Toledo Christian senior distance specialist Delainey Phelps grudgingly agreed to try an intensive offseason workout program prior to the 2012 track and field season.
The net results were so rewarding she became a believer and, despite a setback a few months back, Phelps hopes to reap more of the benefits of her latest winter work by the end of this season.
Last June, Phelps ran the anchor leg on the Eagles’ 3200-meter relay team, which placed first at the Division III state meet. She also took third in the 1600 (5:05.55), and was seventh in the 3200 (11:23.91).
Her work — along with the third-place finish of then senior teammate Krista Wood in the 3200 — helped TC secure a fourth-place team finish in D-III.
Phelps got off to a late start to her training this year after sustaining a stress fracture in her left hip in January. She was sidelined for two months — except for some daily rehab work on an elliptical machine — before being cleared to return to running last month.
“She’s back now, and she’s running well,” TC coach Paul Barney said. “She’s doing a lot better than I expected her to. Actually, she’s ahead of last year’s pace, so I think she could be in the top two at state in both of those events.”
Phelps had to be convinced the training between the fall cross country season and the spring track season would be worth the effort.
“Last year was the first time I actually trained over the offseason,” Phelps said. “I had like one hard workout, and then a set number of miles during the week. Then I just increased until the season started.
“People had set goals for me, and I didn’t believe it at all. Then I made those goals and thought, ‘Wow, I can really do this.’ So I set bigger goals for this year, and I think I can reach them. I don’t know what’s ahead for me, but I’m excited.”
After her impressive track season last year, Phelps continued the momentum by placing third in the Division III state cross country meet in November, running an 18:16.06.
“We’ve seen people come through with talent over the years,” Barney said. “The ones that come through at state for us are the ones who do the offseason work.
“For the first time last year, Paige did the offseason work, and it showed. She realized it was year-round thing, and what she did last year just fueled her for this year, in cross country and in track.”
Barney was also impressed with Phelps’ quick recovery from the injury, a comeback crucial in the Eagles’ state team aspirations.
“I knew if we were going to have a chance at winning the state team title, we would need her to be in the top three in both of those events,” Barney said. “It really looks like she hasn’t missed a beat.”
TC also expects important contributions from junior hurdler Darian Westmeyer and from its promising 400 relay team.
Others girls who performed well at state last season include McComb senior Rebecca Leppelmeir (second in shot put, 40 feet, 1½ inches; third in discus, 131-5), and Van Buren senior Sarah Benson (third in long jump, 17-10½; seventh in 200, 26.31).
Among the boys in Division III, one of the area’s top returnees is Woodmore senior sprinter Andrew Shrewsbury.
The 5-foot-10 senior also hopes to reap the rewards of an offseason training, one that in his case included a major personal sacrifice.
Shrewsbury had been a starting guard on the basketball team as a sophomore and a junior before opting to bypass his senior season to focus on track. The end result, he hopes, will be a chance to run in college.
Last June, Shrewsbury placed fifth at state in the 200 at 22.91 and was sixth in the 100 at 11.47.
This was after he had won the 100 at the regional (10.96), took third in the 200 (22.28), and anchored Woodmore’s fifth-place 400 relay team, which just missed qualifying for state.
“I still love basketball,” Shrewsbury said. “I was sitting at home, trying to decide right up into October.
“At one point, I told myself I was going to play basketball. But then I started to think about what would happen if I landed wrong and came down on my ankle and tore something. Then, there goes my senior track season. That’s why I made that decision not to play basketball.”
With offseason weight training, Shrewsbury has added 15 pounds of muscle, something he hopes will increase his burst out of the blocks. During indoor track, he qualified for the combined Division II-III meet in the 60-meter dash.
“Number one, being a senior, I need to focus on being a team leader,” Shrewsbury said. “Right now we have some pretty good relay teams, and I think we can make it down to state.
“I’m looking to not only better myself, but the other runners around me. My main goal for myself is to make it back to state in the 100 and 200, and hopefully bring back a first place or at least a top three.”
Some attainable goals, according to his coach.
“I see him definitely returning to state,” Woodmore coach Brian Ryman said. “He’s running really strong.
“Andrew’s probably one of the most explosive athletes I’ve ever had to work with, especially coming out of the blocks. It’ll come down to conditioning. He just needs to hold that speed longer.”
Shrewsbury, who holds Woodmore records in the 100 (10.6) and the 200 (22.28), hopes to take those marks down to 10.5 and 21.8, respectively, this season.
Whiteford junior Miranda Johnson was the Michigan Division 4 long jump champion last season with a leap of 17-8¾. She also placed fourth in the 100 at 13.21.
“It didn’t surprise me the success she had last year because of what she did her freshman year at the state meet,” Whiteford coach Jim Hojnacki said. “Miranda is such a hard worker and a very talented jumper. She has incredible speed which she uses on her long jump.
“This season, we’re hoping for more of the same. We’re looking to her to go back to the state meet in the 100, the 200, and the long jump. She’s part of a good 400 relay team also. Hopefully she goes to state in that too.”
As a freshman, Johnson was third at state in the long jump (17-3½) and fourth in the 200 (27.02).
A varsity volleyball player her freshman and sophomore years, Johnson skipped volleyball this past fall, and dedicated more time to offseason track workouts with a personal trainer.
“I started in June,” Johnson said. “I did 21 sessions, three workouts per week. Then I played some summer volleyball. I resumed my [track] training in January, through February and March. I’m still doing it to this day.
“I notice the difference every time I run. I have improved. The training I do strengthens the body and hopefully helps me avoid injuries. I used to get shin splints, but with the training I haven’t gotten any yet this year.”
Johnson, whose ultimate goal is to continue her track career in college, has a very specific goal.
“I’m hoping for 19-2 [in long jump] this year,” Johnson said. “The Division 4 state record is 17-11. I know it’s a long shot goal, but that’s my goal.
“The long jump is my bread and butter. I like the sprints, but I love the long jump. That’s my passion. I’m hoping to clear the old records off the board at our school.”
Johnson holds the Whiteford long jump record, and shares the school records in the 100 (12.4) and 200 (26.3).
Other top competitors returning who placed at state last year include Bedford senior Josh Ortiz (eighth in D-1 boys pole vault, 13-10), Bedford sophomore Nicole Rightnowar (seventh in D-1 400, 57.76), Erie Mason senior Hannah Saul (seventh in D-3 girls pole vault, 10-4), Summerfield junior Josh Golkiewicz (seventh in D-4 boys 100, 11.56), and Summerfield senior Andrew Cilley (eighth in D-4 110 hurdles, 15.89).
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.