In Play with Tom Markowski

Track and Field

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A special coach lends valuable advice to track athletes at Lutheran North

By: Tom Markowski, June 5, 2016, 7:47 pm



Zeeland – Zach Stadnika knew he had to try something different. As a freshman at Macomb Lutheran North he was good in a number of track and field events but Stadnika had to find something that would challenge him, something that would bring out his best.

Fortunately for Stadnika there was a track coach at North who was equipped to provide the direction and the proper teaching Stadnika so desired.

Stadnika competed in four events on Saturday at the Division 2 final at Zeeland Stadium. He won the long jump with a personal-best jump of 22 feet, 4 3/4 inches. He placed in the 110-meter hurdles (14.78), an event he won at this same venue last season. Stadnika placed eighth in the high jump (6-4) and was part of the 800 relay that set a school record with a time of 1:30.88.

Stadnika’s teammate and best friend, Alex Klemm, set the Division 2 record in the high jump with a winning jump of seven feet. His best jump previously was 6 feet, 11 inches.

Lutheran North finished fourth with 33 points. Orcahrd Lake St. Mary’s won with 46.

None of the events mentioned above are Stadnika’s best.

At the same time, all of them are. He said the 110 hurdles is his favorite in a track meet such as this.

Stadnika’s main focus, and the event his trains hardest for, is the decathlon.

Thanks to his hard work and drive Stadnika is one of the nation’s best in the decathlon. As a freshman he was third at the 16-and-under AAU Nationals. The next season he placed fourth in the 18-and-under meet. Last summer at the 18-and-under Nationals held in Virginia Beach, Va., he won it. In two weeks he’ll compete in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals (June 17-19).

The person behind Stadnika’s success is North assistant coach Terry Yee. Originally from Roseville, Yee left Michigan for 23 years to coach in college. Yee returned to Michigan seven years ago and those in power at North convinced him to return to coaching.

“I started coaching (Stadnika and Klemm) when they were freshmen,” Yee said. “Zach knew he wanted to do different events. I had coached at Graceland University (Iowa), the same school that Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner was at.

“Well one day I was ready to park my car at the school and Zach starts pounding on my window. I roll down my window and he starts saying he wants to be a decathlete and this and that. I said, OK, let me park my car first.

“Thing is, he wanted to work 365 days doing this. I had to teach him some of the events. He hadn’t done many of them. He was OK in the long jump at that time. He was like 18 feet. Now he’s at 22 and more. He had never thrown the javelin, things like that.”

Stadnika was hooked. He train for his high school events and thrown in his work with the decathlon when he and Yee could find the time, which was often.

“I wanted to do that since I was a freshman,” he said. “My coach is great and I kind of wanted to do it right away.

“The 110(-meter) hurdles is probably my best event. It’s an awesome event. It’s so hard. I didn’t qualify as a sophomore.”

He set a personal best recently at the Muskrat Relays in Algonac with a hand-held time of 13.89.

Stadnika is so gifted that he qualified for nine events to compete in the regionals. Michigan High School Athletic Association rules limit each athlete to compete in just four. Stadnika laughed. He said that the other coaches at the regionals were scratching their heads trying to figure out just what four Stadnika would choose.

Yee was in on that joke.

Whether Stadnika courted Yee and vice versa, and whether Stadnika went to Yee knowing that he had worked with Jenner is kind of like the chicken or the egg and, at this point, is moot.

“When I came back to Michigan I didn’t want to be a head coach,” Yee said. “I told them that. I didn’t want to go through all of that stuff.

“Being a decathlon coach, I get to coach all my events. I never talk about winning with my athletes. We talk about loving the event. The winning comes later. They learn to love the process. Alex is like that, too. He came to me and said, I want to jump my highest. It wasn’t I want to win.”

The winning part came soon enough for both Klemm and Stadnika.