CARY – A slender, wide-eyed sophomore watched two years ago as Cary-Grove senior Anthony Golowach blazed around the track at Al Bohrer Field in 48.2 seconds.
Michael Gleeson was in awe of his teammate. He was inspired seeing Golowach morph into one of the state’s best 400-meters runners.
“He kind of started the trend,” Gleeson said. “I was still running 58s, and once I saw him out there busting it, I started picking it up. Our workouts revolve around longer sprints. Cary-Grove’s starting to make a tradition of being elite in the 400.”
Golowach was fifth in the Class 3A 400 in the IHSA boys track and field state meet in 2011. Tommy Rohn was sixth and Gleeson was eighth last year. Gleeson’s goal this season is to record the best 400 state finish in school history, which means a top-four finish.
Trojans coach Layne Holter sees that as a realistic goal. Holter said he believes senior Alex Bussan could be right there in the finals with Gleeson.
“Michael’s patient, but learning to be more aggressive,” Holter said. “The 400 is kind of a controlled rage, if you will, in that you don’t spill the beans in the first 100 meters. You have to run a controlled race, but still be willing to tolerate that discomfort that the 400 invariably brings.
“Michael has a nice balance of a smooth, efficient stride that eats up a lot of ground space. He has a great physique for it and a good mind for it. Not just anybody can run the 400.”
The 400, a full-out sprint for one lap, is one of track’s most grueling events. That C-G has become so proficient in that race, winning the 4x400-meter relay in the Fox Valley Conference Meet and having three state 400 medalists in two years, is by design.
Holter is a disciple of former Baylor coach Clyde Hart, one of the nation’s foremost 400 authorities. Hart has coached such 400 greats as Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner in his 50-year career. The Trojans’ workouts are geared toward the 400, because Holter figures if one of his athletes is good at the 400, they also can move up or down.
To show just how deep C-G was in 400 runners last year, the Trojans missed the 4x400 relay finals at state by one spot … without Gleeson running with that team. Rohn, Bussan, Max Anderson and John Pearl set the FVC Meet record in 3:20.79, then ran 3:20.89 at state, the 10th-fastest time in the preliminary heats.
Holter credits former C-G assistant Dale Ankele with having a big part in the Trojans’ 400 success. Ankele now coaches at Harper College in Palatine, where Rohn and Anderson are running.
“Coach Ankele had a lot of knowledge about [the 400],” Bussan said. “We have a lot of coaching expertise here. Both of us medaling at state is definitely a possibility. It’s a big thing [to have each other]. If you have one guy ahead of everyone else, it’s easy to slack off. We can push each other.”
The styles with which Gleeson and Bussan run the 400 contrast. Gleeson holds back some early in the race to finish strong; Bussan goes all out from the beginning and tries to hang on the best he can at the end.
Gleeson, who was FVC runner-up to Rohn in the 400 last year, plans on attending Missouri or Marquette in the fall, but he will not run. He will enter the ROTC program, which will take up a good deal of his free time.
“My dad (Bob) was in the Army back in the day,” Gleeson said. “He never forced the military on me, but I have an interest in ROTC. A month ago, I spent two days at Marquette with some people in the ROTC program and that sealed the deal for me.”
So this season is Gleeson’s sprint to the finish. His distance work for taking ROTC tests, running four or five miles a night, has paid benefits with his 400 running, as well.
“I’ve never done any distance running before,” Gleeson said. “The mile in gym (class) would kill me. Once you get to a certain point, where you’re getting four or five miles and you’re tired, but you keep on going, I think that kind of translates back to the 400. Because at the end of the 400, you’re just dying, but you still have to push yourself.”
Rashad McDade was fifth in the Class AA 400 in 1998, then Golowach was fifth in the Class 3A 400 two years ago. They share the C-G 400 school record at 48.2. Those are the places and numbers Gleeson has targeted this spring.
“Since I’m not doing track in college, this is the end of my sprinting career and I really want to go out on top,” Gleeson said. “Last year, my goal was just to get to state. I was happy about that. Then, once I made the finals, I didn’t care what place I got. We had a hurdler (Brad Thornton, Class AA 300 intermediate hurdles in 2003) who won once, but we haven’t had a sprinter who finished better than fifth. I want to place in the top four. That is my goal this year.”