Monday, March 30, 2009

Good news on Cliff

An update from Cliff himself (I hope he doesn't mind that I corrected spelling--he intentionally didn't in his email so that people could see his progress graphically: "I am doing great. The progress I have made has me pretty motivated. Typing is pretty hard and mentally tiring. Writing and spelling are also hard and tiring. Although my mom would say nothing has changed with the spelling. I thought I would know about surgery by now, could be Tues, Wed, or Thurs, at this point... Loss of feeling in right side is making good progress. Can walk just fine. Thanks for all the support I feel pretty lucky to be doing this well. Pretty bored - although it was a good way to get to watch the Spartans... "

Friday, March 27, 2009

An update on Cliff

Good news from a friend who visited today: "He is doing great, considering everything, and has made some great improvements since yesterday. I am sure he is tired of being in the hospital! He has been up walking and sat in the chair the whole time I was there. I think I said this yesterday, if you got my e-mail, but if you talked to Cliff it would be difficult to figure out that he suffered the stroke. He is doing that well!"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pray for Cliff Somers

Cliff Somers, the coach of the very successful Fremont XC program, suffered a stroke today while running and is reportedly recovering. This is from his principal, Scott Sherman: "Today Cliff Somers suffered a stroke while running. He made his way to Gerber Hospital where he was found in the parking lot by a nurse. They immediately began to work on him and alerted his family. He was then transferred to Spectrum Hospital and at some point was given a clot killing drug (the one that is always advertised). 'That drug has worked miracles,' in the words of his wife Trisha. I visited with Cliff and Trisha earlier today and by the time I left, I could see vast improvements in his motor control and speech. Our last update was that Cliff was continuing to improve greatly. The family is asking that people only send cards and avoid visiting until Cliff and his family are settled..."

Our prayers are with the Somers family, as well as the entire community. Cliff is an amazingly energetic and inspirational young man. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Birkmeier flies over another PV record!

Jumping at tonight's Lake Michigan Credit Union GVSU Invitational, Rockford junior Sarah Birkmeier launched herself over a bar set at 12-8, the highest vault ever in Michigan history indoors or out. Birkmeier broke her own indoor state record of 12-6 set in East Lansing during the MITS season. She also has now gone higher than the outdoor record of 12-7 set by Dexter's Becca Pilkerton last year. On the way to the record, Birkmeier cleared 11-0, 12-0, and a record-tying 12-6.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Nationals: Day Three - Mile record for Atchoo!

Nike Indoor, Boston: Tommy Brinn got the highest place of the final day in Boston, running 1:53.62 for 3rd in the 800. That makes him the No. 2 Michigan half-miler of all-time indoors, behind two performances of Isaiah Ward. Tyler Peruski finished 12th (1:57.05) and Chonsey Pogue 24th (1:59.01). Christienne Linton had a very busy day--4th in the hurdles at 8.60, 5th in the long jump at 18-9.25. She also made it to the semis of the 60 with her state-leading 7.69. Bridgette Owens-Mitchell finished 8th in the hurdles (8.81 after an 8.66 semi). Chris Hessell of New Haven placed 5th in the shot (58-5.75). Renaldo Powell finished 8th in the hurdles (8.22, after an 8.03 semi). Sarah Birkmeier cleared 12-2.5 to finish 9th in the vault. Alex Leptich took 11th in the mile at 5:02.67, and the heartbreak award goes to Noelle Bradley of Taylor Truman (Accelerators), who missed making the semis by 0.006--that's right: six-thousandths of a second!

National Scholastic, New York: Hand the state record in the mile to Mike Atchoo. The Troy sophomore earned it with his 4:11.14 runner-up finish. The old best, held by Dathan Ritzenhein, was 4:12.4. Note this is a full mile he ran, and that's the record we're talking about. The 1600m best is still 4:09.0 by Ritz, and that converts to a 4:10.5. On a combined/converted list, Atchoo is now No. 2 all-time, and holder of the junior record. Atchoo's teammate, Michele Morriset, took 3rd in the 2 mile with her 10:54.51.

Kendall Baisden impressed in the 200, finishing 5th in the high school race at 24.61 (No. 4 all-time) (24.88 heat). She again won the 7/8 400 race, clocking 57.13 (which would have been good for 11th in the high school race). Notable 200 heats came from Jordan Clark (25.29) and Dynasty McGee (26.04). In the relays, Motor City 13th in the boys 4x8 (8:02.48).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Nationals: Day Two

Nike Indoor, Boston: Ariel Roberts stole the show. The Pioneer senior tried her first pentathlon ever, and obliterated the state record by more than 600 points! Her 3617 not only topped the old best of 2996 by Tofunmi Akeredolu last year, but only eight collegians in Michigan history have ever done better. She hurdled 9.24 (a PR), high jumped 5-8, threw the shot 32-2.25, long jumped 17-9.75. That put her into the lead, but her top opponent, Shakeia Pinnick, is a solid half miler. Roberts clocked a 2:31.89, but Pinnick's 2:15.09 gave her a 10-point win over Roberts. Also notable today was the 18:22.04 in the 4 x mile that Final Boss (Monroe) put together--that was good for 6th place.

National Scholastics, New York: The highlight from a Michigan standpoint was the third place finish of the Breen/Troy girls in the 4 x mile in 21:19.47 (No. 4 in state history). The Breen B team ran 22:43.52. Also impressive was the sprinting of Lathrup's Jordan Clark. She made the finals of the 60 with her state-leading 7.70 (passing through 55 in a FAT 7.18). Dynasty McGee (57.45) and Aisha Osborne (57.39) both ran seasonal bests in the 400 but failed to make the final. The Motor City women did make the final of the 4 x 200 (1:42.93, good for No. 6 all-time in Michigan). The Motor City boys clocked 1:31.38 and missed qualifying. Also, Kellie Littlejohn (Motor City/Mumford) finished 14th in the pentathlon at 2703. The Breen/Troy boys ran 18:47.89 for 16th in the 4 x mile.

NCAA Div. 1, College Station: Tiffany Ofili conquered all amid what turned out to be a tough day for our homegrown talent. Ofili captured another NCAA crown, this time in 8.00. Geena Gall finished 6th in the 800 (2:05.39). Alexandria Spruiel finished 7th in the 400 (53.67). Josh Hembrough ran 7.94 for 8th in the hurdles, and Justin Switzer, after leading for the first half of the mile (2:05) finished 7th in 4:02.99.

NCAA Div. 2, Houston: The Grand Valley women finished second in the team standings with 48 points to Lincoln's overwhelming 100.5. Candice Wheat (ex-Pontiac Northern) took second in the hurdles with a PR 8.29. Back in 4th was frosh Raven Clay (Det. Cody/Findlay) at 8.49. The GVSU women's DMR also took second, in 11:43.03; in the 4 x 4 they finished 3rd (3:50.62). Nate Miller (ex-Trenton) high jumped into 3rd at 6-11.5. And Monica Kinney (GR West Catholic/GVSU) showed bright promise as a college rookie with her mile third in 4:48.98.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nationals: Day One in Boston, New York, and College Station

Here's the Michigan news from the first day of nationals action:
Nike Indoor, Boston: The highlight had to have been the 9th place finish of Monroe soph Austin Whitelaw, whose 15:19.04 is a state record for 10th graders. Unfortunately our top weight throwers didn't make the trip. Who would have suspected that we could have had an All-American or two in our first year in the event?

National Scholastic, New York: In finals action, Breen/Troy made All-American honors in the DMR by finishing 4th in 10:22.67, the fourth-fastest time in state history. The Breen girls finished 11th in 12:27.78. Motor City/Mumford finished 11th in the boys shuttle hurdles (31.59), 12th in the sprint medley (3:36.59). The Motor City girls finished 9th in the sprint medley (4:13.56). On the field, Chris Jimmerson tied for 4th in the high jump at 6-7.

NCAA, College Station: In the granddaddy of the big college championships, the biggest local story is that Tiffany Ofili (Ypsilanti/Mich) looked the best in the hurdles qualifying, leading the field at 8.04. Bettie Wade (Farmington/Mich) finished 5th in the pentathlon at 4252, more than 100 short of her performance last year. Nia Henderson (Livonia Churchill/Kent) finished 5th in the weight throw at 66-6.5 (she's now #2 all-time).

Justin Switzer (Wtfd Kettering/Mich) ran 4:01.55 to qualify for the mile final, but Shane Knoll (Warren Mott/MSU) just missed. Josh Hembrough (Forest Hills N/Purdue) ran 7.81 to make the hurdle final. Alexandria Spruiel (Southfield Lathrup/North Carolina A&T) made the 400 final with her 53.60. Jeremy Orr (Detroit Ford/MSU) missed his 400 final by 0.02 with his 47.12. Shayla Mahan (Mumford/South Carolina) missed the 60 final at 7.38.

Geena Gall was the second-fastest finals qualifier in the 800 at 2:04.10, and later in the evening she ran 3:21.69 to put the Michigan DMR in the lead. In the end, they finished 7th, more than 14 seconds behind Tennessee's world record 10:50.98.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What's more important--times or victories?

Sometimes we get a little too carried away with wanting fast times. There--I said it. The guy who keeps all the lists and records saying that times are over-emphasized... isn't that kind of like those beer commercials where they urge people to drink responsibly?

I just read a very nice article from the folks who put on the Midwest Distance Classic. Here it is. I think they did a fine job here, so I don't want to be critical. However, one tendency I see here is what I regularly see on Dyestat and other websites (my own included): the lust for fast times and records.

As coaches we need to remember that our stars need to be "able" to run certain times to win state titles, but it is equally important to know how to run a variety of races. I've seen generations of distance runners who are enslaved by a mindset that has them aiming at PRs constantly. When they get to the NCAA, they find themselves still aiming at qualifying times. While it's a necessary evil in the sport, the fact is it sometimes hampers the development of the complete competitor. And it has certainly hurt the United States in the Olympics and World Championships, where we regularly see our runners bounced out in the heats and semis because they can't master simple tactics.

A middle distance or distance runner needs to how to race, first and foremost. How to lead. How to kick from behind. How to draft. How to move with 600 to go and how to move with 60 go. Every different tactical weapon is another tool in the toolbox, and a runner must reach into that toolbox to react instinctively to rapidly changing race conditions and respond to challenges. They learn none of that when we tell them to go for time.

Some people think they see a great race when they see a record. Sure, it has its thrills. However, I think a great race is one that is exciting even if you left your stopwatch at home and don't know how fast they ran. So I sure hope that after the indoor nationals this weekend, folks are talking about great races and not just fast races. After all, winning's not everything--but for the winners it is.

Monday, March 2, 2009

News coverage of the MITS State Finals

This is the link.

On a personal note, I have to add that I absolutely love this meet. Back when I was racing in high school, the series went by the MITCA name, as it was always organized by coaches and supported by the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association. Any extra funds raised by the series always have supported the Michigan team at the Midwest Meet of Champions.

With the withdrawal of MITCA from the picture and the tightening of off-season rules by the MHSAA, the task of putting on the meets has only gotten more difficult. Extra funds still support Team Michigan, but the brunt of putting on the championship meet falls more heavily than ever on director Mike Jurasek and his daughter, Lesley Starkey.

That being said, coaches with any history under their belts can see how huge the series has grown in recent years. Michigan is pretty unusual in that our state association does not support indoor track, but we still have such a large, high-quality state meet. It's all about people--coaches, officials, etc--volunteering their time and giving opportunity to our athletes.

So here's a message to our athletes. Talk to your friends who compete in AAU basketball or volleyball, or club hockey or travel soccer. Ask them what they pay. Brace yourself. And then, next chance you get, thank someone who's volunteering at a track meet. We have the best of all worlds in our sport.