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Tracking down the runners 2015.06.03

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

There was a time when I never attended the state track meet. It was earlier in my career, back when I didn't know better. I can't come up with an explanation, nothing beyond stupidity.

The drive to Grand Rapids has now become an annual tradition, as long as Morenci has someone competing, and I can't remember when we haven't.

It's such a different situation from across the border to the south where another approach to sports tournaments is taken. First of all, there are only three divisions of schools competing in Ohio compared to Michigan's four. This places a school such as Fayette up against those that are three times larger. It's a lot more difficult to make the cut in Ohio.

Is this a good thing?

Apparently, Ohio wants to see only the very best in the state competing while Michigan apparently takes the approach that says, "We want to get as many kids here as we can." In addition to four divisions of school size, you don't have to be a winner to get there. Only the top four from the regional meet move on to state, but there are also qualifying times and distances. Jump 18 feet, 4 inches and you have a ticket to the finals in Div. IV, no matter what place you earned at the regional meet.

This can result in two dozen pole vaulters and another two dozen 4x400 relay teams, but so what? The best teams will produce results to match Ohio; the weaker entries will have had the thrill of competing at the state meet.

Morenci had a couple of those relay teams this year that never could have competed with the best, but they got there and they gave it their best. And a good time was had by all.

It's always good to be among people from dozens of other small towns spread across the Lower Peninsula. Marion, Mayville and Merrill. Montabella, Mesick and Manton. Maple City, Martin and Marcellus.

And it’s always a challenge to compete against the private schools from Detroit, Saginaw, Lansing, Muskegon, Grand Rapids—low enrollments, but drawing kids from huge areas.

I'm in competition every year, too, competing with myself to come up with good photographs. Although the goal for athletes is to give your best performance ever at state, not everyone comes through, including me. I started looking through photos Saturday night and noticed that Griffin Grieder was consistently out of focus in his hurdle run. It's not a difficult picture to take, but something happened. I suppose I got beat out by the parochial school photographers.

Relays, on the other hand, can be very difficult if your team isn't the fastest or isn't on the inside lane. It happened to me Saturday. In the girls 4x100 race, Morenci's handoff was obliterated by two other teams running between my camera and the local girls. 

The same thing happened twice in the 4x400 except for one handoff, but that includes Madi Gleckler and I already had hurdle photos of her. So why is she getting her picture in the paper so much? Sorry, it's all I had from the girls.

But I tried my best, and, once again, a good time was had. I got to visit with old photo friends like Scott who covers Saugatuck and Jeff from Brooklyn. I talked quite a while with the photographer from the Dundee paper who was covering Summerfield.

There was the usual array of triumph and disappointment, team effort and individual performance. This year included an episode of one athlete helping another injured athlete off the track at the end of the race—one of the lower-place runners helping the winner.

Whenever the 800-meter race begins, I harken back to 1968 when I was placed in the slow heat of the regional half-mile race. I was an easy winner in my race with a time of 2:05.6, but I just missed going to state. It just so happens that the 2015 qualifying time was 2:05.79.

Although I could have done better this year behind the camera, I was a winner in another competition. I had the strength and discipline to avoid eating my entire lunch before reaching Grand Rapids. That’s a rare feat.

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