2002 Cross Country
Coach's Challenge Not Much of a Challenge for Coach
by Brad Pickering
BLUFFTON, OH - It was another cold, blustery afternoon for the Bluffton College Cross Country team as they were waiting yet another week for the Great Lakes Regional meet to draw closer. However, it was this particular Wednesday afternoon that all of the team participants were looking forward to, because it was their chance to beat "coach" in head-to-head competition. Through folk tales and legendary stories of yesteryear it has come to be known as the "Coach's Challenge." A 1600m race of skill, guts, intelligence, and luck that, when finished, had the ability to crown few people as "I Beat Coach Stanley" T-shirt owners. This masterful challenge was conducted today, Wednesday, November 6th, 2002, in a 10 mph wind and a temperature dropping through the mid to low 40's.
The race involved past coach's challenge champions on both the men's and women's sides. On the men's side, returning 2001 champion Andy Schiefer (4:44) was racing, as well as 2001 runner-up Steve Borga (4:48). For the women, it was lone returner Rachael Szydlowski who looked to improve upon her 6:10 from 2001.
As the day closed in on the 4 o'clock hour, Coach Stanley applied a heavy dose of trash talking to his athletes' ears, somehow hoping that it would affect them in some kind of negative (or positive, I mean he is supposed to motivate them) manner to ensure his win. The athletes lashed back with some bold statements like, Schiefer saying, "you see this (referring to his back), its all you're gonna see all day, boy!" Rachel Noirot threw out, "you ain't gotta chance coach, go home." Andrew Smith, with obvious nervousness said, "you gonna try and catch me coach, hun, you gonna catch me?"
The men were up first, traditional for the coach's challenge, as the wind whipped through the air. During the first lap of the race it was clear that the other men racing against coach had formulated a plan to box coach Stanley in, and that is exactly what they did. The first lap went out a little slow, but the pack up front was tight. Coming down the home stretch of the second lap the field had spread out a bit and at the halfway mark coach Stanley took the lead from Schiefer. The third lap was the same as coach Stanley controlled the pace putting distance between him and the others, except one. With 300m left in the race freshman phenom Dan Rosebrock, started to roll up, rolled up, and rolled past an exerted coach Stanley and only took 50m to do it. "At that point I knew I was hanging on for 2nd place," said coach. As the race came to a close, Rosebrock coasted in for the win in a 4:43, earning a T-shirt. Coach Stanley was the next to cross the line in 4:46.7, 3rd was Schiefer in a 4:49.8, 4th was an impressive performance by Josh Tolley in a 4:51.1. Rounding out the field in 5th was Steve Borga in 4:53.7, 6th was an "under-the-weather" Roy Kaplan in 4:57.6, 7th was Floyd Ward in 5:18.8, and 8th was Andrew Smith in 5:21.8.
The sun had set the horizon and the beginning shades of darkness were just falling on the track when the women started their race. The race went out hard from the sound of the word "GO" (it was too cold, the gun wouldn't work). Rachael Szydlowski took out the race and never looked back, distancing herself from second by 50m halfway through the race. MaryAnna Morgan ran all by herself as well in second place. Competition was a little tighter from 3rd to 7th. As the race came into the finish it was clear that the top two runners would make it under the specified time of 5:57 to officially beat coach Stanley. Szydlowski hit her splits perfect to run what she wanted and finish first with a time of 5:43.7. Coming in 2nd place was MaryAnna Morgan who ran an isolated 5:52.0. Carrie Hudecek took the honors of 3rd place with a 5:59.9, which just missed the challenge time. Not too far behind Hudecek was Jen Creamer taking 4th in a 6:06.8 and 5th was Stephanie Welch with a good performance of 6:11.6. Other finishers for the women were Lauren Borga in 6th place with a 6:12.9, 7th was Jen Niedermier with a 6:15.5, 8th was an outstanding performance by Alicia Stanko in a 6:30.0, and 9th was Rachel Noirot in a 6:42.4.
This reporter caught comments from the winners just after the races. "I told you that two-mile thing was a fluke, I own Stanley in the 1600 and under!," said an enthusiastic Rosebrock. Szydlowski said, "I'm just glad I won." MaryAnna Morgan said, "I opened up a can of Canadian whoop on coach today. Brewed it up last night and it did the trick, boy don't know what hit him!" As for coach, who ended up running a full three seconds faster than last year's challenge, he said, "it was a valiant effort by most of the team, I hope they realize that this will never be a cake walk." He added, " I just cannot believe that Schiefer started crying on the way to the training room after the race, that boy was really devastated because I beat him so bad!"
Other runners could not be reached for comment but it was reported that Jen Niedermier ran back to her room to call a boy. Also, it was reported that Josh Tolley's strategy that he formulated just minutes for before the race, didn't work. Floyd Ward was heard saying, "they all crazy round here." Alicia Stanko was unavailable for comment because she was busy hugging Roy. It was reported that Lauren Borga's mind was not on the race because of the country music awards on TV later that night. Jen Creamer had no comment. Finally, Steve Borga was reached for comment stating, "Stanley knows this race was only a bump in the road, I still own the series 3-2 in head-to-head competition. He might make me run but he can't take my freeeedddooom!"