The next big step for me this indoor season is the MITS State Meet tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 28). This past week leading up to the meet has been a bit rough for me, as I have been feeling sick for the past couple of days, but I’m still excited for what tomorrow holds. The plan at the moment is for me to run just one event, probably the anchor leg of the DMR, instead of also doubling up in the mile. Although it would be a great race in the mile, my coach and I feel that no good will come from wearing myself out now, with some big meets ahead. The main focus at the moment is getting healthy, and preparing for New Balance Indoor Nationals in March.
Tomorrow will still be very fun, as I get to compete on one of my team’s very talented relays, and watch my friends compete against the best in the state in some of the other events. Saline will have a lot of guys competing in almost every distance event and relay at our state meet tomorrow. Our team has had a very long history of success in the distance events, and I credit that to two main factors: The close bond our team shares, and the excellent guidance of our coach, Carl Spina.
The brotherhood our team shares, in my mind, is one of the main factors why we are able to produce so many talented runners and relays, year after year. Running is a very mentally grueling sport and one that requires a lot of dedication and consistency. Pounding out long runs in sub-zero temperatures, week after week, will only last so long – unless you have a lot of motivation and drive to keep pressing on. For me, and I’m sure for most of our team, having 90 other guys to train with and keep you accountable makes the chore of running something you actually want to do! Our team atmosphere is very unique in that every single guy is training for each other. Every guy wants to run fast for the horde of Saline jerseys standing beside him on the starting line, or for the Spirit of Pre (our club name) jersey waiting for the handoff in the exchange zone. This atmosphere and brotherhood we all share gives every workout an added incentive; do it for your brothers because they are training their hardest for you.
The second reason I think Saline is able to make so many great distance runners every year is Coach Spina. We are very fortunate as a team at Saline to have one of the best distance coaches in the state. Coach Spina is one of the most knowledgeable men I have ever talked to when it comes to everything related to running. What is even more impressive than his understanding of the sport is the respect and care he has for every runner. He is a man that can truly motivate guys and make them believe in what they’re doing. He has always emphasized “enjoying the process” and making sure we are always aware of knowing what it will take to get better – and appreciating the workouts and training it takes to get there. Coach Spina’s ability to produce very talented distance squads is a testament to the respect and belief that every runner has in him.
Between the brotherhood our team shares and an amazing coach guiding us, we have been able to consistently put together some very talented cross country squads and relay teams. Last spring, I was fortunate to be a part of one of Saline’s best 4x8 and DMR teams ever. Along with Ryan Gauche, Brian Blankenship, and Ryan Wilkie, we were able to perform very well on the state and national level, which culminated in a national championship in the DMR at New Balance Nationals Outdoor. Unfortunately, we graduated two very important components from both of those relays – with Ryan Gauche moving on to Grand Valley State University and Ryan Wilkie now running for the University of Michigan.
With the absence of those two from our relays, there are definitely some big shoes to fill, but the outlook is good with some very impressive times being run by a couple of guys. In particular, Josiah Humphrey, Kevin Hall, and Austin Welch – three of my good friends – are running great at the moment and should have no problem stepping in. The depth of talent we have on our team is very impressive, and with a couple months of training still ahead of us, I am looking forward to an equally impressive spring to come.
Photo: Saline's 4x800 squad ran 7:40.54 to win the 2014 Michigan D1 state meet with Logan Wetzel anchoring in 1:50.5 (far right), plus teammates Ryan Gauche, Ben Blankenship and Ryan Wilkie. They would later run 7:38.66 at NBNO for a very close 4th ... then win the DMR the next day.