Two things stand out when the Motor City Track Club is at a track and field meet.
One is the bright orange shirts the team wears. Last Sunday at Ypsilanti High School, they stood out like neon.
The second thing is how they dominate relay events.
For four decades, coach Robert Lynch has spread his hard-working message throughout Detroit and this year’s contingent of athletes dot the AAU age-group categories:
■Glenie Cross III is a 10-year-old hurdler who aspires to attend Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. He runs the 80-meter hurdles and ran a time of 12.50 seconds over the weekend, which ranked him first in the Elite Youth–National Youth ranking system.
“I run it because I’m good at it,” said Cross. “I have to do it in the pentathlon. “I run the 4×100 and I long jump. I have a good coach who was a hurdler.”
Said Glenie Cross II: “He almost broke the record (Saturday). I believe it’s held by a Kansas City Chiefs cornerback named Phillip Gaines. I think that record has been held since 2002. We’re going to break it this year. He won’t run it again until the Junior Olympics. He’ll break it then.”
■Cameron Cooper, 16, is ranked No. 1 in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:04.19. He also has lowered his time in the 800-meter run to 1:52, which also ranked him first entering the week. He finished ninth in the 1,600 at last year’s Division 1 state meet.
“The practice really helps me,” said Cooper. “My coach pushes us really hard. We have good workouts and he really has a lot of experience. He’s been coaching for about 40 years and his experience really helps us. He knows what it takes to be good.”
His race of choice.
“I prefer the 800, but the 1,500 is a lot easier,” he said. “I can pace myself and I put in a lot of miles so it’s easier. In the 800, it’s more of a sprint event than a distant event.”
■There’s a reason the Oak Park High School girls are the two-time defending Division 1 state champions. You can see many of their stars wearing the Motor City Track Club orange. Oak Park scored 93 points at the final, 50 points more than second-place Northville.
Sisters Drew and Dorriann Coleman were stars on the relay teams that swept through the state finals this season. Carlita Taylor and Tamea McKelvy also are names on the relay teams that return next season. As a freshman, Dorriann finished second to teammate Ersula Farrow in the open 800 at the state meet.
Anna Jefferson’s name can be found everywhere and the Coleman’s aren’t far behind.
“My dad started running for Denby High School and he coached there, so we’re like a running family,” said Dorriann. “My sister and I started when we were 8. We were with a different team, the Motor City Striders, and we kind of drifted to Motor City. I just really like the 800. I improve in it. My dad, Derrick Coleman, ran it.”
■Mill Coleman III is the son of the former Michigan State and Farmington Hills Harrison star quarterback Mill Coleman II.
He’s also a member of Motor City.
“We were looking a track club that was near our house and local,” said the elder Coleman. “I hooked up with him (Lynch) and I started helping coach the team in practice. It’s a good organization. A lot of history. A lot of good athletes and good competition. Coach Lynch, Big Lynch is what we call him, does a great job.
“This is a big sacrifice for the kids. Track isn’t the most fun to practice. It’s probably the toughest because you’re hurting yourself every rep. This is when it’s fun when they can come out here and see all their hard work pay off and they get their medals.”
Lynch is 71 and said he isn’t nearly as tough on these youngsters as he was at his other high school stops.
His staff of Brandon Jiles, Chris Richards and son, Vernon Lynch, handle the little ones to the high school performers. Money is tight and sometimes they have to look around to find a fill-in for the relays if an athlete can’t make the trip. They travel throughout the Midwest and the South.
”I started with Motor City in either 1969 or 70,” said Lynch. “The girls are doing very well. It used to be the boys, now we’re getting more girls. When I was at De Porres and Mumford I was getting more boys from the track club.
“Our practices aren’t tough. I’m a lot milder now. I’ve toned it down a lot. My practices were tough when I was at DePorres, because I was trying to build a team. We don’t do half as much as some of these other schools do.
“Most of the kids we have are serious about track. They might do one or two other sports, but their main focus is on track. That’s the dedication we have.”
Jefferson is a beast at Oak Park and MCTC.
She was on the Knights’ 4×200-meter relay team, the 4×100 relay, finished second in the open 400 and finished second in the 200-meter dash.
“It helps lower my time and get a start on how competition is going to be at AAU meets,” said Jefferson. “It’s high intensity competition. It has helped us at Oak Park because we’re known for our relays in the nation.”
McKelvy said running for Motor City makes the high school season easier.
“I get more of a thrill running out of state,” she said. “We get a chance to run against different people. I’ve been running for five years. This is my second year here. I was running with PAL. We do more stuff out of town. The workouts are pretty intense. I enjoy it. I miss a little bit of my summer, but I’m used to it now. My friends support me so they’re OK with it.'”
The team is hosting a USTAF event on July 18 at Oak Park High in an effort to raise money to attend the AAU Junior Olympics in Hampton Roads, Va. Events start at 9:30 a.m. and admission is $3.