The Power Of The Weekday Meet

Mill Creek boys running the 4th fastest 4x1600 in state history. They ran a very fast 4x800 a few days later at a weekday meet

Full Disclosure. I'm writing this article while on a plane to probably the biggest weekend invitational in the country. And don't get me wrong, weekend invitationals can be awesome. Just look at all of the action that we saw at the 2022 Marietta Spring Break Showdown right before 95% of athletes went on vacation. That was thrilling. Or take a look at all of the crazy times we saw at the 2022 Christian Coleman Invitational where we saw the Buford boys and Westlake girls run state records in the 4x100m relay. Or any of the countless County Meets at any point in March. When you get a bunch of top athletes together, you can really see them light up the track.

But we all know that. That's not the point of this article. Instead what I want to encourage others to do in the future is setup good races at weekday meets if they get an opportunity. It's something I've believed in ever since 2014 when St. Pius X, Marist, and Woodward Academy decided to line up all of our top boys in an 800. Fireworks. Take a look at the results to see for yourself. This was back before we hired a timer, so all we had was an FAT Eagle Eye camera catching athletes coming across the line and it was my job to keep them in order during the distance races. I was absolutely panicked for the final 10-15 seconds of that race as I swear some boys went into lane 4 as they tried to pass each other in the craziest final 100m I've ever seen. I can't say with absolute certainty that I got the finish results 100% correct that night and as a result I've hired a professional timer ever since for our home meets. But the point is that all of those boys ran massive PR's in the 800 that night. It was 3 rival schools putting their absolute best runners on the line and duking it out. It was one of the most fun races I have ever seen even though it meant absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. Very few of these athletes ran a faster 800 at any point later in the season, and actually not many of them even ran the 800 at the state meet. But it's 8 years later and I still talk about that magical night, not only with coaches who were there, but with coaches who woke up the next morning and saw the results and were blown away. 

But that's not the only example I know of. 3 of the top 5 girls 3200 times came from a weekday meet this year. Or how about Mill Creek boys running the 2nd fastest 4x800 relay of the year at a weekday meet, only a few days after running the 4th fastest 4x1600 in state history. Sometimes it's just helpful to race on the track you're most familiar with, and I suspect that definitely helped the hawks out there. And speaking of the 4x800, how about this meet last year where Marist and Lovett boys duked it out in the 4x800 to some very solid pre-state times. Both relays ended up winning the state championship, something that did not look like a guarantee at the time. Or what about when the Pius and Blessed Trinity kids lined up for a 3200 at BT one random Wednesday and we saw the boys put 8 kids between 9:40 and 10:05, almost all PR's. And the girls that night ran possibly the best 3200 of the season with the top 3 ranked runners all running between 10:33-10:41, setting up one of the most epic battles in girls 3200 state history only a few weeks later. 

I'm sure if you start talking with some coaching friends, you can find all sorts of examples. My history with this is limited to mostly the experiences of my team and others I know very well. But it doesn't take much to find a coach who knows that weekday meets can produce magical performances. Next time you're hosting a weekday meet, contact the other schools and try to set up some battles. A really cool experience at Pius was one year when Stanley Dunwell lined up in the 100 against Elijah Holyfield. Holyfield would go on to play football in college and was a more accomplished sprinter than Dunwell. But on our home track, Stanley was able to beat him and was immediately swarmed by the crowd who knew what that meant, something that doesn't often happen at weekend invitationals. In that moment, Stanley was a celebrity and was smiling from ear to ear. Maybe to Holyfield it was just a practice race, I don't know. But I do know that the experience was amazing for our athlete. Because of the the friendly rivalry and respect we had for Woodward, that race meant the world to Stanley and it was so much fun to watch him enjoy it.

Weekend invitationals have their place. Obviously. I don't want to take away from them. But there's just something special about those weekday meets. And so I encourage as many of you as possible to set up some good weekday battles if you ever get the opportunity. It's been one of the most fun parts of coaching for me over the last 8 years, and I can tell the kids get a kick out of it. And tons of PR's too. 

If you have a fun story to tell, I definitely encourage you to share it on the message board. Would be fun to hear from each of you what weekday race you remember fondly.