Thursday’s prep roundup: Cass Tech defends PSL track title
Detroit — It’s uncommon for a sophomore to be a team captain in most sports.
For two-time PSL boys track champion Detroit Cass Tech, who won the title with 145 points on Thursday at Renaissance High, sophomore Zechariah Bailey has an even rarer title — albeit unofficially.
Bailey, also a team captain, is Cass Tech’s distance coach this year.
“We didn’t have a (distance) coach, so I had to step up and coach,” he said. “I had to step up because our coach had a baby.”
Having to coach peers, especially as a 16-year old, is a tough job, Bailey said.
“It was good, because I got to get experience, but it was tough because sometimes kids don’t want to listen to you,” he said.
Bailey shared the story of a junior with whom he clashed during a team workout.
“He didn’t want to do the workout, so I told him, ‘Either work out, or go home,’ ” Bailey said. “So he went home.”
And as for his performance on Thursday?
“I’m pretty happy, but I’m kind of upset at the same time,” said Bailey, who took second in all three of his events. “In the 4x8 (4x800 meter relay), I feel like if I practiced harder, I could’ve gotten first place.
Cass Tech track coach Thomas Wilcher said he was proud of Bailey, who also overcame some off-track issues this year.
“I’m very happy with his leadership,” Wilcher said. “I expect big things out of him next year.”
Wilcher said the team, as a whole, responded well to Bailey’s leadership. He said he was also confident in stepping back and letting Bailey lead.
“I’m just very impressed,” Wilcher said.
“I let him just do what he had to do. He listens well. The kids follow his lead.”
He said Bailey has a bright future in coaching, should he decide to pursue it. Could Bailey take his job one day?
Olympic gold medalist Darnell Hall, in his second year with Renaissance, saw his team win the girls PSL track championship with 187 points on Thursday.
“For them to be city champions when I won this, I don’t know how long ago, to be here to watch them is a blessing,” said Hall, who won gold in the 4x400 meter relay with Team USA at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.
“My number one thing, as a three-time Olympic gold medalist, is to make sure we bring back track and field.”
Hall admitted there’s a challenge to coaching his girls and not being wrapped up in the competitive feel as an athlete.
“It’s all about them, it’s not about myself,” he said. “The hardest part is to pull back my competitive edge.”
One of Renaissance’s rising stars is freshman Colbie Finch. She was on the third-place 4x800m relay and took second in the 1600-meter run and fourth in the 3200-meter run.
“I’m pretty proud of myself, especially in that 3200,” Finch said.
“I’ve never run that all season. We worked hard all season. I’m really proud of my team.”
Renaissance junior Mizan Thomas said the work ethic they’re learning from a coach with an Olympic gold medal is something that has helped fuel their success.
“Coach Hall really pushes us,” Thomas said. “He doesn’t push us too hard, but he pushes us enough to get done what needs to get done.”
Calvin Johnson, an assistant at Renaissance, coached Hall – who is also an active-duty Detroit police officer – when he ran and said it’s been great to watch Hall come full circle.
Berkley 156, Birmingham Brother Rice 169: Mike Mercier shot 37 and Jake Radom 38 for Berkley (9-0). Alec Emerson shot 39 for Brother Rice.
Al Willman is a freelance writer. Detroit News staff contributed.