EACH WEEK, WE’LL TAKE A LOOK BACK AT A MEMORABLE MOMENT IN PREPS HISTORY, THANKS TO THE WORDS OF THE NEWS-GAZETTE
This week: The Tuscola Classic is synonymous with the beginning of fall, and Scott Phelps had a dandy day in 2004.
Date: Sept. 19, 2004
Headline: Phelps, Illineks sparkle
TUSCOLA — Cross-country runners become accustomed to hearing a coach call out their times — and a few encouraging words — at each mile mark.
It's not a difficult task at most meets, but the 27-year-old Tuscola Classic is predominantly a street race and requires a resourceful coach to reach each mile marker before the runners.
Monticello's Jeff Butler brought his bicycle Saturday and was able to provide times for his runners as well as "get to a couple other places."
He had to like what he saw. Two Sages were among the top seven finishers in the 149-runner boys' field. Junior Scott Phelps was fourth and was the top area runner. Teammate Keith Butler was seventh, one position behind Urbana University High's Andrew Zukoski.
Jeff Butler said his runners don't always understand when they hear his voice.
"They think I'm yelling at them, but I'm yelling for them," he said.
Zukoski was appreciative of seeing some folks along the path.
"There are a lot of people at the start and finish, but with the race so linear, it gets more lonely out there," Zukoski said.
Phelps has changed his approach to the start of races.
"Last year, I had a problem going out too slow, and I couldn't catch the leaders at the end," he said.
Within the first 400 meters Saturday, Phelps was among the top five. He never relinquished his position.
"They pulled me along the first mile and a half," said Phelps, who finished the 3-mile course in 16 minutes, 4 seconds.
Phelps not only ran more miles during the summer (410) than in 2003 but he said "they were a lot better miles. I ran faster."
Zukoski had a breakout race last year at Tuscola, leading the Illineks to second place. Defending champion Cumberland repeated this year, but again Zukoski had a career-best race, helping Uni to another runner-up placing. He trimmed his personal best by 14 seconds, coming in at 16:43.
"At 400 meters, I felt good and started passing people, and I kept passing people until I was running by myself," he said. "Our whole team ran good last year, and we were trying to improve and do better."
Illineks coach Doug Mynatt liked the closeness of his top three runners (13-second split). From one through five, the split was 1:07.
"There wasn't a lot of separation," Mynatt said. "We had a good pack with the top three."
Other area runners in the top 20 were Uni teammates Kangway Chuang (12th in 16:53) and Drew Hauffe (14th in 16:56).
Ben von Behren was 25th overall (17:35) and first for Unity, which placed 10th in the team standings.