My wife Christy and I went to watch the California CIF Cross Country State Championships last Saturday at Woodward Park. If you have never been to a cross country meet, it is a different experience. For coaches, parents, and friends, you want to see your runner at every opportunity. You have to pick places to watch as the course is 3.1 miles long.
So you watch the start. You then run to a strategic spot on the course to cheer, then run to another, then race to the finish line to get a good spot and yell your runner home. It is pretty intense, especially with a couple of thousand people gathered last weekend at Woodward.
When we saw Yosemite High's senior runner Alek Simpson running toward the finish line he was virtually alone. In those split seconds racing toward the finish, Simpson savored his accomplishments.
"I wanted to break into top 10 to be honest, but it was a great race," Simpson said. "When I saw the finish, it was euphoric. A lot goes through your mind. I passed a lot of guys and found myself in the open at the end. I heard people yelling for me. I looked over my shoulder and saw I was in a good spot. It was my last high school race and I wanted my best time. When I saw the clock (at the finish) I just ran even faster. It was a pretty amazing experience."
Simpson, who was the No. 1 ranked D-III runner in the Central Section finished 11th with a personal best 15:46. He was just one of three Central Section runners out of all divisions who finished in the top 10. Last year, Simpson placed 32nd.
The guy is all about hard work and dedication. We would see Alek many times up at Bass Lake in the summer getting in high altitude road work.
"I ran a lot up at Calvin Crest and even spent a week in Tahoe," Simpson said. "I tried to run between 50 and 70 miles per week in altitude. I spent six of 10 weeks working in altitude last summer. It paid off."
I can't wait to see Simpson's final season on the track. Actually neither can Alek.
"Yeah I am going to take a week off or so, but I am really excited about track," Simpson said. "I want to finish strong and win another track championship." Simpson should own all Yosemite distance marks by the time he graduates. At the end of last track season, Simpson was second all-time in the 800 meters, 1600m, and the 3200m. In the end, barring injury, Simpson will be the greatest distance runner in Yosemite's storied history.
Cole Popovich comes home
Former Badger football great Cole Popovich (2002) returns to Bulldog Stadium this Saturday as Utah State faces Fresno State for the Mountain West Championship. Popovich is a first year graduate assistant coach with the Aggies.
Under first year head coach Matt Wells, Utah State has compiled an 8-4 overall record and 7-1 in the Mountain West. Popovich played guard at Fresno State from 2003 to 2008. He coached the offensive line at LA Valley College in 2010. Popovich spent the previous two seasons at Fresno City College also coaching the O-line.
Cole had an amazing but injury-filled career at Fresno State. He was a freshman All-American in 2004. He was the first freshman to start for Pat Hill. That is saying something since Hill's forte is the offensive line. Hill is now the O-line coach for the Atlanta Falcons.
Popovich played in the wild 50-42 loss at USC in 2005 and won a Humanitarian Bowl in 2007 vs. Georgia Tech. Cole will certainly have mixed emotions coming home to the Valley.
Popovich coaches at an up and coming program. Utah State has overcome major adversity. Previous head coach Gary Andersen left last year to coach Wisconsin. This season the Aggies lost starting quarterback Chuckie Keaton. They replaced him with freshman QB Darell Garretson who is now 5-0 as a starter.
So here are the Aggies instead of Boise. Fresno is reeling from last week's loss to San Jose. The Bulldogs lost out on a potential BCS bowl berth worth millions, not hundreds of thousands, like most bowl games. The Bulldogs get the game at home which is huge.
I can't see Bulldog QB Derek Carr losing his last game at Bulldog Stadium. No matter what happens, Cole is in a great place and we wish him all the best.