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Step 1: Overcoming Barriers
(posted on 05/12/10 at 11:38 am CDT, updated on 05/27/10 at 10:22 am CDT)
If there is one running moment that is completely burned into my memory, it is the first time I got to run a steeple race. In New York, some of the boys on my team were allowed to compete in the 3000m steeplechase at invitationals. I abhored the fact that the boys could steeple for two main reasons: 1) it was not fair! and 2) I was a darn good hurdler but I got my butt kicked in the 400 hurdles and I had no outlet for my hurdle "skills" as a distance runner. Plus, it looked bad ass.
I went to a clinic and learned how to steeple (on boy's height barriers). A year later, I finally got my opportunity. We had a brand new track with adjustable barriers, and my coach had heard enough of my whining, so he added the 2000m steeple to one of our meets. For some reason, I didn't have time to practice the water barriers, and I had completely forgotten what I learned at the clinic the previous year. Complete panic set in.
Somehow I managed to make it to that starting line and overcome the desire to fake an injury. During the race, my emotions ranged from fear, to cautious excitement, to the sudden realization that I was winning! I had been having an all-around crap season up to that point and wasn't completely sold on running in college.
All of that self-doubt turned around after my first steeplechase race. I ended up running for James Madison and having a great career in cross country and track. Eventually I found myself back in Virginia coaching high school track. I went for a run in the arboretum with my dog a few weeks ago, and I started to think about the steeplechase and how much I missed it. If it weren't for that one race in high school in 1998, I may never have continued running track. I began to hatch a plan to get the steeple added to local invitationals, with the goal of having the VHSL add both the boys and girls steeple to the state meet.
Unfortunately, this part of Virginia is not exactly the distance running mecca that Upstate NY was for me in high school. It seems to me that track coaches in this area take a nap during races that last longer than a minute, and I've been told that I'm wasting my time even trying to coach distance runners around here. Well, that's the sort of thing that lights a fire under me. So I have taken the first step and enlisted the help of the more forward-thinking track coaches in the area. Dr. Fields has also given me a lot of information regarding rules and logistics, which is a huge part of convincing the meet directors to put the steeple in their meets. I will also be holding a steeple clinic this summer and next year as well.
I keep thinking about how lucky I was to have supportive coaches who thought that it was important to promote high school steepling. It's hard to believe that there are still so many high school runners who never get the chance to try it.
I will post info on the steeple clinic at Hampton University as soon as the date and time are set. Also, congratulations to Kelly Jemison of James Madison for her 3000m steeplechase win at the CAA championships!
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