Monday, June 30, 2008

Notes from Raff: Sunday

Duane Raffin is the former Holly coach, an astute observer of the sport, and a terrific writer. He, too, is at the Trials, and is sharing his observations:

Sunday: Michigan puts 3 athletes in the women’s 800 finals. After two ultra-competitive qualifying heats, Cadillac’s and the University of Michigan’s Katie Erdman Waits, Grand Blancs and U of M’s Geena Gall, and Battle Creek’s and Western Michigan University’s Becky Horn are finalists.

A dozen are finalists because four women tripped and fell during a semi-final heat, including Horn, and were added to the finals.

Chances are one Michigander will be in China representing the United States as an Olympian.

If you have ever been to Eugene’s historic Hayward Field, you would be impressed by the major additions. The new “Mondo” track has produced scorching times during 90 degree and humid conditions. The temporary bleachers create a seamless transitional blend into the historic east and west Hayward grandstands. “I would love to watch one 100 meter final from the Bowerman balcony.” The revisions to the field events venues enhanced the neatness of the infield.

Sunday: Tyson Gay sprinted 9.68 seconds for 100 meters, the fastest ever run in history; however, the 4.1 aiding wind negated any world record. If the wind had been legal (a 2.0 wind), Gay’s time would have been 9.76, which would not have broken Usain Bolt’s pending world record but a 9.68 100 meter performance was a fitting way to end a day of track and field.

Becky Breisch, another Michigan connection from Edwardsburg and the University of Nebraska finished fourth place in the discus at the Olympic Trials. Breisch first spun her way into second place with a fling of 198 feet, and improved to 200-3 feet, and was in third place as she began her final three attempts. Breisch looked the fittest of her life in her Olympian attempt, and let’s hope she continues the pursuit of her dream.

Another of my favorite Michigan track and field athletes is Steve Manz, who has given Michigan high school coaches many informative tips at his presentations at MITCA clinics. The former Spartan threw 63 feet – 3 inches, good for 15th place and inches short of qualifying for Saturday’s high powered shot put final. The sub 5 foot - 10 inch athlete always shows solid competitive spunk as he competes against much taller and muscular shot putters.

Grand Blanc high school has three Michigan athletes at the trials. Sharon Dickie, the former Tennessee All-American, competed in Friday’s 10,000 meter run. Monday Gall will be in the 800 finals, and later high jumper Gwen Wentland will make her fourth attempt at Olympic birth. Wentland inspired Mid-West Meet of Champion’s athletes as she served as the Meet’s Grand Marshall and speaker at the Meet’s banquet. Wentland told the seniors about her role as a wife, a mother, and an athlete. Many of the three state’s girls mobbed Wentland after the banquet for an autograph and personal conversation.

Paul Terek was not a participant in the decathlon today. Many wondered about the Livonia and Michigan State athlete.

Forty-seven Michigan fans from across the state are staying together at Springfield’s Village Inn and are seated directly across from the finish line in the East stands. Former Jackson coach Charles Janke arranged the housing that includes a daily breakfast buffet, free newspaper, ice-cold water for the track, an entertainment room; all for $100 a room.

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