Boys track and field: Harvest Christian finds new formula to win state title
Steve Bland isn't the first coach to use a Vince Lombardi quote to motivate his team.
The leader of the Harvest Christian boys track and field team is the latest coach to find success from it.
"We tell our team we are going to chase perfection and chase it relentlessly knowing all the time we won't attain it, but along the way we will catch excellence," said Bland, quoting Lombardi.
That summed up last week's Class 1A state track and field meet that the Lions won -- giving Harvest Christian its first track state title.
Harvest Christian scored 51 points to finish ahead of Salt Fork (38), Cowden (37), Niles Northridge Prep (37) and the rest of the field.
"Certainly, we relish that moment and something that will stay with us for a very long time," said Bland, the only coach the Lions have had in their 10 years of existence.
"It's satisfaction. You set a goal and work really hard and stay focused and stay committed and stay passionate about that goal and enjoy what you are doing -- and then you finally achieve it. You feel proud you accomplished something significant but deep down you feel satisfaction. It's a peaceful feeling."
Bland said the Lions used a unique formula to win the championship. Many past team champions get there with excellent sprinters who also score points in the jumps.
Harvest scored almost all its points from its distance runners.
Senior Mathew Olech won the 1,600 and took second in the 3,200. Sophomore Daniel Winkelman finished fifth in both events.
Two relays -- the 3,200 and 1,600 -- took third. Daniel Doby, Cannon Lambert, Hayden Colclasure and Alex Powell ran the mile relay, and Colclasure, Carson Welsh, David Peterson and Lambert made up the 2-mile.
Colclasure also took second in the 800, and the Lions' only field point came from Doby finishing ninth in the triple jump.
"I had a number of people comment they have never seen anyone win a state track meet with distance runners," Bland said. "We had a lot of strategy in how we executed each race and set up the next race. We feel perhaps we have stumbled onto a formula for winning."
That strategy included holding out Olech from the 3,200 relay so he was fresher to try to win the mile and two mile. That didn't quite work with Olech taking second in a close finish in the two mile, but Olech still gave the Lions 18 points in the two events.
Similarly, the 1,600 relay had the fastest time coming into the state meet but took third, and Colclasure came up just short in his goal of winning the 800.
It's just like Lombardi said -- the Lions didn't achieve perfection but caught excellence. And they have the trophy in Elgin to prove it.
"It wasn't a perfect day in anything but the mile that Mathew ran, but because of the strength we had and depth we had we were able to secure the win," Bland said. "It (the state title) represents our faith well, represents our school well, so we were happy to be able to honor our faith and our school."