Chanman's Blog


2010 WCAL Finals

Posted in Coaching,Race/Meet Report,SHC Track & Field by Andy Chan on May 13, 2020
Tags: ,

I started this re-cap back in May 2010. I wrote about 90% of it and saved it on May 21, 2010 but never went back to it to finish it. Now that we are coming up on the 10 year anniversary of this historic event, I decided I would finish the story, knowing that the final details (starting with the 4X4’s on, will be a little hazy in my mind given the ten years that have passed.

WCAL Finals, 2010

I have been involved in the sport of track & field for twenty-five years and from the coaching side of things for twenty years. Friday, May 14, 2010 at the West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) Finals may have been one of the most successful meets I have ever been associated with.

It was a close battle in the JV Girls division. Sacred Heart Cathedral was already assured of a share of the WCAL championship by virtue of our 6-0 dual meet record. But to win the championship outright we needed to beat Mitty at WCAL Finals. After WCAL Trials Day, thanks to first places by Kellie Redmond 1600 and 3200) and Juliette Alliaume (high jump), the Irish were leading Mitty 36-24.5 when the day started.  I made a dope sheet using the seed marks and everything suggested that the meet would be very close. In a championship meet like this, team scoring is: 10 points for first place, 8 points for second place, 6 points for third place, 4 points for fourth place, 2 points for fifth place, and 1 point for sixth place. Just one change in place can be a four point swing! 

Kellie Redmond (1st, 1600 & 3200) and Katherine Tse (3rd, 3200) picked up big points
Juliette Alliaume won the High Jump

In the Varsity divisions the Irish had six events with legitimate chances of qualifying for the Central Coast Section (CCS) Trials. It would take a top three finish for the boys or top two finish for the girls or achieving the CCS  at-large standard. In all six cases, I felt we had a chance but it would be close.

That was the backdrop heading into the meet. At most meets, some things go better than expected, some things worse, and in the end things pretty much even out. But not on this magical night where pretty much everything seemed to go the Irish way!

From the time we first arrived around 4:00 P.M. until we were celebrating on the field at the end of the meet after 9:00 P.M. it was non-stop action for me. I didn’t have time to eat anything, drink anything, sit down, or even go to the bathroom. Pretty much continuously for those five hours I had something that required my coaching attention…it was great!

It all got started with the 4:00 P.M. coaches’ meeting. There was a lot of tension in the air as we tried to resolve some conflicts over the seeding of some races. During the meeting I ate a muffin and the Bellarmine coach commented that I really wolfed down that muffin fast. I told him it was because I didn’t know when I would have time to eat again – and boy was I right!

The meet opened with the 4X100 meter relays. Our JV Girls were seeded second behind Mitty. We ran well and got second place as expected and I was happy to keep the score as projected. It wasn’t until the next day that it registered that their time of 51.37 was excellent, the third fastest time by any team (varsity or junior varsity) since I’ve been coach at SHC.

Next up was the Varsity Boys 4X100 relay. Five of the top seven teams in the CCS were in the race: us, Serra, St. Ignatius, Bellarmine, and St. Francis. The top three would qualify automatically for CCS. The fourth and fifth place teams had to run faster than the CCS at-large qualifying standard of 43.59 to make it to CCS. With our season best (and school record) of 43.36, we knew we had a chance. It was difficult to see much of the race from the middle of the field. At the finish line I noticed that four teams came by in pretty close succession but we weren’t one of them….but I kept the faith, yelling for Yra (sophomore Michael Munchua) to keep running hard and get the time. We were definitely fifth. Now we had to wait and see what the time was. I had us in 43.2 hand time so I knew we had a chance. Yra and I waited together staring at the scoreboard for what seemed like forever. St. Ignatius, 42.31; Serra, 42.51; Bellarmine, 42.52; St. Francis, 42.75. Then we waited….and finally: Sacred Heart Cathedral, 43.41! CCS, baby! Yra and I jumped up and down and then ran to find the other team members. The seniors, Marcus Del Bianco and Doug Parrish, now officially had a conflict between CCS and graduation. We had talked about it for the past couple weeks but now it was a reality. There were still more races to be run, so I told the boys we’d “sort all this out later, for now get ready for your next event.”

Marcus Del Bianco to Gary Moore, the 4X1 qualifies for CCS

In the JV Girls 100 Hurdles the Irish were seeded fourth and sixth with Mitty’s lone qualifier seeded ninth (last). If that held, the Irish could outscore Mitty 5-0. But Mitty had other plans. Mitty’s top hurdler, Clemence Couteau had one of the top times coming into WCAL Trials. But during the trials race she fell and by the time she got up and finished could only place a non-qualifying tenth (the top nine qualified for the final in this event because St. Francis’ track has nine lanes on the straightaway). Mitty strategically scratched their athlete who was seeded ninth, which allowed Couteau to move up into the race. Couteau took advantage of the second chance and raced to third place, while SHC’s Alliaume and Asia Satchell placed fifth and sixth. Mitty had scored some somewhat unexpected points. Instead of 5-0 for the Irish, the event went 6-3 for Mitty. Overall it was an eight point swing in Mitty’s favor. I felt we had fourteen points to play with so we were still okay but this definitely cut into our margin for error.

In the JV Girls 400 meter race, the Irish had three runners and Mitty had three runners. This was an opportunity for a lot of points for one of the schools. I figured the Mitty girl would win the race but as long as the Irish placed three runners ahead of the next Mitty girl, we would outscore Mitty for the event. It was important that we do this since we had lost those points in the 100 hurdles. Ebony McKeever (second), Kristina Hernandez (fourth) and Samantha Mairena (fifth) got the job done perfectly. Sam in particular did great. She was in the middle of the triple jump and had to come over for the 400. She got a slow start and a Mitty girl was ahead of her at the 200 meter mark. But in the last half lap of the race Sam did exactly what we needed her to do, surging past Mitty’s second runner to give us a 14-11 point advantage for this event.

In the Varsity Boys 400, Del Bianco ran a very nice race for sixth place. It would be his last individual race for the Irish and it was great to see him run a PR, 52.47. He only started running track last year as a junior but over the last year and a half he has worked very hard and done everything we could have asked to make himself into a top track runner. That time of 52.47 makes him the fourth fastest 400 meter open runner I have ever coached.

At this point in the meet I attempted to get some field event results. I checked at the triple jump pit to see what Mairena’s place was. They told me she jumped 30 feet something for fourth or fifth but I couldn’t get an official result. Then I went to the discus and shot put to see if I could get some throwing results but again nothing was available. It sounded like Emily Chug and Chelsea Bendebel placed fourth and fifth in the Varsity Girls discus and that Jennifer Java was fifth in the JV Girls discus but nothing was official.

I went back down towards the finish line to watch the end of the JV Girls 100 meter race. It was another race filled with SHC (three) and Mitty (four) runners. A lot of points were at stake. I figured Erica Hipp might win the race for us but Cecily Agu from Mitty was going to press her and Mitty had three other athletes who could score, while the Irish’s Allegra Bautista and Fue Tualaulelei were seeded in non-scoring positions, seventh and eighth. I wasn’t concerned about the times at all. All I wanted to see was the finishing places. As in most 100 meter races it was a blur at the finish line. I could see that Hipp won and Agu was second. The next thing I noticed was that Bautista was ahead of the other three Mitty girls. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “Allegra just stole us some points.” She sure did – fifth place ahead of Mitty in sixth, seventh, and eighth. Scoring for this event went 12-9 for the Irish, nine points better than the projection on the dope sheet. That made up for the points we lost in the 100 hurdles and I felt like we were back where we started, with a double digit cushion.

Erica Hipp wins the 100

While I didn’t care about times, just places in the JV Girls 100, in the Varsity Boys 100 I cared about the time. Gary Moore needed to run 11.17 or faster to hit the at-large standard for CCS. It wouldn’t matter what place he was if he got the time. With so many studs in the 100 meter race, I was more looking at his time. It was a blanket finish and Gary and I didn’t really say a word…we just looked up at the scoreboard. Coach Art Higgins and Coach Lloyd Wilson thought he might have been second or third but from my vantage point I thought he was fifth. We would know shortly. Marshall, Valley Christian, 10.94; Harvey, Serra, 10.94; Borel, St. Francis, 10.99; Kennedy, St. Ignatius, 10.99; and finally Moore, Sacred Heart Cathedral, 11.03. What a finish! Five guys within 0.09 seconds of each other. But more importantly, another CCS qualifying performance for SHC!

As I walked around the field, people had been telling me the St. Francis coach was looking for me. I was pretty sure it was because they were scratching a girl from the 800 and they wanted to know if our alternate wanted the spot. If it was JV, we for sure wanted it, as Tiffany Lam had come down and was warmed up and ready to go. Lam told me about twenty minutes earlier that she was still waiting to hear if there were any scratches. Unfortunately it was a varsity scratch and our alternate, Juliana Flynn, was not interested in racing the 800. Flynn was very sick. She missed school the day before and probably only came to school today because it was WCAL Finals. When we talked before the meet I could tell she felt horrible. She had four layers on (jacket, fleece, sweatshirt, and t-shirt) and was pretty pale. We agreed that she would not run the 1600 or the 800 even if there was a scratch. But she wanted to run the 3200 and felt that she could PR even under the circumstances. I told her that I trusted her and that I would let her run but if the race started going downhill she should just drop out, “You don’t have to prove anything. I’d rather you try and give up than push through and get mono,” I told her.

Before the JV Girls 800, I went over to Emily Hipp to give her some advice. A saying I’ve learned is “stick your nose in it” meaning get into position to contend in the middle of the race. I told Hipp to “stick her nose in the race.” I knew that if she was aggressive she could place pretty high. We needed big races from her and her teammates Hernandez and McKeever (both of whom were tired from the 400) to prevent a 1-2-3 Mitty sweep, which was entirely possible. On the dope sheet I had Mitty beating us 20-10 in this event. Anything better than that would be a plus. I saw in the first 100 meters that McKeever must have been hurt. She’s battled a hip injury all season and her form was way off as she went straight to last place. In the middle of the pack Hipp and Hernandez were battling. With 200 to go, they both made strong moves and although Mitty’s Amanda Guzikowski won the race, by getting second (Hipp) and third (Hernandez), and knocking Mitty’s Courtney Lisowski to fifth, the Irish scored big. It was 14-12 in favor of SHC, a twelve point swing from the dope sheet.

I was busy congratulating Hipp and Hernandez and checking on McKeever’s injury that I missed the starting gun for the Varsity Boys race. In the first 100 meters I felt good about Jarrett Moore’s chances. He was following the race plan we had discussed the day before, sitting back in the middle of the pack for the first 300 meters while Valley Christian’s Sean Davis took it out fast. Moore moved up over the in the middle of the race and passed St. Ignatius’ Mike Reher with 300 meters to go to move into second place. They started to build a gap on fourth place and I felt Moore’s chances for a top three finish and CCS were looking good. Reher passed Moore with 150 to go and would eventually overtake Davis for a narrow win. Moore had his usual tight form down the homestretch but he had enough heart to hold on to third place. A couple of Moore’s old teammates, Paul Rechsteiner and Daniel Koch, were there and they joined the mob that surrounded him at the finish line. We had to almost hold him up as he was pretty wobbly on his feet from sheer exhaustion. We knew he was third and thus had qualified for CCS so there was some celebrating. Since I didn’t start a watch I had no idea what the time was. We looked up at the scoreboard and it said, Reher, St. Ignatius, 1:56.02; Davis, Valley Christian, 1:56.03. Koch pointed to the scoreboard and told Moore, “Look at their times…and you weren’t that far behind them!” Then it flashed up there, Moore, Sacred Heart Cathedral, 1:57.94. Everyone around us starting screaming. Coach Andy Lee told me later that he could hear a roar from across the field at the triple jump pit. I didn’t even realize until we got on the bus to go home that this was a new school record.

Moore has been trying to break 2:00 for two years. He’s run 2:00.47, 2:01.16, 2:01.17 (three times), and 2:01.18. Even the Riordan coach commented to me the other day about how close he’s been without getting it yet. Back in cross country season Moore paid me for pizza in pennies. I told him I’d hold on to one of the pennies and give it back to him when he broke 2:00. I’ve been carrying that penny around with me since last November. When we saw the time on the scoreboard I immediately reached for my wallet and pulled out the lucky penny to give to him. At last!

Jarrett Moore – CCS qualifier, first sub-2, gets the lucky penny back

Next up was the F/S Boys 800. As Ernest Lardizabal went to the starting line, I realized that I had been so busy I wasn’t even checking on athletes before their races. I was just expecting them to warm-up on their own and be where they needed to be. Lardizabal is one of the athletes that sometimes needs some handholding from a coach or a teammate. Today he was the only F/S boys competing. Yet, he looked warmed-up and ready for his race. That made me feel proud inside. I was also pretty proud when he finished the race with a new PR of 2:10.

I was finally able to get the JV Girls triple jump scores. Mitty picked up thirteen points on us but it was expected so I didn’t stress about it. We had a 89-87.5 lead with three running events (300H, 200, and 4X4) and three field events (discus, long jump, shot put) to go. Next, I found Coach Andy Lee and told him that right after the 300H he needed to tell Juliette Alliaume that she’s running the 4X4 for the injured McKeever.

We were getting down close to the end of the meet. We had three entrants in the JV Girls 300 hurdles to Mitty’s one. I felt like this was a real chance to put the meet away. And we were one hurdle away from going 1-2 and pretty much slamming the door on Mitty. But although Alliaume won the race pretty easily, Satchell, who was running a strong second, clipped the last hurdle and fell. Fortunately she had the presence of mind to get up and finish the race. We ended up outscoring Mitty 11-2 in this event, giving us a 100-89.5 lead. After the race I noticed Alliaume was mad about her time. I told her that she could run her hurdle race frustrations out in the 4X4.

The next race on the track was the Varsity Boys 300 hurdles. Junior Clint Lewis was a surprise finalist in this event. He started doing this event three weeks ago against Riordan when we just sort of threw him in the race to see if he could score a point in the dual meet. He looked pretty good so we ended up working on the hurdles the last three weeks and his time dropped all the way down to 44.25. Along the same lines was junior Brandon Donaldson in the Varsity Boys triple jump. We started teaching him how to triple jump two days before the Riordan meet just to get some points in the dual meet. Again he looked pretty good so we kept at it. Three weeks later Donaldson was sixth at WCAL Finals and had a PR of 39-9.75, the fifth best mark since I’ve been coach. I couldn’t be happier for two guys who just come to practice and work hard.

Next up was the JV Girls 200. Hipp (Erica) and Agu would go against each other again. This time Agu got the win and Mitty picked up a key point with sixth place. It was 11-8 for Mitty and the score was now 108-100.5. We were getting down real close to the end and the score was awfully close.

Erica and her rival from Mitty, Cecily Agu

The Varsity Boys 200 was another chance for Moore (Gary) to qualify for CCS. I had a bad vantage point for the race but a great view of the finish. Moore was clearly second place. Another CCS qualifying performance. This guy was only third in the F/S Boys 200 as a sophomore. One year later he’s taking second in the Varsity race.

After the meet, Mookie and I could celebrate him qualifying for CCS in the 100, 200, 4X1, and 4X4

I was finally able to get an official JV Girls discus score. Java was fifth and Mitty was third. Now it was 110-106.5. We were clinging to a 3.5 point lead with three events to go, the 4X4, long jump, and shot put.

I went to the start line for the Varsity Girls 3200. I noticed that St. Francis’ Morgan Healy and Valley Christian’s Emily Blaha had scratched. There were now four main players – Morgan Lira (second at WCAL Finals in XC) from Valley Christian, Mary Kriege (third at WCAL Finals in XC) from Mitty, Angie Korpusik (sixth at WCAL Finals in XC) from Presentation, and our Sophia Cannata-Bowman (fourth at WCAL Finals in XC). The top two would qualify for CCS unless they ran under 11:36.68, which at the time I didn’t think would happen. Also in the race was Flynn, who was still hoping to PR despite being sick. I gave some last minute instructions to Cannata-Bowman, just reminding her that she had already proven she can stay with these girls in cross country. Right before the gun went off I made eye contact with Flynn and then almost whispered so only she would hear to “be smart and make a good decision.” She nodded and then seconds later the race began.

Lira shot out to the lead with Kriege, Korpusik, and Cannata-Bowman forming a chase pack. Kriege’s mom, Becky, who I know from a run many years ago, was cheering for her daughter on the outside of the track at the 200 meter mark. I was on the inside of the track at the 200 meter mark. Every time after they came by she would talk to me about the race. The chase pack hit the mile mark at 5:47 – right on 11:36 pace. The Cannata-Bowman started moving up. She ran a couple laps at 86 and they were now two to three seconds ahead of 11:36 pace. Kriege’s mom pointed out that Lira was starting to come back to the pack and with about 600 meters to go Cannata-Bowman looked awesome. She was smooth, running fast, and most importantly had a look in her eyes that told me she was going to win this race. She overtook Lira and they were enough ahead of pace that I figured all four of them would run under 11:36. I moved to a different spot on the track to cheer so Mrs. Kriege and I weren’t shouting over each other. I was jumping up and down telling Cannata-Bowman to accelerate on the last lap. Her last lap was 79.9 seconds! And as a freshman she became the Varsity Girls WCAL 3200 meter champion with a :29 PR at 11:27.52. She was on the ground at the finish and when some of our girls started to go towards her the official told them to stay off the track. But he allowed me to go over to check on Cannata-Bowman. I didn’t do a lot of “checking”, I just told her what a great race she had run! Then I was up and cheering on Flynn, who was running a real courageous race given the circumstances. She battled a couple of St. Ignatius runners and came home with a :19 PR at 12:56.

An exhausted Sophia Cannata-Bowman, WCAL Champion in the 3200 as a freshman

The Varsity Boys 3200 represented the last race for EJ de Lara, Micki Hynson, and Brian Furney. Combined they have run for me for a total of 23 seasons. Right before the race I remind them (as if they didn’t know!) that it’s their last time wearing the Irish uniform. De Lara runs his first six 6 laps in eight minutes, which was one of our goals. For his freshman year cross country time trial he ran three laps in eight minutes. In his final race he was twice as fast. After the race I took a picture with the three of them and thanked them for allowing me to coach them for the last four years.

Micki, Brian, EJ, and I commemorate the end of their era

Before the Varsity Boys 3200 started I asked Coach Rachel Giovannetti to try to go get some field event scores from the pressbox. She confirmed that what I had for the discus and triple jump were correct but she wasn’t able to find the long jump or shot put scores. We were pretty sure those events were done so I just needed to go figure out where the scoresheets were. But the 4X4’s were about to start. I figured we just needed to do as well as possible and between races I would try to find the scoresheets.

This is there my story ended in May 2010. Ten year later, using notes I wrote back then, the results sheet, and the scoresheet I was writing on that night back in 2010, I have completed the story.

The JV Girls 4X4 is first. I am hoping we beat Mitty as any point advantage at this point is good and since I don’t know what happened at shot put or long jump. We were seeded to do well in both events but it would take just one upset by a Mitty athlete to swing our 3.5 lead into a deficit.

As the race unfolds, I end up forgetting all about Mitty, because our girls are in a tight battle with St Francis for the win. Erica Hipp anchors us with a 61.7 split and we take second. Mitty is well back in third place. 8-6 for SHC. The score is now 118-112.5. We now lead by 5.5 points. I need to find the elusive shot put and long jump results.

I hear from someone that Steve Filios picked up the shot put and long jump results. I intercept Filios on his way to the press box and ask to see the results. He reads it to me. Shot Put. Tyhana Cooper (SHC)-second. Mitty-first. Long Jump. Mitty first and third. SHC-Allegra Bautista-second, Fue Tualauleilei-fourth, Gabby Vitug-fifth. I don’t even write down the marks. I don’t care.

I have all the results. The JV Girls meet is done. I just need to add up the scores. I run to the middle of the field where I can be alone and kneel down and start writing and adding. I’m breathing hard and my hands are shaking. The shot put was 8 points for us and 10 for Mitty. Long jump was 14-16. So we net lost four points in these two events. That means the 5.5 point lead after the 4X4 will shrink down to 1.5 but we’ll still win!

Checking the numbers with Coach Rachel Giovannetti

Rachel probably sees me writing hurriedly and knows what I am doing. She comes over and I tell her that it was close but we did it….but to not say anything yet. Coach Tony Tran finds me and says he’s been looking all over for me to give me results….that he has good news and bad news. I tell him that I got the results and that we’re good.

Varsity Boys 4X4 getting ready to close out the meet

By this time the last race is about to start, the Varsity Boys 4X4. Another chance to qualify athletes for CCS. We do a quick team cheer before the race and I send the boys out on to the track. They run terrific. 52 for Del Bianco, 52 for Jarrett Moore, 51 for Parrish, and Gary Moore anchors us with a 50.8 and we finish third in 3:27. We mob Gary at the finish line. Doug Parrish is so tired, I end up having to hold him up so he can stand.

The meet is now over and we’re just waiting for the official final score to be announced. I go double check my calculations in the press box. The official confirm it and tell me to take the JV Girls championship plaque. I hide it in my backpack as I walk back down to the field where the team is lingering. We are the only team left. Everyone else has left. Nathalie Hechinger asks if I know the result. I must smile in some way giving it away even though I shrug, because she smiles back at me and says, “yeah, you know,” and walks away. Finally the announcer gets on the PA (perhaps realizing SHC is waiting on the field specifically to hear the JV Girls score read) and starts reading the scores. At some point he says that Mitty is second, which means SHC is first. The team starts cheering. Everyone. Not just the JV Girls. Because this is an overall team success for all of us to relish and celebrate. We’re so busy cheering, I don’t think anyone hears how close the final score is. SHC over Mitty, 140-138.5. A WCAL Championship by 1.5 points.

The dope sheet I used at the meet to keep track of the scoring. 140-138.5!
2010 JV Girls WCAL Champions!
Celebrating an almost perfect 2010 WCAL Finals – one team champion, six CCS qualifiers

Being a Coach when COVID-19 Closed Bay Area Schools

Posted in Coaching,SHC Track & Field by Andy Chan on March 15, 2020
Tags: , ,

I was already tired and had a lot of things on my plate when this week started. We had two meets the previous weekend, I lost an hour due to daylight savings time, and my shoes were still wet after being out in the rain for the aforementioned two meets. But this was not going to be a normal week and I needed to power on and be ready.

I attacked each issue one at a time. Was there going to be practice on Monday? What will we do when the school closes for five days – are outdoor off-campus practices allowed? Is the meet on Wednesday at Washington still happening? What about the meet on Saturday at Lincoln? Where can we practice on Wednesday if there is no meet? Should I just cancel all practices on Thursday since there is no available facility or coaches available? Where can we move the pole vault practice scheduled for Riordan? Is there an alternate meet the team can go to on Saturday? What will we do now that the Archdiocese has closed all schools until March 25? What are other schools doing?

By Tuesday evening, the issues had narrowed to three things: 1. Would there be Wednesday practice? 2. Would there be Friday practice? 3. Would we go to the meet at Aragon HS on Saturday. Entries for the meet were due at midnight. I needed to make a decision if it was worth it to enter 80+ athletes. I was waiting for the school to send me directives about practice and meets during the closure.

Some time before going to sleep Tuesday night, I think I knew in my heart what was going to happen. I didn’t do the entries. We might have Wednesday practice so I could talk to the team in person. But we were going to shut everything down after that – no Friday practice, no Saturday meet, no other track & field activities until school re-opens. This was my plan and I was comfortable with this, regardless of what the school decided.

Wednesday morning I got word that starting on Thursday all SHC athletics activities (practices and competitions) would be suspended until at least March 25. I started working on the speech that I would deliver to the team and later post on Schoology. The theme would be “The What and the Why.” I wanted everyone to know both “What” was happening but also “Why.” I wanted the word choices in my speech, my body language, and the tone of my delivery to convey my total belief that this was the right thing to do. As a leader, I felt that if I showed confidence, the team would more easily accept the disappointment.

Come Thursday morning, I had a lot of loose ends to tie up. I removed practices from our Google calendar, canceled buses with our athletic director, canceled the hotel and bus for our planned overnight trip, and removed meets from our schedule. I had already given some thought to the suggested distance training plan that I would post, so it was pretty easy to type and post that.

After that flurry of activity, I suddenly had nothing to do. It felt strange. It’s the second week of March and my life should be full of making weekly calendars and meet sheets, updating best marks files, writing workouts, and checking in with kids – about their grades, their training, their performances so far in the season, and life in general. Instead I was sitting at home at my makeshift office on the dining room table.

In previous stressful situations I could do what I always do – bring my team together. Their love would inspire me to be the best coach I could be. I would talk to them, measure the room, see who was particularly stressed out. I would look people in directly in the eyes and offer re-assuring words and hugs. But this time, coming together as a group was exactly what the department of public health wanted us to NOT DO.

My usual day of being passionate about track & field, interacting with the kids, and being my typical goofy self were on an extended time out. That’s when I decided I would post on Schoology every day a “2 Things From Andy” post. The first item would be something track & field related to keep the sport that brings us together as a community on people’s minds. The second item would be some random mundane thing….whatever pops in my head, the goofier the better. It would help the kids feel like they were at practice listening to me talk. At the end, I would ask them a question and ask them to comment back so they would feel like they were talking to me….and so I could feel like I was with them as I read their responses. These posts were going to be as much for me as they are for them.

I take my role as a leader for the SHC Track & Field program very seriously. I feel it’s my responsibility to frame things for the kids to help them cope. I stumbled onto someone’s social media post and decided to borrow parts of it and add to it. It’s been an unprecedented week everywhere. I’ve had to think about things and plan for things that nothing could have prepared me for.

I closed this most crazy of weeks by sharing with the team this idea: It’s OK to be sad/angry/disappointed that these things that you really enjoy and that you were planning on happening are being taken away (canceled or postponed). Feeling those emotions doesn’t make you a selfish person. It is possible to be both a caring person, empathetic to the situation, AND upset as to how it is personally changing your life.

Stay safe, everyone. Be smart. Everyone do your part. And hopefully, before we know it, we’ll be back out there doing our thing.

From Jury Duty to Fresno

Posted in Coaching,SHC Cross Country by Andy Chan on November 17, 2019
Tags: , ,
30 people strong - CCS runners, alternates, and managers

This all started on Monday June 10. It was a 6:00 pm practice because I was on jury duty. It was one of the hottest days of the year and even in San Francisco it was well over 90 degrees when we met at 6:00 that evening. That’s where the journey for the 2019 Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC) Cross Country team began.

Along our journey we enjoyed countless memories together. We had a great summer of training. We started to see who was going to step up to fill the shoes of the six varsity boys from last year that were not going to be on the team this year. Late in the summer, we realized that there was a “fast kid” transferring in to SHC from Lowell. We took an epic trip to Oregon that included an 18 hour Amtrak train ride (each way) and sleeping 300 steps from the starting line in the barracks at Camp Rilea in Seaside. We started to more publically appreciate and thank the amazing work done by our managers. New faces got their first taste of varsity as CCS alternates, some of whom were probably not even thinking about this as a possibility at the start of the season. As a team, we ran amazingly fast races at WCAL.

All of a sudden it was CCS Week. The preview article implied that SHC was seeded third in both the Girls and Boys races. Third is solid. But third is not the place you want to finish, when only the top two teams qualify for State. For the Girls the battle would be with SI and Aptos. SI looked tough to beat. We didn’t know much about Aptos but we respected that they were good and would be a challenge to beat. For the Boys, all indications were that it would be a close race between us, St. Ignatius (SI), and Riordan, with Saratoga and maybe Aptos also in the mix.

Before the meet there was a lot of talk about how when you have high hopes there is potential for disappointment. We emphasized that this was OK….that it was part of sport….that it was a gift to have the opportunity to compete under these circumstances, stressful as they might be. Deep inside, though, what we all wanted was for both teams to qualify for State. The plan was to run the race and then after the race, we’d add up the scores and see if we made it.

The theme for the whole season had been, “Keep Calm and Throw Your Darts.” We wanted the kids to feel that they had permission to go for it….to keep throwing their darts and see what stuck. A side theme for CCS was the idea that, “Pain is Temporary. Pride is Forever.” We knew it was going to be tough in the last mile and that people would be hurting. The hope was the idea of having pride forever in their race, would help them overcome the temporary pain of racing the last mile at Crystal Springs.

Race morning, we reminded everyone that you can’t always take first place but you can always run to win. And we wanted our team to go for winning races at CCS. The Girls were told to just be themselves because, “no one is better at being you, than you.” The boys were told that I was proud of them for fighting so hard to be in position to make State. But that we were greedy and we wanted one more thing to be proud of so they should go out there and fight for State.

Those were the final instructions the teams were given. Then, before we knew it, the races were underway.  

The Girls got to the two mile mark and we found ourselves one point behind Aptos for second place with a mile to go. The Boys, despite our top two runners being off their game, were actually leading a tight battle against SI and Riordan but beginning to fall back with a mile to go.

It’s hard to put into words what transpired in those last miles. It was something out of a fairy tale. There was suspense, heroes and heroines, dramatic finishes, and a happy ending that left us all breathless.

We did so much between that first day in June and the moment each runner got to the mile to go mark. No one thing was “the” thing. It was a combination of many things. All the training and all the motivational talks/quotes/sayings were to have people ready to race this last mile at this exact moment. I think the fact that we teach the kids to love one another and to really care about making State, is huge. Every single one of them wants to contribute something to the cause. No one wants to let down the team. Everyone wants the season to go on for two more weeks – so we can take a dance class, so we can have another overnight trip, so we can dress up for dinner in Fresno, so we can have an emotional team meeting, and countless other traditions that are small and silly but mean the world to us.

The Girls pushed like I have never seen them push before. We kept screaming to them that every place was going to count and that “pride would be forever” if they could pass just one more runner. We finished fast and passed people. Sabina ran the fastest last mile of everyone in the race, except the race winner, and moved from eighth to fifth. Liz passed one runner. Kate, who the night before e-mailed me that she was feeling sick and wasn’t sure she should race or not, passed two. Tessa and Corona passed five and three runners. They both passed Aptos’ #4 runner. Gigi and Kennedy both fought to stay ahead of Aptos’ fifth runner. We improved our places by 14 in the last mile.

The Boys were actually leading the close battle with a mile to go but you could tell that SI and Riordan were closing on us. Aptos and Saratoga had runners up front, too, so it was possible they were in the mix. It was impossible to sort this out with the human eye. All we could do was yell to the guys that it was close and they needed to fight for every place and, of course, “to throw all their darts.” Andrew and Sedge had been out really fast and were now suffering in the heat. We tried to get them to fight to hold on to their current place. Dylan was chasing a pack that included Riordan runners. One of those Riordan guys had previously beat Dylan head to head five times (by :48, :44, :44, :30, and :31). But not on this day. At CCS, Dylan edged him out by one place and 0.29 seconds, good for a two point swing. Gavin and Briac were clearly exhausted. They would speed up and pass someone when we cheered them on but they would then fall back again. With 200 meters to go, I yelled to them one last time. “Run us to Fresno!” In the end, Gavin stayed in the same place he was a the two mile mark. Briac fell back but was the fastest fifth runner in the race. Mason was the fastest sixth runner, and he beat both SI and Riordan’s fifth runner.

After the Girls race, it just felt like we had beaten Aptos. The Girls had run so well in the last mile and I knew we made up a lot of points. Finally the score popped up on my phone. SI-50, SHC-67, Aptos-75. We made it by 8 points!

After the Boys race, it was just too close to call. We all found each other and gathered around my phone. The quick scores showed SI and us tying, with Riordan just 4 points back. I knew that this could change so I tried to keep everyone from celebrating too soon. Someone saw SI cheering and wondered what that meant. At some point I looked at a few of the boys and said, “No matter what this phone says in a few minutes, it won’t change that we raced great. Let’s try not to let what the phone says define this race.” A few seconds later, a tab appeared on my phone’s screen saying click here for final official results. The kids said I was shaking as I pressed on it. SI-87, SHC-88, Riordan-90. Yes, we missed winning by one point. But somehow we didn’t even care. What we cared about was that we were going to State….by just two points.

Qualifying both teams to State is our most beloved goal. We’ve been blessed to have it happen five times in the last ten years. It’s happened in a variety of different ways and circumstances. All of them have been memorable in their own way.

We can now add the 2019 CCS Meet and more specifically the last miles of both the Girls and Boys races to the list of legendary moments in SHC Cross Country history. The season that started with a 6:00 pm practice in June because of jury duty, will end Thanksgiving weekend in Fresno.

Varsity Girls - 3rd straight trip to State, 6 out of the last 10 years.
Varsity Boys - 7th time to State in the last 10 years.

Raining on your Parade

Posted in Coaching,SHC Cross Country by Andy Chan on December 27, 2018
Tags: , ,

IMG_1299I’m sorry, boys of the 2018 SHC Cross Country team. I MAY have told you a little white lie before the Central Coast Section Championship race (CCS). But it was only because I was trying to prepare you to achieve our goal, to make it to the California State Cross Country Championship Meet (State).

With less than week until CCS, I felt we were getting a little over-confident. A little too focused on beating Greenfield to win CCS. We were bordering on losing focus on the primary goal, to place in the top two and qualify for State. I worried that this singular focus on beating Greenfield might cause us to commit the cardinal sin of how not to race on the Crystal Springs course – going out too hard and fading in the last mile. My mantra has always been, you don’t qualify for State in the first mile; you qualify for State in the last mile. I wanted to create a scenario in your minds, one that made you nervous enough to stick to our season-long plan.

That’s why I came up with my speech.

That’s why I rehearsed it in my head while running the day before delivering it to you.

That’s why I rehearsed it again in my office before practice, and again in the car driving to practice.

After I sent the girls on an adventure run, I gathered you boys around me.

IMG_1470“How we doing, guys? Feeling good? Feeling confident?” I began.

I heard a few responses. “Yeah, we’re good.” “We got this, coach.”

That was my cue to begin my Oscar-winning performance. Was every word I was about to utter the complete truth? No. Was this what you, my team, needed to hear at this moment? Yes.

“Well, I’m here…to rain…on your…parade.”

“Greenfield has been holding back all year. They’re just waiting to drop a bomb on us. And there’s a mystery team, because there’s always a mystery team, that will come out of nowhere and get out hard. They’ll be ahead of us at the two mile mark. They’re trying to take OUR spot to State.”

“The only way to prevent that is to race smart. I need you to go out and run the first mile like we’ve been practicing. Don’t change things. The race starts at the mile mark. You have to be ready to fight during the last mile, and when you get to the top of Cardiac hill, you will have less than five minutes to write the story where WE go to State.”

I paused and slowly looked around the circle. Everyone was quiet. I had everyone’s attention. In some ways, I knew at that moment, we’d be okay. After my speech you nailed a good track workout. Despite CCS being postponed three times due to the poor air quality and an extremely stressful ten day lead-up to the actual CCS race, when the race finally happened, you got it done.

Andy Chan 2.0

Posted in Coaching,SHC Cross Country by Andy Chan on November 23, 2017
Tags: , ,

m

For most of my twenty years as the head cross country coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral, the week before the Section Championships (CCS Week we call it), has been filled with very specific race day preparations. My style and belief has been that to prepare the runners to be ready for the moment, we should do specific training and have specific conversations about how the race will probably play out. There has been a lot of talk about qualifying for State Meet. Tactically, we have discussed where to try to position oneself early in the race, a first mile time goal, when to surge, and what teams to be looking for. We’ve gone so far as to pass around pictures of the teams we are competing with, so our team would know what color uniforms to be looking for.

I felt this year’s Boys team, given their experience, would be able to run a solid race regardless of my coaching tactics. I had no regrets about their training. I felt confident they would go out and give everything they had. The question was, was their best going to be good enough to place in the top two to qualify for State. As it turned out, Aptos and Greenfield were just too fast for us. We ended up a solid fourth but we were a far distance from for second. I was at peace with that.

The Girls team on the other hand, was new to the sport, inexperienced at championship level racing; a very un-confident group. My usual CCS Week talks, workouts, and activities were not going to work. They would only serve to make the Girls more nervous. I needed to give them emotional support and mental confidence, much more than physical training and race information.

I am proud of myself because during CCS Week I basically re-invented myself as a coach. Andy Chan 2.0, one of the girls called it.

Tactics were replaced by focusing only on what is controllable (effort and attitude) and letting go of the un-controllable things, like how the other teams raced.

The usual overall race plan was replaced with just focusing on the next 30 seconds to one minute of the course.

Talk about State Meet was replaced by reminders that we love them, no matter the outcome.

On Monday, we held hands before the hill workout and I had everyone think of someone that loves them unconditionally. On Tuesday, we all shared who we had thought about who loves us unconditionally. A game of duck, duck, goose followed. Then I passed out index cards and pens and told them to write down anything that was stressing them; I then asked them to write down the worst thing that could happen at the meet. After some sharing, I told them to rip up their card into as many pieces as they wanted and then throw the scraps into the garbage can before starting their warm-up.

CCS Week had become Kumbaya Week.

We held hands a lot. We formed a lot of circles when we talked. I sat down with them for meetings rather than standing over them.

I heard later that the kids were talking about it outside of practice, “What do you think he’s going to do today?” No we didn’t write our names in blood or sacrifice Lawrence at the team dinner. But I had them guessing now and more importantly had them thinking about what I would do next instead of worrying about the upcoming race.

At the team dinner, we played some crazy games. Everyone brought a stuffed animal and shared a story about their stuffed animal. The only time I said the word “State” that night was during the meeting when I said, “Getting to State isn’t that big a deal. It’s getting to spend an extra two weeks with the team that’s special.”

I went to the school’s Academic Resource Specialist (Cally Salzman) for advice. I figured she works with students who get nervous and struggle in class. I hoped she could give me a tip or two to help at the meet. She suggested giving them some time to sit alone, breathe deeply, and listen to music.

Normally we just send the team out to warm-up on their own with a basic idea of what time they should be ready to go to the starting line. Not Andy Chan 2.0. We gave them a very structured warm-up schedule. There was no time to get nervous because they were constantly checking the schedule to stay on task. Everything was plotted out. Usually I don’t let kids use their phones once we get to the meet. But this time I made an exception so we could use Cally’s suggestion. We gave five minutes of “Alone Time” for anyone who thought it would help them to sit, breathe deeply and listen to music.

At the starting line during the team huddle, I reminded them to focus on effort and attitude only. They should only concern themselves with the next thirty seconds to one minute of the course. If their mind wandered at all, they should think about how much everyone loves them.

During the race, I only said things related to effort and attitude and I gave them short term goals, things they would focus on for only a few seconds to a minute. This wasn’t easy for me, as I am wired to shout out their position in the race or who we needed to catch in order to qualify for State. In fact, I had to rehearse this strategy the night before the race.

Halfway through the race, I could tell that Aptos was way out in front and was going to win. The top three girls teams would qualify for State and mid-race it was clearly North Monterey Country (NMC) and Sobrato in second and third. I heard the announcer say we were in fourth and that our San Francisco rival, St Ignatius (SI) was in fifth.

In the last mile, I noticed SI was making a strong move up and that NMC and Sobrato were falling back. But still, every time I cheered for our Girls, all I would say was “give me a good effort,” “focus on attitude,” and “pass one person between here and the turn.” I never once shouted to them about the other teams’ position.

At the finish, I was super pleased. We had run great races all around. The Girls looked pleased but also nervous. They were wondering if we had qualified for State. I remember running up to them and telling them that they ran great, that that was the race we wanted and that we didn’t need a results sheet to tell us it was a good day. As we walked to the start line for the Boys race, I wouldn’t let myself think about whether we qualified or not. I was happy with the race. I wanted to follow my own advice and not care (too much) about the result.

Then we heard an unofficial announcement that we were third. That made things difficult. It would be too painful to start thinking we made it, only to find out that we hadn’t when the official results came out. I didn’t want to go down that road and I didn’t want the Girls to either. So I kept telling them to wait…to not celebrate yet. I was having an internal fight in my head, on one side I wanted to consider what it would be like if we qualified for State. On the other side, I kept saying to myself, “don’t go there.”

IMG_9470Finally, on my fiftieth refresh of the results web page in the twenty minutes since the race had ended, I saw the official results. Only fifteen points separated second place from fifth place. We were a State Meet qualifying third place, only six points ahead of Sobrato and only eight points ahead of NMC!

Wow! A lot of things went into this achievement. Mostly the girls who ran. But also the support from the alternates, the other coaches and the rest of the team. And if the Andy Chan 2.0 coaching style contributed just a little, I’m proud of that, too.

Cheering for Amy

Cheering for Amy_after the race_photo by Paul Merca

Amy Cragg after her 3rd place finish. Photo by Paul Merca.

Malinda and I decided to go out on the marathon course at the 2017 World Championships and watch and cheer for the women’s race. By the time we got on to the course near St. Paul’s Cathedral, the race leaders were nearing the halfway point. Great Britain’s Alyson Dixon had built up an early thirty second lead but there was a large chase pack of runners including Amy Crag and Serena Burla. By the time we saw the runners again, they were at the 30K mark and we noticed that Cragg was leading the front pack of about fourteen runners.

cheering-for-amy_leading-the-front-pack-midrace.jpg

Amy Cragg (nee Hastings) has qualified to represent the USA at five global championships since 2011 in three different events. She was fifteenth in the 5,000 meters at the 2011 Daegu World Championships. She was eleventh and fourteenth in the 10,000 meters at the 2012 London Olympics and 2013 Moscow World Championships. She was ninth in the Marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Cragg is no stranger to competing in these big races. She has made steady improvements but hadn’t yet truly contended for a spot on the podium. Going into this race her personal best in the marathon was 2:27:03, only the twenty-second fastest time out of all the competitors. But that’s why they run the race.

We decided to move closer to the finish line to cheer. Malinda picked a spot on a tough uphill section that we later estimated was about one kilometer from the finish. “This is where she’ll need cheering the most,” Malinda reasoned as we found a spot on a barricade to tie our USA flag. I found a wifi signal and started to monitor Twitter for race updates.

When these last two tweets came through, I told Malinda to get ready because from the time stamps I could tell they were only one or two minutes away.

cheering-for-amy_waiting-at-the-hill-with-1k-to-go.jpg

Here came the lead motorcycle, then the truck photographers, and, after a small gap, the Toyota with the Seiko clock displaying the running time of the race on top. Chelimo and Kiplagat ran by, but I hardly noticed them. I leaned over the barricade and craned my neck to try to see around the corner. There they were, Cheyech with Cragg a few steps back. “Come on, Amy!” we shouted, “Dig deep!” She had a determined look on her face as she attacked the hill. At that point a man in a blue Nike shirt sprinted by and yelled to Amy, “She’s slowing, Amy. She’s all yours.” I looked at Malinda and said, “That’s Amy’s husband.”

 

Cheering for Amy_still in 4th

We quickly untied our USA flag and took off running, trying to keep up with the husband (Alistair Cragg). Alistair is a former elite runner himself and I was trying not to spill my coffee, so we didn’t keep up. Then I saw a bar and thought that we should go in and see if they have a television. Right as I got to the door, Alistair came out. A man wearing a red Bowerman Track Club shirt was with him. Since they were leaving, we knew there was no television in that bar so we didn’t even go in to look. We all took off running in the direction of the finish line. I started putting it all together and realized Bowerman Track Club shirt guy was Cragg’s coach, Jerry Schumacher. Somehow Jerry and I got slowed down by some slow moving pedestrians and Alistair and Malinda got ahead of us and out of sight. We passed another bar. I looked all around and didn’t see Malinda. I thought to myself, “Do I go in the bar or keep running down the street?” As I contemplated my decision and the possible ramifications of each option, I heard a voice shout, “Jerry, they got one!” We turned and saw Alistair pointing inside. So, it was Jerry Schumacher. But more importantly, The Liberty Bounds had a TV!

Jerry and I raced inside. I glanced around trying to figure out if Malinda was there or not. Initially I didn’t spot her but then I heard her voice, “She’s got it!” We were all staring at the television and screaming for Amy. “Where’s the finish? How much farther?” Alistair asked. “It’s just on to the Bridge,” I shouted back. I did compose myself to take this wonderful picture of Jerry, Alistair, and Malinda gazing at the screen.

Cheering for Amy_Alistair and Jerry

After Amy crossed the line in third, Jerry and Alistair hugged. Malinda bear hugged Ailstair and told him congratulations. Jerry pointed at Alistair and shouted, “That’s the husband of third place.” And then Alistair shouted, “And this is the coach!” I patted them on the back as they took off running towards the finish to join Amy.

Malinda and I looked at each other and said to each other, “Wow!”

The end of the Bolt era, but not the moment track & field wanted

The end of the Bolt era_UslainSaturday August 5, 2017 was the 100 meter final at the 2017 World Championships. Usain Bolt had already announced that this would be his final individual race (he will still race in the 4X100 relay next week). With thirteen individual gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters from the Olympics and World Championships, this was a much anticipated finale for track & field’s biggest star.

If Bolt were to win, he would go out in style, doing what he has done almost without fail since 2008 – WIN. There would be loud cheering, perhaps as loud as it was when the Brit’s own Mo Farah won the night before. There would be throngs of photographers following him, imploring him to do his famous “Bolt Arms” pose. The Jamaican fans would cheer wildly. Bolt would take a long, circuitous lap around the track that would both be a victory lap and a farewell lap.

On the other hand, 21-year old American Christian Coleman, owner of a 9.82 personal record that makes him the fourth fastest American in history, seemed ready to beat Bolt. Perhaps a Coleman win at these World Championships would represent an official “changing of the guard” – Bolt passing the baton to his heir apparent as sprint king.

Either scenario would give track & field a signature moment.

But instead, track & field got an eyesore of a moment.

Justin Gatlin, an athlete mired with doping allegations and drug suspensions in his past, was the man who beat Bolt in Bolt’s last race. All meet long, whenever Gatlin was introduced, the knowledgeable London fans would boo. Not the most sportsmanlike thing to do but it is hard to be critical of the booing.

If you need a refresher course on Gatlin, here it is. In 2001, while in college at the University of Tennessee, Gatlin failed a drug test. The drug was an amphetamine that was in a medicine he was taking for attention deficit disorder (ADD). Gatlin’s initial two year suspension was shortened when the details about the medication were uncovered. But he was informed at that time that any subsequent positive drug test would be treated as a second offense (which comes with a lifetime ban).

He had a very successful 2004-2005, winning the gold in the 100 meters at the Athens Olympics and winning the gold in both the 100 and 200 meters the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki.

In May 2006, Gatlin ran a World Record tying time of 9.77. However that mark was annulled after he failed a drug test from a meet in April (the result did not come back until June). Gatlin and his coach Trevor Graham (himself linked to eleven athletes who tested positive on a drug test and/or served a drug suspension) claimed Gatlin was sabotaged by their massage therapist Chris Whetstine. They claimed Whetstine massaged testosterone cream into Gatlin’s legs and that’s what led to the positive drug test. This being his second offense, should have meant a lifetime ban. However, Gatlin cooperated with anti-doping officials and because of the “exceptional circumstances” of his first offense, Gatlin was given an eight year ban, rather than a lifetime ban. Gatlin appealed the suspension and it was eventually reduced to four years.

Thus Gatlin returned to competition in 2010. All this time, Gatlin has not apologized for any of his actions nor admitted to any wrongdoing. He has carried on as if nothing happened. Which has only increased the dislike for him by fans of the sport. There is also a strong feeling among experts and scientists that once an athlete uses performance enhancing drugs, their physiology is changed and the performance enhancing benefits will last beyond the time the drug was taken. That’s the rationale for lifetime bans on even a first or minor offense.

That’s the man that won Bolt’s last race. That’s the man the London crowd has been booing non-stop. That’s why this was the worst case scenario for track & field.

The end of the Bolt era_embracing GatlinAfter the race, the crowd was stunned and didn’t know what to do. They booed Gatlin. They cheered with appreciation for Bolt. Bolt, showing class and sportsmanship in defeat, a situation he has not often faced, embraced Gatlin. Bolt took a somewhat subdued farewell lap, waving and thanking the fans. He was interviewed on the stadium big screen, where he showed nothing but class. Gatlin did not take a victory lap and was not interviewed on the stadium big screen. The medal ceremony has not happened yet. I have to wonder what will happen when it does.

The end of the Bolt era_waving goodbye

Thus, on the same night that four athletes received re-allocated medals from previous World Championships due to doping disqualifications, a person that most track fans consider a two-time drug cheat, won what was perhaps the most anticipated and watched race of all-time. Track & field has created this situation by not coming down on drug cheats as strongly as many call for. And so now they have to live with these results – Gatlin winning the race and no signature farewell moment for Bolt.

The night I won the Internet

There we are on NBC!

There we are on NBC!

I consider myself an active social media user, mostly using Facebook. The majority of my posts are about running (coaching at Sacred Heart Cathedral or running races for Pamakids) or food. When I travel to Olympics and World Championships, I also use social media to “bring my friends” with me to the meet.

The night of Shannon Rowbury’s 1500 Final, I experienced something on social media that I had never experienced before. My smartphone was blowing up with likes, comments, and tags. It was a fun experience – feeling popular and cool and loved. But don’t get me wrong, I would trade all of that for 0.53 seconds off of Shannon’s time.

It's just about Game Time...well, in 3.5 more hours.

It’s just about Game Time…well, in 3.5 more hours.

We arrived at our seats close to four hours before Shannon’s race and two hours before the meet started. There was nothing else to do, really, but be social on social media. I posted a picture of our group holding the Go Shannon banner and said “It’s just about game time.” People living vicariously through us started liking it. Shannon’s former SHC teammate, Michelle, questioned me about my timing, pointing out that it really wasn’t that close to game time….I still had three and a half hours. We bantered a little bit about what I should do to kill some time. She suggested dancing and eating.

A bit later, Jane and David Monti, who were working for NBC came to our seats. They wanted to make sure they knew where Shannon’s mom, Paula, and dad, Gary, were sitting so that the cameraman could find them when Shannon got introduced. I got introduced to Jane and David and they thought it was cool that Shannon’s high school coach was in the stands with her parents. They liked that we all had on the same “Rio makes it a trio” shirts that I had made for everyone. They liked that we had this cool “Go Shannon” banner with good luck wishes for Shannon in English, Chinese, German, Korean, Russian, and Portuguese (representing all the languages of the countries we’ve gone to, to cheer for Shannon). Malinda and I had seats in another section but it became apparent that if we stayed where we were with the Rowburys we would probably get on NBC. I decided to give up our closer seats first to sit with friends and second to become an internet star. The Monti’s took some pictures of us and wrote down some notes about us and checked the exact spelling of our names.

We tied the Go Shannon banner to the railing and some cameramen came by to see what we looked like and to check out the banner. Apparently the banner was a godsend to them because they were having troubles finding parents in the stands. But not us. We had a banner to mark our spot!

We shared with a few people via social media that we were probably going to be on NBC for Shannon’s race. I also texted my mother so she would make sure to look for me. Malinda’s mom happened to text me, so I told her too.

Shortly after, they started playing samba music in the stadium and encouraged the crowd to dance along. Never ones to be shy in these situations, Malinda and I got up and danced in the aisle. Apparently NBC was checking their cameras then because we got a text that they just saw us dancing on their cameras! I sent a message to Michelle that I had now danced so next I was going to eat something. We also talked about what color lipstick I was going to wear for the race. (Shannon wears colored lipstick for her races and at this year’s Olympic Trials I got talked into wearing lipstick for Shannon’s final. Shannon was so happy when she saw me with the lipstick on, that me wearing lipstick for her final is now a new ritual.)

Even with all this excitement and distractions, time was moving slowly. I had to force myself to find things to do. I decided that I would go to the bathroom at 8:00. At 9:00 I planned to eat my sandwich. In between I must have checked my phone every two minutes. Amazingly there were usually a handful of new notifications to look at. I told Malinda that when the men’s 200 semi-finals started (the event before Shannon’s) we would put on our lipstick.

Finally the 200’s started. Out came the lipstick. Malinda put it on herself first and then I puckered up and she began putting the lipstick on me. As she did, I could see out of the corner of my eye, ALL the other men in our group (Pablo, Gary, Alan, and even our driver Leandro) got up and went to get a beer. Not in touch with their feminine side, I guess. Wimps!

Pucker up, it's time for the race.

Pucker up, it’s time for the race.

Of course now that the lipstick was on, that meant pictures. And if you don’t post it to Facebook, it didn’t happen. So up go some pictures of me and the women (Malinda, Paula, Chin, and Christy), puckering up and showing off the lipstick in support of Shannon. That started generating more likes and comments than little ol’ me has ever seen before.

Finally the race was about to begin. We knew the NBC camera was on us now. We cheered wildly when Shannon was introduced. I knew we must have been on the live stream feed because my phone buzzed with a Facebook Messenger message that someone had seen us on TV. I got a text message but didn’t read it. I glanced at my phone and I had ten new notifications since I looked at it last about 30 seconds ago.

Several people have said that I got introduced as Shannon’s father. I think the announcer said, “That’s Shannon’s mother Paula, on the right there applauding and her father with the camera.” In the shot at the moment, I am holding up my phone taking a picture. Shannon’s dad, Gary, is actually in that same shot, hiding behind the bars with a real camera (Nikon strap around his neck) with a large lens. So the announcers may not have erred. But based on a couple of Google searches that found their way to my blog (including “is shannon rowbury half asian american”), I think many people were confused.

But back to the race, it was time to cheer for Shannon. Our whole section caught on as to who we were rooting for and chanted “Shannon! Shannon! Shannon!” on every lap. It all happened so quickly. We were all talking to each other but probably none of us listening to any of us. The nervousness was incredible. I remember Pablo telling everyone that it was okay, when Genzebe Dibaba, Faith Kipyegon, and Laura Muir pulled away, “they’ll come back to them.” With 300 to go, I remember yelling, “It is okay there’s still plenty of time left in the race. She only needs twenty seconds to catch them.” With 200 to go, I remember saying “She’s still got 30 seconds left.” That’s when she really started moving up. It was hard for me to really identify anyone else in the race but I could tell that Jenny Simpson was one place in front of Shannon and they were both moving up with about 150 to go. With 100 to go, I think they were in fourth and fifth but looking like it would only be a matter of time until they passed Sifan Hassan, which they did with about 75 meters to go. Right then I think we all thought Shannon had the bronze. With about 50 meters to go, I had to make a decision – our seats were beyond the finish line and it was going to be hard to see who was ahead of who if the finish was close. Should I keep watching the track or should I turn and look at the big jumbotron screen. I saw others in our group turn to look at the screen so I did, too. With 25 meter to go, all of a sudden it looked like Simpson was matching Shannon’s speed. Shannon wasn’t gaining ground anymore. She was going to be fourth.

After the race, we all felt the same thing. We knew she had given it her all. She was fourth in the world, which is pretty darn amazing. But we knew she was going to be bitterly disappointed.

I knew I needed to post something on social media. You can’t be jabbering all night in anticipation of a race and then just because the race isn’t what you dreamed it would be, not post something. But I needed to say the right thing. A lot of details weren’t necessary. But it needed to be from the heart. Then it came to me. “So close. And oh so proud.” I showed it to Malinda to make sure she thought it was OK, and then I posted it.

It was around that time, that things started getting crazy. The post itself generated a lot of likes, loves, and comments. Then I noticed that people  that

Have to admit I teared up reading this.

Have to admit I teared up reading this.

had seen us on NBC were posting screenshots and even video of us on television. E-mails and texts were flying in. The kids on the SHC team were communicating with me via something called “Schoology.” One thing was clear, we had generated a lot of excitement and interest among our friends and that made me really happy. It was as if all of them were in the stadium with us and it felt great to be with so many friends at that moment.

One thread on Facebook from Jenny H that Christine B commented on made me tear up in the stands – Christine B said that I would probably go to Mars to cheer for Shannon (I would….and like Gary said, I would find space on the banner to write Go Shannon in Martian).

When we got home, the notifications kept coming. One screenshot in particular moved us both. It was our banner. This banner that has traveled everywhere with us and has come to represent cheering for Shannon to us. “After all these years, it made it onto international television tonight for the world to see,” Malinda said.

Our banner's moment of glory on international television.

Our banner’s moment of glory on international television.

Malinda and I responded to a few messages and then finally around 2:30am, she said, this isn’t going to slow down, I think we just need to go to sleep. Of course the next morning I awoke to an all-time record for me, 35 Facebook notifications.

I think Erin K said it best in one of her comments. Andy Chan: you totally WON the internet! Maybe I did. It sure was an unforgettable night. I need to go charge my phone.

Thanks, Erin. #MadeMyDay

Thanks, Erin. #MadeMyDay

2016 Olympic Trials – What I Wasn’t Expecting

Posted in Race/Meet Report,USA Track & FIeld by Andy Chan on August 12, 2016
Tags: ,

The age-less Bernard Lagat makes his fifth Olympic team

The ageless Bernard Lagat makes his fifth Olympic team

The beauty of the Olympic Trials is that you never know what’s going to happen. Between July 1 and July 10, 2016, I saw plenty of things that I was not expecting to see.

  • I did not expect to see two high school boys make the men’s 200 meter final, be seeded in lanes four and six for that final, and come in fourth and fifth in the race. Remember the names Noah Lyles and Michael Norman.
  • I did not expect a high school junior to make the Olympic team in the women’s 400 meter hurdles. Sydney McLaughlin is only 16 years old. Look for her in Rio.
  • I did not expect the age difference between the first and second place finishers in the women’s high jump to be fourteen years – Chaunte Lowe is 32 and Vashti Cunningham is 18.
  • I was not expecting_Richards-Ross

    Sanya Richards-Ross giving an interview on NBC and then waving to the fans

    I was not expecting_Wariner

    Jeremy Wariner acknowledging the fans

  • I did not expect to see both Sanya Richard-Ross and Jeremy Wariner pull up injured in their 400 meter races (Richards-Ross in the first round, Wariner in the semi-final). Both athletes stopped about 200 meters into their race and then slowly made their way around the track towards the finish line, in order to exit the track. In both cases, the Hayward Field crowd gave them nice ovations out of respect for all that they have accomplished during their careers. In both cases, the athletes waved back to the crowd.
  • I did not expect to see Gil Roberts false start in the men’s 400 meter semi-finals and then file a protest that allowed him to run the race and come in second despite the disqualification. When his appeal was upheld (he claimed that his false start was due to noise from the speaker in his starting block), Roberts was into the final. He got out hard and led for much of the final before tying up badly; he barely held on for second place and a spot to compete in the Olympics.
  • After watching Allyson Felix struggle in the opening rounds of the 400 meters due to injury, I did not expect to see her move from fifth place to first place with a furious final kick in the women’s 400 meter final.
  • Felix way back with 100 to go

    Felix way back with 100 to go

    Then after seeing Felix’s great 400 meter race, I did not expect to see her finish off the team in the women’s 200 meter final.

  • I did not expect the American record holder in the women’s 100 hurdles, Kendra Harrison (12.24), to not make the Olympic team (she finished in sixth place).
  • I did not expect the US leader in the 400 meter hurdles, Shamier Little, who had a 53.51 coming into the Trials, to run two seconds slower (55.64) and not qualify for the women’s 400 meter hurdle final.
  • I did not expect 2012 London fourth place finisher Duane Solomon or the newly minted NCAA Champion and junior record holder (1:43.55) Donovan Brazier to both get eliminated in the first round of the men’s 800 meters.
  • I did not expect to see a massive pile up 150 meters from the finish of the women’s 800 meters causing race favorites Alysia Montano and Brenda Martinez to fall to the track (and out of contention) or Molly Ludlow to stutter-step and then miss the top three by .04 seconds.
  • I did not expect to see a woman who only started running the 800 meter race seriously two years ago make the Olympic team. As recently as 2014, Chrishuna Williams ran a lot of 400 and 200 meter races for the University of Arkansas. Her two 800 races in 2014 were 2:09 and 2:06. In 2015, she focused on the 800 and brought her PR down to 2:01. Now, one year later she is an Olympian after surviving the crash described above and finishing in third place.
  • Here is a time out from the “I did not expect” list for me to brag that I DID EXPECT Kate Grace and Clayton Murphy to win the women’s and men’s 800 meters. Only Malinda really knows this is true because I was jabbering about them all through the early rounds of the 800. You’ll just have to believe me. Also, after the 800 meter fall, I did expect Brenda Martinez to bounce back and make the team in the 1500 meters. OK, back to the list.
  • I did not expect the US to send three women to the Olympics in the women’s triple jump, for the first time since 1996. For this to happen Christina Epps jumped 14.17 meters on her fifth attempt, to leap (pardon the pun) from fifth place to second place and to also achieve the needed Olympic standard of 14.15 meters.
  • I did not expect to see total domination in the women’s javelin by Maggie Malone. She not only won the event with a throw of 60.84 meters but also had the second and third best throws of the meet and she would have made the team with any of her four best throws.
  • Although before the race I expected both Courtney Frerichs and Donn Cabral to make the Olympic team in the women’s and men’s steeplechase, when during the race they both fell off the pack with a lap to go, I did not expect either of them to make it into the top three. But, both had very strong last laps that booked their tickets to Rio.
  • I did not expect to see Kim Conley, one of the favorites to make the Olympic team in the women’s 10,000 meters, lose a shoe during lap nine and then spend eleven laps trying to catch the pack. She moved from thirteenth to sixth before packing it in and dropping out with five laps to go to save her legs for the 5000 meters. And then eight days later she came back and made the team in the 5000 meters.
  • I did not expect to see the carnage that took place in the men’s 10,000 meters. After 18 laps (at 7200 meters), the top six runners in the race were Galen Rupp (20:14), Shadrack Kipchichir (20:15), Bernard Lagat (20:18), Hassan Mead (20:22), Leonard Korir (20:27), and Eric Jenkins (20:31). Then things got crazy. A half lap later, Lagat pulled out of the race. Then less than two minutes later, Mead slowed down to a jog and Jenkins completed lap twenty and kept running right off the track. All of a sudden the only runners really left up front were Rupp, Kipchirchir, and Korir, as they had about a :15 gap on fourth place with five laps to go. Other than wondering if another front runner would succumb to the heat and humid conditions, the drama of the race was over.
  • After seeing him drop out of the 10,000 with six and a half laps to go, after seeing him finish in a well beaten tenth at the 2015 USA Championships in the 5000 meters, and knowing that the man is 41 years old, I did not expect Bernard Lagat to not only make his fifth Olympic team, but to win the men’s 5000 meters. A side surprise would be that, after seeing Mead’s race go awry in the 10,000 meters, I did not expect him to be leading the men’s 5000 meters down the final homestretch (only to be caught by Lagat) and qualify for his first Olympic team with a second place finish.

The beauty of the US Olympic Trials is that you really don’t know what’s going to happen. The difference between making the team with jubilation versus missing the team with utter devastation can be measured in hundredths of seconds and in centimeters. That’s what makes it so exciting. Because you never know what you are going to see. But you do know that what you will see will be pretty amazing.

An Exciting Long Jump Competition

Jeffery Henderson was in 1st place for almost the entire long jump competition

Jeffery Henderson was in 1st place for almost the entire long jump competition

The long jump competition at the US Olympic Trials on July 3, 2016 was full of drama and excitement. At one time or another, six different men were sitting in the coveted top three spot to qualify for the Olympics. The Olympic standard, second best jumps, and the wind were all major factors.

The Olympic standard in the men’s long jump is 8.15 meters. This mark must not be wind aided (the wind cannot exceed 2.0 meters per seconds). Coming into the final, all the main contenders for the Olympic team except Will Claye had the Olympic standard. Claye missed the standard by one centimeter in the preliminaries with an 8.14 jump. The general sense was that in order to place in the top three, a jumper would need to exceed 8.15 meters anyway so there wasn’t a lot of speculation about Claye not having the standard. But no one took the wind into consideration.

After the first round of jumping, Jeffery Henderson was in first place with a jump of 8.41 meters. Jarrion Lawson, who was also competing in the 100 meters on this day was in second place with a jump of 8.20 meters. Damarcus Simpson was in third place with a jump of 8.12 meters.

After the second round jumps, Henderson was still first, Lawson improved to 8.32 meters to remain second. Mike Hartfield jumped into third place at 8.23 meters.

Round three saw Maquis Dendy, who was in eleventh place and needed to move into the top eight to receive three additional jumps, temporarily take the lead with a jump of 8.42 meters. Henderson then leapt 8.59 meters to take back first place. That 8.59 would end up being the winning jump. Hartfield improved to 8.34 to remain in third. KeAndre Bates was right there in the hunt, too, two centimeters back with an 8.32, although, he, too, lacked the Olympic standard on a legal jump (non-wind aided).

Somewhere in here, Lawson checked out from the long jump to run the 100 meter semi-finals, where he ran 10.01 to qualify for the 100 meter final.

Jarrion Lawson had a busy day, long jumping and running the 100 meters.

Jarrion Lawson had a busy day, long jumping and running the 100 meters.

In the fourth round, Henderson remained first. Lawson had his best jump of 8.58 to move into second place, one centimeter behind Henderson, where he would remain for the rest of the competition. Lawson’s jump made him just the ninth American to ever jump over 28 feet (28 feet, 1.75 inches) with legal wind. Feeling secure that his spot to Rio in the long jump was safe, Lawson would pass his last two jumps to rest for the 100 meter final. Denby, already hobbled from an injury suffered at the Prefontaine Classic, re-injured himself, pulling up on his fourth attempt. His mark remained 8.42 and he was now third. Also during this fourth round, Hartfield improved to 8.39 to be fourth, three centimeters back. Claye jumped 8.38 but it was wind-aided so did not count as an Olympic standard. So Claye was fifth, just four centimeters out of third but still lacking the standard.

In the fifth round, Henderson and Lawson remained in first and second place with their 8.59 and 8.58 respectively. Claye tied Dendy with a jump of 8.42 meters. The good news for Claye was he owned the tie-breaker with Dendy by virtue of the better second best jump 8.38 vs 7.75.The bad news for Claye was that this 8.42 was very much wind aided (+5.0 m/s) so he still lacked the Olympic standard.

With one round of jumping remaining, this was already a historically good long jump competition with six jumpers over 8.30 meters. This is what the scoreboard looked like:

  1. Henderson – 8.59
  2. Lawson – 8.58
  3. Claye – 8.42 (ahead with better second best jump of 8.38; no Olympic Standard)
  4. Dendy – 8.42 (behind on worse second best jump of 7.75; injured and unlikely able to jump anymore)
  5. Hartfield – 8.39
  6. Bates – 8.32

Somewhat unceremoniously, no one improved on their jumps in the last round. Claye, more needing the wind to die down so he could jump 8.15 legal (i.e. NOT wind-aided), jumped 7.93 meters and it was again wind-aided anyway. Lawson passed to save energy for the 100. Hartfield was not able to improve to move into the top three. Dendy passed due to the injury. Henderson did not improve on his mark.

Henderson, Lawson, and Claye would be the three medal winners.

Henderson, Lawson, and Dendy would be the three qualifiers for the Olympic long jump.

Lawson would place seventh in the 100 meters shortly after the long jump ended. Six days later Claye would win the triple jump competition to earn a spot to Rio in a different event.

But the story was not over. On July 29, Dendy pulled out of the Olympics due to the injury and Hartfield was named as his replacement.

This long jump competition that began on July 3, had at one time or another six different athletes in the Olympic-qualifying spots. Finally, on July 29, the US Olympic long jump team was set. Henderson, Lawson, and Hartfield will be the three Americans jumping in Rio.

Next Page »