "When I got here, he was already training pretty hard."
Snyder held the Pirates' 5K school record (17:12) for a few weeks after setting it at the Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Ark., on Oct. 1.
Also, Snyder held Poteau's mile record (4:39) for a year until Friday.
"He broke my mile record. He's one of the best runners to come out of Poteau in a while. I'm excited to see what he does at UAFS. It's a good program with a good coach," Aguero said, adding that Snyder has plenty of potential to discover.
With Tyler Baker's school record of 4:35, Snyder hopes to run a 4:30 mile in the next few weeks before his senior track season ends.
Last year, he was part of a 4x800-meter relay team that placed 13th in the Class 4A state track meet.
Snyder said he has improved the most in the speed aspect during the past two years and that he could work on implementing speed in the 8K and 10K races he will run in college.
Snyder's favorite part about running is that "it takes a lot of hard work and gives a great reward of finishing."
For next season, Snyder will join Cade Weatherton of Arkoma in running for the Lions. Weatherton will use his final year of eligibility for a third year at UAFS after having run two years at Carl Albert State College. On the girls side, Zoe Nesbitt, who graduated from Poteau High School last year, runs for UAFS.
UAFS, an NCAA Division II program, was ninth in the Lone Star Conference Championship meet and 24th in the NCAA South Central Regional this past fall.