It’s outdoor track season, not indoor. But those high school athletes who participated in the indoor season this past winter have reaped the benefits of their unique sacrifices.
Indoor track is not a sport sponsored by the Michigan High School Athletic Association. But on their own, athletes participated in indoor meets throughout the winter, usually at college campuses that have indoor facilities.
The Michigan Indoor Track Series started on December 17 with a meet at Saginaw Valley State University and featured action at other venues like Central Michigan University, Cornerstone University, University of Michigan, Grand Valley State University, Hillsdale College, Eastern Michigan University, Macomb Community College, and Albion College. The state title meet was February 25 at Eastern Michigan.
Chippewa Hills girls track coach Sally Schafer had distance runners and field event personnel take advantage of the indoor season. “That’s their chance, since it’s hard to do those events indoors in the school hallways,” she said.
“You just can’t be doing it when the season’s over and pick it up back up,” Schafer said. “How many other coaches in other sports, they expect their athletes to work throughout the year?”
Schafer noted that one of her top throwers, Erin Drouillard, was able to take advantage of the indoor season.
“The improvement she has made is incredible, and a lot of it has to do with going through the winter indoor season,” Schafer said.
Another Chippewa Hills athlete heavily involved with indoor track has been Megan O’Neil, a standout distance runner. She ran the indoor circuit in January and February.
“I get back into track shape after cross,” O’Neil said. “This year I just went to Grand Valley, CMU, and Saginaw. Other years, I go to Michigan and Michigan State as well. Usually I went to one every other weekend. I’ve done this for awhile. It’s a fun way to talk to other people in the sport.
“We form relay teams with people not from your school.”
O’Neil said she doesn’t do a winter sport, so indoor track fills the bill.
“I think going to some indoor meets gets you in the right mind for outdoors,” she said. “It lets you see some of your competition early on.”
O’Neil joined forces with other track athletes, including state champs Kirstin Olling from Breckenridge and Sami Michell of Reed City, to place third at state as a unit.
“The school doesn’t sponsor it,” said O’Neil. “Everyone, including spectators, pays $5 to get in the door. You can run whatever you want. It’s almost like going to the fair.”
Alma coach Chris Brown saw how the indoor season benefited athletes like Chaz Bradshaw, who did well in the hurdles and the 60-meter dash at an indoor meet at Central Michigan University in early January.
“He ran in about five meets,” Brown said. “They’re running at colleges across the state. It’s also an opportunity for college coaches to see the kids. It gives them exposure.”
There are other advantages, Brown noted. “It gives them a chance to see competition they might not otherwise see.”
During the outdoor season, Bradshaw participates in both hurdle events and both sprint relays. Last season, he was third in the state with a time of 14.5 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles.
For the indoor season, Bradshaw was involved in a Michigan indoor track series and took third place in the state championships at Eastern Michigan.
“That competition really helps,” Brown said. “[Bradshaw’s] goal is to win a state championship.”
For Bradshaw, the goal of indoor track is rather simple: faster times for the outdoor season. His winter season took him to such places as Central Michigan, Grand Valley, Saginaw Valley, and others. He said he enjoyed the various facilities, and he also liked the competition.
“I raced guys like Jake McFadden from Clare,” he said.
McFadden was the state champ last season in the 110- and the 300-meter hurdles.
“He had a tremendous off-season,” McFadden’s coach, Adam Burhans, noted. “He was state [hurdles] indoor runner-up to the defending state champion for Division 1. He had a great experience out in New York a few weeks back, competing at the national level. He narrowly missed All-American honors, which is the top eight. He finished 12th.
“That was a three-day event. He had a tremendous experience out there. He’s off to a great start this year. He won the 60-yard hurdles [in March at Central Michigan Indoor relays] and a pretty impressive 200-meter dash.”
St. Louis track coach Homero Trevino has also seen the advantage of indoor track action. Junior distance runner Raquel Serna was fifth in the 1,600-meter indoor run. For the boys, Jacob Bergey was fourth in the 60-meter dash. “It was a neat atmosphere,” Trevino said.
“It helps me get my starts better,” said Bergey.
All across the state, indoor track has been picking up in popularity.
Breckenridge state champion Kirsten Olling has also been an active indoor participant.
“We had approximately 6 to 10 athletes doing winter sprint training this year,” said Dan Roggenbaum, coach at Vandercook Lake, a small Division 3 school. “Unfortunately, none of them ever went to any meets this winter. Last year, we had 8 to 12, and they competed at Albion and at U of M. I would like to do more, but almost all of our athletes are involved in a winter sport of some kind.”
Reed City’s three-event state champion Sami Michell gave up a potential starting position on the basketball team and ran the indoor series instead.
She was indoor state champion in the long jump and took fourth in the 60-meter hurdles at the state meet held at Eastern Michigan University in February. It’s an all-division event.
“It’s hard because there’s not really any place to train in the winter here,” Michell noted. “I didn’t really get to work on hurdles.”
Trevino noted that runners are independent of their schools at indoor meets, although during the off-season, “we can coach them a little bit. But you can’t coach more than three at a time.
Trevino also sees indoor meets as an advantage, “as long as you don’t overdo it. You don’t want to over-race them.”