Basketball just wasn't his bag.
Football was fun and a challenge, but inevitably led to injury.
That led Tyler Gaumer back to the track. That's where he experienced some of his greatest highs as a high school and college athlete, and that's where he gets his kicks today, in his fifth season coaching girls at Sterling High School, his alma mater.
His eyes twinkle when he talks about the sport once coached by his father, Max, and he and his siblings, Tori, Tricia and Timmy, put their heart and souls into in high school and college.
"There's a place in track and field for everybody, I don't care what anybody says," Tyler said. "There's 18 different events you can be associated with and find success in doing that. You don't have to be the best. You can improve upon what you yourself do each time."
A quick peek at the Sterling High School record books reveals the name 'Tyler Gaumer' prominently. In football, the 2000 SHS grad is the career passing yardage leader (1,972 yards) and scoring leader (253 points), as he was a 2-year starter at quarterback and a 4-year kicker.
In track, Gaumer shares the 110 high hurdles record of 14.5 seconds with Greg Dietz, and he holds the 300 IH record of 38.6 seconds.
One area you won't find his name is in basketball. He played the sport in junior high, but gave it up in high school, as he admittedly had trouble putting the ball in the basket.
"Dad always said I had 'alligator arms' when I went in for a layup," Tyler said. "Basketball just wasn't a good fit for me at that point."
Gaumer made his mark right away on the football field, where he was a 4-year varsity player. The first year was as a kicker, then the second year as a kicker, punter and backup to senior quarterback Dan Ohrtman.
Max Gaumer, Sterling's varsity football coach from 1989-2001, held an open competition for the kicking job when Tyler was a freshman. At the end of each practice for a week, prospective kickers booted 10 extra points. Conversions were tallied up, and at the end of the week, the one with the most got the job.
That kicker ended up being Tyler, and he admits whispers of nepotism bothered him just a little bit.
"People thought preferential treatment, which at the time was tough," Tyler said, "but it was also an encouragement for me know I won the job fair and square."
Gaumer kicked his first 2 years and punted as a sophomore, but didn't play any quarterback. That's because the durable, tough Ohrtman didn't leave the field.
"There really wasn't much for me to do at that point, to tell the truth," Tyler said. "It was a great opportunity for me to learn."
Gaumer's junior season was one of frustration. The Golden Warriors went 5-4, narrowly missing a playoff berth after a 14-13 loss to United Township in Week 9. His play, in his view, contributed to coming up short.
"It was a tough transition for me at that point," Tyler said. "I remember I stopped looking at box scores after games, because my completion percentage was so bad. Things weren't where I wanted them to be. I hate to lose, and that was tough for us as a team that year."
Gaumer's senior season was more promising. He guided the team to wins over Fenwick and Steinmetz the first 2 weeks, then trouble found him in Week 3 against Dunbar.
"We were running 16 belly keeper – I still remember it," Tyler said. "I took it out to the right sideline, had one guy to beat, and I was going to try and cut it back and see if I could score. I cut back, didn't even get hit, and blew out my right knee."
Gaumer limped to the sideline, then hobbled up to the locker room. He didn't return that game, then sat out three more, the first of which was an excruciating 10-7 loss to the team's main rival, Geneseo.
Gaumer's injury was a torn ACL, but he put off reconstructive surgery until after the season. He returned, with a brace on his right knee, in Week 7 against Ottawa, and guided the team to a 7-2 record. The Warriors won two playoff games before losing to Metamora in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
"It changed who I was as a quarterback," Tyler said. "I was thankful at that point I had done as much work in the offseason throwing the football as I had. It made me at least somewhat effective, but I was one-dimensional in a lot of ways at that point."
Gaumer underwent ACL surgery about a month after football season ended, but it didn't slow him too much by the time track season rolled around. He cleared 12-6 in the pole vault 90 days after surgery, and later qualified for the Indoor Prep Top Times meet.
Still unanswered, however, was his effectiveness in his specialty – the hurdles races. Gaumer led with and landed on his reconstructed right knee.
"It was one thing to run down the runway, leave the ground and then land on a pad," Tyler said. "It was a totally different thing with the bounding and the explosiveness of hurdles."
By the end of the season, however, Gaumer's health improved, his confidence rose and performance followed. The shining moment came in the Sterling Night Relays, when he turned in the school record-tying performance in the 110 high hurdles and record time in the 300 IH.
The only bummer – he finished third in the 110 highs and second in the 300 IH against stacked fields.
"That was a brutal experience," Tyler said, "to put those races together and feel triumphant, yet come up short."
Gaumer went to Iowa State University, where he walked on to the football team. He credited Doug Densmore, a former Sterling great who went on to play for the Cyclones, for getting him that opportunity.
"He got my foot in the door, because of all the great things he did at Iowa State," Tyler said. "I wanted to see if I could make it."
A redshirt with no chance of seeing game action as a freshman, Gaumer saw himself as a 'tackling dummy' for the 2000 season. He did have the pleasure of traveling to Phoenix and dressing for the Insight.com Bowl, which the Cyclones won 37-29 against Pittsburgh.
The following spring, he went through preseason drills at Iowa State. In the spring game, he caught an 18-yard pass from Seneca Wallace, who at the time was a junior college transfer. Wallace recently signed with the New Orleans Saints as a backup to Drew Brees, and Gaumer still tracks Wallace's caeer.
Gaumer's football days at Iowa State were numbered, however, due in part to track. His younger sister, Tori, was a senior at Sterling High School at the time and a track standout in her own right. She was taking an official visit to Nebraska, with the entire Gaumer clan in tow.
Ames, Iowa, was basically on the way, and they picked up Tyler on the way. While in Lincoln, Neb., they all attended a track meet, and Tyler had an epiphany. The times and distances being posted weren't anything so spectacular that Gaumer didn't think he could do them himself.
Instead of sticking with football at Iowa State and at best being a special teams player by the time he was an upperclassmen, he decided to return to track and field. That led him to Illinois State, which Tori also ended up attending.
"It's almost kind of sad to say I rode Tori's coattails around at that point," Tyler said with a smile.
Still, football wasn't completely out of his blood. He decided to try out with the Redbirds, and made the squad as a special-teamer. He was on kickoff coverage, and the thrill was exhilarating.
"It was one thing being a kicker [in high school] and kind of playing safety valve," Tyler said. "It was an entirely different experience running as fast as you can and in a way using your body as a weapon."
That experience, too, proved to be only temporary. The Redbirds stood at 2-8 and were wrapping up the season at Southwest Missouri State. Gaumer was on special teams, got blocked at an odd angle and tore the ACL in his left knee. He hung up the football pads for good after that.
Gaumer concentrated on track the rest of his time at ISU. He earned all-conference honors by clearing 15-11 3/4 in the pole vault, and as a member of a speedy 1,600 relay team.
After graduating from Illinois State in 2004, Gaumer taught for 2 years in Prophetstown, beginning in 2005, and has been in Sterling since 2007. He teaches accelerated World History, and is in the AVID program, which helps steer students toward college.
After school, his passion is girls track, and the Golden Warriors are annually among the top squads around. He's constantly selling his program, working with and bringing in youngsters who are naturally gifted, as well as those he has to mold and shape into being productive team members.
"It drives me crazy when a kid tells me, 'Well, I'm not fast,'" Tyler said. "I say, 'Well, you probably didn't make a lot of free throws until you started practicing that skill, too.' Running is like anything else – the more you practice, the more you learn about it, the better you'll get."