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Michigan Running – Week Six (February 9th, 2022)

Let’s just get right into it.

Cultivating a Community

Asics recently released a new initiative, Live Uplifted. The initiative aims to tell stories of runners who’ve found a way to impact their communities beyond their own running. The first feature highlights Lance Woods, who along with Joe Robinson, founded WeRun313. The club began hosting group runs in May 2019 and has quickly developed into quite a community. Their runs commonly see crowds of 100+ people, even in the cold winter months and the group has a traveling presence too, sending 30+ runners to New Orleans for the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon this past weekend.

Think of many running hot beds in the United States and you’ll find a common theme. Here in Michigan: Ann Arbor, Oakland/Livingston County, Traverse City, Grand Rapids. Across the country: Boulder, Eugene, Flagstaff, NYC, Boston. Communities that tend to engage in running tend to be upper-class and white. Why is that the case? There seems to be very few barriers to entry, as a beginner doesn’t need an expensive bike, an ice rink, or access to a pool. Is it the lack of high school programs in urban environments? Does it come from brands not building the pipeline towards minorities? These are existential questions that we face as we aim to make running a more inclusive space.

Leaders in Detroit have reached out and brought the sport to many that might not otherwise be a part of our great activity. Motor City Track Club, PAL/Track Life, the Dukes twins, and now WeRun313. I hope their examples continue to spread awareness for this wonderful exercise.

Lance’s Video

More info on WeRun313

College Commitments Keep Comin’

I’m surprised at the consistency of the rate of these commitments. Initially, I was under the impression that many would occur during the latter parts of the fall, but perhaps that’s a football and basketball influence. Anyhow, here were some of the major ones that I came across:

Haley Deighan (Birmingham Seaholm > Michigan
Faith Smith (Jackson Lumen Christi > Michigan)
Tinsae Nelson (Grand Rapids Christian > Grand Valley State)
Annika Peterson (Schoolcraft > Western Michigan)
Taylor Myers (Frankfort > Detroit Mercy)
Katelynn Dix (Grand Traverse Academy > Cornerstone)
Carson Brunk (Potterville > Grand Valley State)

In what I hope to be a recurring feature, I reached out to Faith Smith with a few questions about her fall, school search, and goals for the coming season:

Last year, you missed much of track and had a late start to cross country. What enabled you to work through injury and eventually finish 5th at State?

I always had a goal in mind and that kept me going. During the winter and spring, I envisioned myself competing in races while I swam and told myself it would be worth it. I hated swimming, but remembering that feeling of racing was enough to motivate me. After the single race I had before surgery, I got a brief taste again of doing what I loved most, and I saw that I hadn’t lost everything.  That kept me going and helped me immensely in my recovery. As cross country season progressed, seeing my times go back down to where they used to be furthered my determination. When the State Meet finally came, I channeled all the energy I had from months of missing my chances again and again to prove myself. Everyone underestimated me, especially one person who had me ranked 13th heading into the State Meet! [that guy must have been clueless] I was more than ready to prove everyone wrong.

What made you set your heart on Michigan?

I felt that Michigan was the best all around fit for me. Some schools were a good fit from a running perspective, but didn’t have the academic piece. I want to go into the medical field and Michigan has such an amazing program with the hospital right on campus. Plus, I really connected with the other recruits and I could see us being teammates in the future.

Any goals for the rest of indoor and then into outdoor?

Honestly, I’m just excited to see what I can do! I haven’t had a track season since freshman year and a lot has changed since then. In the immediate future, I have my eyes set on the school record, which I’m only off by 2 sec. in the 3200.  I would also like to get into the 10’s and make top-5 at the State Finals.

If you’d like to share your story, reach out! I’d love to feature YOUR words and YOUR voice.

Nation Leaders and Best

Aurora Rynda has had a superb career for the Maize and Blue, winning Big Ten titles both indoors and outdoors, nabbing All-American honors in the outdoor 800m as well. This winter, she appears to have ascended to even greater heights. In South Bend at this past weekend’s Meyo Invitational, she captured the NCAA’s best time in the 800m, a 2:02.89. Meyo always draws a competitive crowd, and Rynda let the pace flow through others in the first 500m before taking over on the final lap. She gritted, grimaced, and finally grinned as she obtained a second lead over anyone else at the collegiate level. Championship season is approaching soon indoors and we should see her at the front at both the conference and national lev

Northwood had a tumultuous day on this past Friday. On the drive south to race at Ashland, they found out that meet had been canceled, so Coach Jeremy Wilk had to think quick. Drive home, sulk, feel sorry for yourself about your misfortune? Or take a detour to Allendale where Stephen Barker and Josh Jones can hit NCAA qualifiers. To have a team that rolls with the punches and pounces on opportunities must be a special feeling as a coach.

Speaking of opportunities, Central Michigan cut men’s track, cutting opportunities for many. Those cuts have inflicted damage, but haven’t destroyed collegiate men’s distance running in Mt. Pleasant. Again at Meyo, Adam Rzentkowski ran a 4:05 mile. Technically, this is a school record, but I’m not sure if it’s an official school record, since the administration has put quite an effort into canceling men’s track.

Features in Running Media

Samantha Hanson was featured on Dana Giordano’s More Than Running podcast. A few weeks ago, Sam announced that she was joining HAWI Management as a running agent. This is a field woefully represented by women, and Samantha goes into detail about her upbringing, goals, and how she hopes to impact the sport.

Rolando Eccleston was interviewed by Michigan Milesplit in anticipation of the LAB’s Midwest Invitational. I liked hearing his fervor for innovation and creative thinking with regard to the building and hosting meets. As the host pointed out, it’s rare to see hurdle races beyond 60m indoors, yet the 300h is a part of Saturday’s program. Kudos to Rolando for being the point man behind a massive undertaking.

Owen Howard (Shepherd, SVSU, Central Michigan) wrote an essay for IRunFar, documenting his love for struggle, love for himself, and love for the sport.

Parker LaGro detailed his goals and recruiting process in a piece for the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Anything Else?

Mike Andersen and Dana Pitcock were inducted into the Milford Sports Hall of Fame.

The Hansons ODP crew cleaned up at the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans. The course, typically a fast one, seemed to run slower as runners had to deal with a multitude of hairpin turns and dodging lapped 10k runners. Regardless, Jack Mastandrea and Anne-Marie Blaney captured victories in times of 1:04:31 and 1:14:48, respectively. Ben Kendell finished 3rd in 1:05:37 and Megan O’Neil 2nd in 1:16:33. This upcoming weekend, their track crew is traveling to Chicago for the Windy City Classic.

Grand Rapids Distance Elite’s Alyssa McElheny finished 2nd in the Miami Half Marathon with a time of 1:22:12.

MHSAA Track Regional assignments, State Meet locations, and additional qualifying times were posted, with the exception of the Division 4 Finals. I hope those small schools are not forgotten.

With a 3:57.1, Hobbs Kessler set a personal best in the mile on Sunday’s New Balance Grand Prix. He’s slightly ahead of the progression that he was on last year, where he ended up running the equivalent of a 3:51 by season’s end. The times may not be flashy now, but he’s in a good spot for a June/July peak.

Distance runners dominated Mancelona’s White Pine Stampede this past weekend. Arianne Olson, Olin Kasperowicz, and Arianne Olson all won their respective 10k races. Runners who haven’t heard of this event, you’re correct. This was cross country skiing, a great way to get the endurance benefit with less risk of overuse injuries.

My known friend and trusted agent, Aaron Greb, announced that he’s making custom schedules for schools for this upcoming track season.  Click here for samples and contact me for his contact info.

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