Saturday, May 1, 2010

Close but No Cigar

Erick Montoya finished his high school career tonight at the Florida state track meet in Winter Park.  The senior who runs for Estero High School may be the best Florida high school distance runner to never win a state championship in Florida.  Erick earned two second place finishes in the 1600 and 3200.  He also anchored his school's 4 X 800 team to fifth.

Erick had an outstanding senior season in track running 4:14.55 and 9:08.81 this season.  When you add up all of his state appearances he finished third and earned two seconds in state cross country.  On the track he placed third twice in the 3200, earned two seconds in the 3200, to go along with two second place finishes at 1600.

His coach Jeff Sommers is my neighbor.  Besides Montoya he coached Footlocker finalist Bona Jones three years ago.

Erick reminds me a lot of one of the greatest high school distance runner in Kansas who never won a state title.  Steve Shaad was a stud in the early 1970's at Bonner Springs High School.  He had the misfortune of coming up against some other awesome prep runners, Terry Glenn and Jerry Peffly.  I don't remember Steve's best times but I know he ran in the low 4:20's for the full mile and in the 9:20's for two miles.  It seemed Steve was always running second or third behind those two.

One race I remember in particular occurred in 1973 at the Kansas Relays.  Shaad had entered the boys mile steeplechase, skipping the two mile, figuring he could pick up the prestigious title.  Unfortunately Bob Christensen, who had won the boys mile the day before, had entered as well.  The two waged a great battle both bashing the meet record running 4:36 with Christensen coming out on top.  Ironically both runners ended up at Wichita State as teammates and became top steeplechase competitors, both breaking 9 minutes.

Despite the crushing disappointment Shaad toed the line 20 minutes later for the boys 4 X 800.  If my memory serves me Shaad ran the third leg, handing off to his 880 state champion teammate Mark Denning, who crushed his anchor leg giving Bonner Springs the Kansas Relays title.  It was great to see Steve Shaad celebrate.  It was as good as a state title for him.  It's a memory I will always carry with me seeing his joy because he knew his lack of a kick would probably keep him from ever topping the victory stand at state.

Montoya suffers the same problem as Shaad.  This fierce competitor lacks a great kick.  Hopefully the coaches at Florida, Montoya's next stop, will help this humble young man find his finishing gear. 

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