The Lost Season
Back to Earth
The 1985 St. Francis Cross Country team had made school history by finishing 3rd in the OHSAA state meet. It was the highest finish for a St. Francis team and has only been replicated one other year in 1993 (I was an assistant coach). We were riding high for the next month after this once in a lifetime CC season for the school. I like to think we still are the top SFS team because the 1993 team was runner-up in the region that we had won. We had finished the season with a 152-10 record and that has never been replicated at SFS to my knowledge.
After Christmas break, we were back at it for the 1986 track season, and it was going to be a real eye-opener for me. Since I was a football player for my first two years of high school, I never ran in the fall and winter. I did have two years in track and field competing in the pole vault and mid-distance with a focus on the 800 meter race, and once in a while the 1600m. I did very little preseason conditioning for those first two years of track, so I was heading into my junior year track season pretty fit. I had never trained with my cross country coach and teammates during track season because they were considered the long distance group. This year was going to be different because I was moving into this group and leaving my mid-distance and pole vault career behind. The funny thing is that the 800 meter race became my most hated race to run my senior year (more on that later).
Blink Of an Eye
I had a strong winter of training with the distance team every day after school and was looking for a “historical” season like cross country. I couldn’t have been further from the mark for my 1986 track season. If you are unfamiliar with how track and field works, most varsity invitationals allow for two individuals per race from a school and one relay team per relay event from each school. Well, we had two of the best distance runners in the region, and I was not as strong as I had thought in track. This was not a good situation for me going into the season.
The 1986 track season was a blur because I was mostly relegated to racing in Tuesday league dual meets, where everybody races, and JV Invitationals. I was able to compete in a few relay legs on a couple of weekend varsity invitationals, but my performances were unremarkable. I was not the “go-to” for any race, and how was that possible? I was an integral part of our 3rd place finish at the state meet, but now I was just another JV track runner. This was a huge blow to my confidence, and it will always feel like a lost season to me.
Hindsight Is 20/20
Looking back on that track season, I realized what I was going through now that I am a coach. I had come off a summer and fall of solid consistent training then took about 6 weeks off from running. After the break, I cranked it back up at the first of the year and put miles in for five sold months. I basically ran for 10 months in my 1985-86 school year, and I was beat down by the end of that mesocycle of training. For a frame of reference, I probably had 4-5 months total of haphazard training in my first two years of track
Gary was my only coach in track because coach Lewis had stepped down from track after my frosh year. I look back on it and am grateful that he guided me through that track season because I was never once injured or had to take time off at any part of my junior year. It may not seem like a big deal, but I believe this is part of the reason why there was a BIG change in my senior year. My ability to ramp up my mileage and training from almost 0 to averaging 50 miles a week for a good part of my junior year was the foundation I needed.
At the end of that season, I was dejected and physically feeling worn out. To make matters worse, one of the track coaches (not Gary) was giving out JV awards at the end of season banquet and had singled me out in front of the team. I would never say what he said to one of my runners, but his comment motivated me more than he knows. He said, “Masters is one of those runners who say I am just conditioning for cross country while he is in track season. Then says I am just conditioning for track while he is in cross country season.” I WAS PISSED!!!! I couldn’t believe he said that after all the hard work I had put in this year. It may have been harsh at the time, but I will never forget what he said because that dig was the “flip of the switch” that I needed.
I left the banquet infuriated and tossed my JV award and certificate in the trash on my way out. All I knew while I sat outside the school waiting for my mom to pick me up was...we will see a$$hole, we will see...