Saturday, May 31, 2008

More state tidbits

I'll have more stuff tomorrow--I'm exhausted and have to get to bed soon. But here's a few other things I have to note:
  • Great throws. I wish I had seen more. Andrew Evans captured the D1 discus on his last toss (180-8). Prior to that he and Quinn Dawson were tied at 175-6, with Dawson ahead on second-best throw.
  • Tia Brooks made the best of a tough situation. The state's list-leading discus thrower, she fouled out at regionals in that event. However she made up for it in the shot. Safely leading after three 45-footers, she popped a monstrous 48-0.5. That meet record--a PR by more than 2.5 feet--makes her the No.4 four thrower in state history.
  • Is D3 Albion's Amelia Bannister the first in state history to win a 100/800 double in the state finals? (Paging Jim Moyes!) Amazingly, her margin of victory in the 100 (0.23) was bigger than her margin in the 800 (0.19).
  • Yes, Detroit Mumford was going for the all-time state record of 7:40.68 (Saline 2004) when they ran 7:44.79 without close competition today. Their splits: George Jackson 1:55.6, Kris Washington 1:56.2, Shaka Dukes 1:58.5, Isaiah Ward 1:54.5. (Ward went out in 52.2--ouch!). Word is that the foursome may go after the 7:40 barrier at the Nike meet in two weeks.

Brittani Williams wins D1 400

This was a notable race, because the negative nancies out there are hailing it as a crushing upset defeat of frosh phenom Dynasty McGee. Give it a rest. McGee is an incredible athlete with some great accomplishments behind her and more in the future. But she's still just a kid, and she's allowed to have a bad day now and then.

Give Williams her due. The Jackson program is getting very strong, and nearly pulled off a defeat of Ann Arbor Pioneer today. Williams is a very solid, confident sprinter. She told me, "I knew [McGee] would go out fast, so I didn't pay attention to her. I just ran my own race and tried to catch her at the end."

Williams later anchored the winning 4 x 400 in 55.4.

I should add that I also was thrilled to see Elise Glass win the 200. She's been a regular on the indoor circuit for years. She's worked hard for a long time, and was as shocked as anyone by the win. I love watching her stride--she sprints with an amazing exuberance. And in victory, she remained humble and graceful.

Oh, the Mighty Wind!

The wind at all the state meet sites played a major factor today. At Rockford the winds were strong and crazy. There were races that measured as wind-aided where the runners hit a head wind at the very end. The swirling winds were so bizarre that twice I saw flags about 20 feet apart blowing in opposite directions!

We had a wind gauge on all the sprints. Counting the heats, about half of them were wind-aided and therefore ineligible for records. Maximum legal wind is 2.0 meters per second. That's about four-and-a-half mph. Picture a car moving that slow--illegal wind is really much more mild than most people think. At Rockford, the highest we measured was 9.7mps, or over 21mph.

Brings to mind something a coach told me once: "We don't need a wind gauge. We call a meet wind-aided when the tents start flying." That happened in the finals at Rockford, and by the look on Ray Antel's face, I could tell that it was an East Kentwood tent. "We just fixed it," he groaned.

Speaking of crazy wind, I'm sure everyone's thrilled about Brandon VanDriel's 10.52 in D2. Trust me. I wasn't even there and I would bet my firstborn plus my prodigious teaching salary that it was blown by a healthy wind. Not having a gauge there does not make it a record. VanDriel's mark will end up on the national lists as wind-aided. That's how they regard marks where there is cause for suspicion (29mph wind gusts throughout the Grand Rapids area) and no legitimate wind reading.

Can we get wind gauge volunteers? For the past seven years I have supplied a wind gauge to the D1 meet, along with slave labor to operate it (my daughter this year). The officials have been very helpful and accommodating. Wind gauges are selling now for $40-50. Any other fans out there want to volunteer to help cover D2-D3-D4 next year?

Without those wind readings, the MHSAA might still count something as a record, but history won't. The only state all-time records I recognize in the annual yearbook are marks that come with a legitimate wind-reading and fully-automatic timing (in the sprints). Face it. Our track kids work hard. And kids like VanDriel are really fast. They deserve for us to follow the rules and measure their performances accurately.

Athlete of the Meet?

For Division 1, I would strongly vote for Roscoe Payne on the guys' side. The Carman-Ainsworth senior won both hurdles, anchored the winning 4 x 200 (from the "slow" heat) and ran a strong leg on the 4 x 4 that finished second by a step. The Cavaliers ended up beating East Kentwood by a mere point.

Becca Addison would be my girls' pick. After her 2:08.6 in the 4x8, she won the 1600 in 4:50.80, kicking her last lap in 67.6. Then she won the 800 in 2:13.75. Wow.

Crazy Anchors at D1 Finals

One of the day's highlights was the girls 4 x 800. While Mumford battled with Saline up front, many eyes on the last two laps took note of Shannon Osika's inspired charge from far back in the race. The Waterford Mott frosh screamed through her leg in 2:11.1 to nip Saline at the line for second. Osika's performance so captured the audience's attention that few noticed that Becca Addison brought Grand Haven from much farther back to finish fourth. Her split? 2:08.6.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Team states: let the fighting stop. Please.

I've written a rare editorial on the website regarding the team state concept. Or maybe it's about all the stupid, counterproductive fighting that accompanies any discussion of the event. Or maybe it's about a practical proposal to restructure qualifying for the meet and move it earlier in the season. Whatever. Something needs to be done, because all this bashing is ridiculous.

Check it out.

Pilkerton vaults to a new state record

Here’s the good word, direct from Becca Pilkteron’s vault coach, Geoff Gerstner:

I wanted to let you know that Becca Pilkerton (Dexter High School) broke the Michigan State All-time pole vault record yesterday by jumping 12?-7? at the South East Conference (SEC) championship meet at Lincoln High School. It was great–she went 11-0, 11-6, 12-0 and 12-4 without missing once. She made 12?7? on her second attempt. Obviously as her PV coach, I’m pretty proud and excited today!

A record for Martin?

Mike Martin of Detroit Catholic Central surprised even his coaches on Friday at the Milford regional, popping a monstrous 62-5.5, the second-farthest toss in the state this year. What might be even more amazing is that he did it the night after his senior prom (CC holds its dance on a Thursday). Unfortunately, our database cannot confirm what we suspect: that this might be an all-time post-prom state record.

Martin’s series, courtesy of Milford coach Brian Salyers: 58-7, 62-5.5, 62-0, 58-5.75, 55-5, 56-4.

What schools have access to fully-automatic timing?

Face it. We’re long overdue for FAT timing at regionals. If for no other reason, then for fairness. Currently the meets with the worst hand timers get the best finals seeds. I know of at least one regional where 2-3 runners would have qualified for the finals based on AQs but there weren’t enough hand timers to catch them all in a mass finish. FAT would have solved that problem.

However, we can’t make a serious move toward FAT until we find out how many systems we even have in the state. So check out the list at and see if you can add anything to it.

The year of the 100? Gak!

One innocent poster on MLive heralded all the fast 100 times this weekend as a cause of celebration. I am officially in mourning. Not that I don’t love false times–the fact that I have this website disproves that. Rather, I am sad that a few of those kids might actually have produced fast 100 times, and we’ll never know which. First, consider the difference between auto timing (FAT) and hand timing. Then consider that the MHSAA has ridiculously asked that the rules be broken and hand times reported to the hundredth of a second. That means that a 49.31 gets a better seeding at the state finals than a 49.39, even though statistically they are both 49.4s. And without pointing fingers, one thing becomes very obvious: the regionals with the sloppiest hand timers will get more auto qualifiers than the ones with quality, trained hand timers. Make no mistake, in the MHSAA system, cheating and fudging on times WILL be rewarded.

Throw into this mix yesterday’s strong winds, and we have a batch of 100 meter times and long jump measurements that are ridiculously out-of-whack. And “innocent-until-proven-guilty” does not apply here. Just because there was no wind gauge present doesn’t mean those times aren’t bogus. [In the Grand Rapids area, average winds were 13.6mph--three times the legal limit for track--and the winds gusted to 29mph.]

Coming next year: will the MHSAA allow downhill times? I know a lot of coaches who would vote yes… :)

Regional heroes

Becca Addison keyed her Grand Haven team to a great performance. She ran 2:14 on their 4×8 (9:26), and then came back with a state-leading 4:55.1, followed by a 2:12.2… In D3, Amelia Bannister really is going for the unprecedented (?) 100/800 double. At regionals she won in 12.5 and 2:15.4… The Milford regional that I attended was just one of many that featured amazingly qualified officials. They moved the meet along quickly and fairly. They were really one of the highlights of the meet, along with getting gas for $3.89… Then this from Ryan Flanary at Carleton-Airport: “Here’s one for you. Lonnie Pugh, Grosse Ile, had his cast removed from his throwing hand a week and a half ago and threw 179-4 at the D2 regional (Livonia Ladywood). Anyone who has ever thrown will tell you that torn liagments in your wrist is the worst thing to happen to a thrower. His series included a 174+, 166+ and a 165+!!! And I would like to add he had a negative (approx. 9-10 mph) tailwind!!!!!!!!!!!! What a story, heh? And…. he has been throwing the shot left handed for about 4-5 weeks (he has thrown 46+ with his off arm). So, he decides to take his very first throw of the entire season with his right hand at Regionals and qualifies for the state meet with his very first throw. Crazy, one throw all season and it’s over the state qualifying mark!!!!! He ended up with 51+”

Watch Tommy Brinn

Nothing’s more insufferable than the ridiculous bragging that sometimes shows up on MLive, usually from wide-eyed underclassmen who thinks their older teammates walk on water. So it’s nice to know that in some programs, actions speak louder than words. Take the case of Otsego’s Tommy Brinn, one of the most exciting athletes on the scene this year, even though we’ve seen hardly a mention of him anywhere.

The junior was third last year in the D2 800, and showed he wants to step it up by entering the Shumake Invitational in Detroit to race Isaiah Ward, the reigning D1 king (and holder of a 1:52.21 indoors). Brinn won, 1:53.73 to 1:55.04. The real story, though, and what makes 800 fans look forward to future races, is the speed Brinn has been laying down. How about 22.46 FAT? Or 48.35—the state’s fastest legit one-lap this season? Or reported relay legs of 47.9 and 47.6? Not bad speed for someone who ran 17:25 at MIS last fall. All of that just might add up to a 1:50 or better… keep your eye on this one.

The MHSAA's hand-timing mess

No decision that the MHSAA has made in recent years has set the sport farther back than the request that coaches report all hand times to the hundredth of a second. It’s against all the rules of the sport and common sense, because the human hand cannot time to that level of accuracy. When people follow the rules and round up, the newspapers (and the athletes) get more accurate information. They know that a time in hundredths is FAT, and can be relied upon as accurate. Hand times—so often—are fiction.

Case in point in Southeast Michigan: Ron Spears is a solid sprinter/long jumper for Milan. The papers report a 10.56 area record for him—even though in most meets he’s around 11.0. Then a couple weeks later, they say that Whiteford’s Josh Dupree just missed the area record with his 10.58. (Yes, I know, under the rules this should be a tie at 10.6.)

Now before their fan clubs attack me, let me say these are both very good athletes, but poor timing and reporting are putting an unrealistic set of expectations upon them. We’ll see what they can do with FAT timing at the state meet—and we would know even better if officials use a wind gauge. But these two—and many of the other athletes who have been given questionable hand times this spring—may be prone to what I have sadly seen time and again: they will go to the State meet, run the fastest races of their lives, and have to come up with lame excuses to explain why they ran so “slowly” compared to their earlier times.

The state record in the 100—the fastest legit, verifiable time ever—is 10.52 by Ahmad Rashad. To think that these hand times are even in the same time zone is ridiculous. And it’s doing nobody any favors to give athletes misleading information on how fast they’re running. As coaches and educators, we should be trying to give them the truth.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Here we go...

For years I’ve thought that I wanted to write more articles to go on the michtrack website, but I’ve been hampered by the facts of life. Mainly, that I don’t pay well. So most of my track articles have gone into other publications and websites because of my need to pay the bills. And then there are the time constraints. I just have a bad habit of overloading myself. Currently in addition to teaching English at Pinckney High School (I have four pounds of short stories to grade currently… the Shakespeare papers are coming up next), I do my share of chores (two kids and a wife who’s busy with nursing school) and I am finishing up an MFA degree in creative writing, putting the finishing touches on my first novel.

So it’s not like I have time to do this, or that I suddenly have no need for money. But I am starting to wonder if blogging little bits here and there might be a viable way to get things off my chest now and then. And it’s probably cheaper than therapy…