Dale Donner was recently inducted into the ITCCCA Hall of Fame. Dale’s had his share of success but his legacy may be the Bureau Valley Clinic. Entering its 15th year, his clinic has experienced unprecedented success. Bureau Valley High School is a school of only 319 students. The school is literally in the middle of nowhere. Students from the “cities” of Buda, Sheffield, Manlius, New Bedford, Walnut, and Wyanet combined to form one of the best small-school athletic programs in the state of Illinois.
When Dale Donner started the clinic in 2001, 35 coaches attended. Even though Dale charged only $15 in 2001, one coach asked for a staff discount. Damn track coaches.
The Bureau Valley Clinic has grown. Average attendance has been over 150 for many years now. Dale charges $70 ($95 at the door) and it’s worth every penny.
No clinic treats its coaches to a better lunch. Dale caters pizza, sandwiches, and Mexican food that gets rave reviews.
For those of you who wonder how far the “middle of nowhere” is, just look up Princeton on the map. BVHS is 17 miles west of Princeton off of Interstate-80. Bureau Valley High School is 98 miles from Plainfield North High School. Since there is no speed limit on I-80, the trip goes fast.
Dale Donner lives in Princeton, my old hometown. I went to 4th grade though 9th grade in Princeton. I moved there in 1968 with a cigar box full of baseball cards and left in 1974 with a stereo and 40 record albums. My “Wonder Years” were spent in a tiny house at 50 E. Thompson.
The Bureau Valley Clinic has featured four former Olympians.
- Tim Broe, 13:11.77 in 5000 Meters
- Jeff Hartwig, 19’9″ in Pole Vault
- John Kraft, 55’8″ in Triple Jump
- Tom Petranoff, 327’2″ in the Javelin (WR)
This year’s clinic will feature one of the best hurdlers in Illinois history, Abe Jones. Jones competed at Rolling Meadows High School and the University of Illinois. Jones will be speaking on his specialty, hurdling.
Abe Jones had a spectacular career.
- 110 Highs 14.03 (Illinois)
- 400 Intermediates 49.58 (Illinois)
- Football 1999 rushed for 2280 yards & 30 touchdowns (Rolling Meadows)
- 110 Highs 13.7 (Rolling Meadows)
- 300 Intermediates 38.3 (Rolling Meadows)
- Rolling Meadows School Records
I am looking forward to seeing Gregg Meyers of Class 1A Elmwood. Meyers, like me, is a Knox College graduate (’93). Most people go to the “Harvard of the Midwest” to find a more lucrative career than track & field. Gregg Meyers has an outstanding program at Elmwood where he has won cross-country state championships 3 times and runners-up 3 times in the last nine years! Recently, I learned that Sandburg cross country coach John O’Malley is also a Knox guy (’01). O’Malley’s team finished 2nd last year in the 3A State Cross Country Meet. Between the three of us, we’ve won 16 state trophies. Until now I always identified Knox College with the former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta ’71 and one of the most notorious spies in U.S. history, Robert Hanssen ’63. Hanssen is now serving five life sentences for his work with the Soviet Union. Go Siwash! (now the “Prairie Fire”).
Typically I don’t pay much attention to distance coaches but this clinic features some of the best. Kevin Kramer of Shelbyville is one of my favorite distance guys because of his commitment to sprinters in the spring. Shelbyville has experienced a speed genesis in the past few years. Kevin has bought into training sprinters like cats. All high school sprint relay records have been crushed. Same with their junior high records. Kevin Kramer is a member of the “Be-Activated” cult. Kevin times 40’s and fly-10’s and has recently purchased Freelap. In cross-country, Kevin has produced two state champions. Another connection between me and Coach Kramer is the fact that I attended 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade in Shelbyville. I have vivid memories of my time at 405 S. Broadway.
High Jump coaches will enjoy hearing from Tim Thompson of Midwest Central High School. A former 6’11 3/4″ jumper, Tim coached 13 years at the college level and is USATF Level-2 Certified.
One of the top girl’s coaches in the state, Todd Volkert will speak on “Starts and Acceleration”. Volkert has caught lightning in a bottle at Sherrard High School where he has won 11 Class A Sectionals. His team won the state championship in 2007.
On a side note, why does track clinic attendance seem to be 95% men? Where are the women coaches? I’m not trying to start a war here, just an observation.
Dan McQuaid of Wheaton North will speak on the shot and discus. In 20 years, McQuaid has become one of our state’s best technicians. A self-described “obsessive” when it comes to the throws, McQuaid has coached some spectacular athletes. Chireal Jordan threw 184’11”. Two-time state champion Akim Millington threw 186’4″. Shot putter Aaron Pollack threw 59’9″. Dan is also a writer, doing blogs at ITCCCA.com and mcthrows.com.
Tyler Gaumer of Sterling comes from one of those pole vaulting families. Tyler Gaumer was a terrific athlete who played college football. As a football player at Sterling, he passed for 1972 yards and scored an amazing 253 points. In college, Gaumer vaulted 15’11 3/4″. Tyler will speak on the Pole Vault.
Creston Fenn (Augustana ’02) was honored as an ITCCCA Coach of the Year for 2014-15. His girl’s team at Annawan-Wethersfield won the 3rd place trophy last fall in 1A. Creston will discuss “The Essentials of a Cross Country Program”.
Jeff Ohlson of Bureau Valley (North Park ’96) is a throws coach. Ohlson threw at Princeton under the legendary Steve Kiser. Ohlson coached 2001 State Champion Michael Behrens. I counted at least ten Ohlson-coached throwers who have been all-staters. Jeff Ohlson has recently presented at an ITCCCA Clinic. Jeff will speak on “Beginner Shot & Discus”.
This week was supposed to be the week that I re-wrote and updated my clinic notes. This article has set me back. That’s alright, I will get my ten pages of notes done by Friday. It recently dawned on me that everything I believe about coaching track & field is relatively new. Back in 1995, I won my first state championship. Twenty years later, my entire manifesto has changed. You’ve heard about how we are basically a different person every seven years? You’ve heard how all our cells die and get replaced every seven years? Well, that describes my coaching. My 7’2″ high jumper from 1995 would not recognize his old coach. To paraphrase Woody Allen in the movie Annie Hall, “We are like sharks, we either keep moving or we die.”
I will speak three sessions, each session lasting 70 minutes. Two of the sessions are meant to be “beginner” sessions but I can’t remember which two. Ha. In a way, all of my sessions are “beginner” sessions. “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” -Einstein
In my first session, I will explain “Feed the Cats” … how to attract great athletes to your track program and how to keep them happy and healthy. You don’t win championships with your school’s B-team. For the first time, I will go into depth on the subject of “Data Driven Speed Training”. I will display and demonstrate both of Freelap’s timing systems, Sprint Coach and Pro Coach, and give my opinions on each. Sprint relay technique and strategy will be explored in detail. I will also give simplified (but significant) coaching ideas concerning starting blocks, drive phase, max speed, speed drills, and hurdling. As a bonus, I will tell you everything I know about “Be-Activated”. I plan on activating someone as a demonstration. And, if you’ve heard me speak before, you can be sure there will be lots of rich organic fertilizer to promote growth. Ha.
Like all clinics, I wish I could hear every speaker and attend every session. It is impossible to see more than five. Even if you skip lunch, you will miss ten presentations. Maybe Dale will consider a 15-hour clinic marathon someday.
You might want to go to Princeton the night before. The one good hotel in Princeton is the AmericInn, (815) 872-5000. Make sure you ask for the clinic rate. The speakers will have their dinner at 7:00 pm at the Prime Quarter (grill your own steaks, like Alexanders). The meal will be finished by 8:00 or so. Coaches attending the clinic will be free to mingle with the clinic speakers after 8:00. Who knows? Maybe the best clinic session will be the one beginning at 9:00 in the lobby of the AmericInn on Friday night.
One last thought. Why not send one of your assistants to Bureau Valley? Tap into your track & field slush fund and send one of your “already-know-it-all” young guys to five hours of track & field instruction. Encourage your distance coach to drink some sprint Kool Aid. I may be a sprint guy but I’ve attended dozens of distance presentations. I even liked a few. Once I attended a session by North Central’s distance guru Al Carius. 20 years ago at the University of Indiana, Al Carius changed the way I coached. His discussion about the motivational value of personal records led to my present-day “Data Driven Speed Training”.
And how about your field event coaches? Maybe it’s time they put track back into track & field.
Speaking of sending assistants to clinics, I am sending my son Quinn (PN hurdles) and Dr. Brian Damhoff (PN jumps) to the Douglas Heel 2-day seminar on that same weekend. Alec Holler (Edwardsville hurdles) will also be there. Shelbyville coach Kevin Kramer is sending his assistant, Chris Mosley, to learn the Heel-Korfist magic. While your staff is doing laundry and dishes, other staffs are enthusiastic learners.
Ok, if that was my last thought, here is my last story.
Dale Donner was recently inducted into the ITCCCA Hall of Fame. For those of you who missed the remarkable speeches back on January 10th, I will repeat one of my favorite stories told by Dale Donner. It speaks of why we coach.
Dale Donner lives in Princeton and coaches at Bureau Valley. At the 2008 IHSA State Meet, Dale’s daughter, Princeton’s Alyssa Donner, was waiting to receive her 4th place pole vault medal, one of those moments a parent will never forget. As Alyssa waited, Coach Donner’s 400 runner, Bureau Valley’s Alisa Baron, won the 400 setting a new state record, 55.66. Dale choked up when he told the story. One year later, Alyssa Donner became a state champion, winning the pole vault at 10’10”.
Hope to see lots of track coaches Saturday, February 7th.
By the way, Dale Donner has agreed to extend the $70 entry fee deadline. As long as your check is post-marked by January 31st, you are good to go. Otherwise, it’s $95 at the door.
Text to 630-849-8294