Track Roundtable: Claypool talks with Markuson

By on July 22, 2010

Editor’s note—To further commemorate the noteworthy accomplishments of the recently completed track season, in which Kaneland’s team finished second in the state, the Elburn Herald is pairing a Knights track personality from years past, and an athlete who is a recent graduate. Their comparing of stories and memories will be a regular feature this summer. Mark Claypool is Chairman and COO of Optima Worldwide Limited. He was a member of the class of 1977 and is the all-time leader in points garnered for the Kaneland Boys Track team. Claypool went on to compete for the University of Illinois track team and was a Big Ten champion and All-American. Multi-event athlete Logan Markuson is second all-time for points gathered in Kaneland boys track and is joining the University of Minnesota track team in the 2010-2011 school year.

ELBURN HERALD (EH): Mark, you came along and gave this year’s team whatever experience and wisdom that you could give them. How did your arrival to the team this year come about?

Mark Claypool (MC): I’ve been watching the teams over the years. Coach Drendel and Coach Baron have asked me to come in and speak to the team at different parts of the year, and I used to run against Logan’s dad,
Jay, and he ran for Batavia. So we got to know each other pretty well back then, and I’ve watched Logan since he was a freshman and seen how well he was doing at scoring varsity points. I was interested in Logan’s progress and saw how well the team was doing as a whole, and saw that this team could really do something down at county and State.

I wanted to be there somehow and support them and show them that Kaneland history lives on and that somebody from the past cares about it. So, I went to a couple of the meets, and initially nobody even knew I was going to be there except for Mickey Marin, a sophomore who actually found me on Facebook and asked how to run a 400, and so I gave him some pointers and went out to see how he and the team would do, and went to the Peterson Prep first. I had a chance to see some of the other guys run, and saw Logan come out of the starting blocks and thought he might need some pointers. So a couple of the guys and I struck up a friendship and to know I was there to support them.

I went to the County meet as well and thought they had a real shot to be the first team since ’75 to win. It’s real hard to compete against big schools like that and to have the kind of showing Kaneland had. They gave it their best.

Anyway, I was interested in the team as a whole and then in the individuals as I got to know them, just because they’re quality young men and they worked hard and the coaches all said it was a special group. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of team.

EH: Talking with Baron for the Preview article in March, he mentioned the team had a very high ceiling. He didn’t know how far they’d go, but that they were capable of great things.

Logan Markuson (LM): Definitely. Back in seventh or eighth grade we had like eight kids in track, I think it was 12 actually. But our coach called us “The Dirty Dozen.” I knew that as our group moved through high school, as a group like that moves through high school, you become friends. We hung out throughout the years and that was nice. It was nice to see how we worked out and how we progressed during those four or five years. I think just having that friendship and training, it just went hand in hand.

EH: Did your team have a senior core that you came up with, similar to Logan’s?

MC: Yeah, we had a pretty good cross-section. Back then we seemed to have sophomores, juniors and seniors all participting, but we had a pretty good core group of seniors, in the 4×880 relay and the 4×440. We had a good group of seniors for sure in ‘77. In ‘75, we had the Ackermans, the Bishops and Larry Will. A big thing for Bruce Pederson was senior leadership. He always talked about that as a key.

EH: With both of you being relay guys, you hear people often say the 4×400 is the biggest event of the meet. Describe what you go through in a very competitive event like that.

MC: Often times, it can decide who finishes first or second or third.

LM: We came down to a few of those this year.

MC: There’s always a lot riding on it. There’s a lot of pressure on those four guys to go out and perform and not drop the baton. It’s something where the teams all know that this is it. It’s often the last race, and you’re performing as a group. As you get to the end, you see your team colors and the team is jumping up and down. I never heard a whole lot. I never paid too much attention to the buzz but I could tell there was excitement. At State championships there was always the roar of the crowd, but you’re in such a zone you don’t even pay any attention. For us, that’s what it was like, and I saw it was like that downstate for you guys.

LM: Yeah, it was like that for us. In the 4×4, it’s definitely lots of pressure. I like to think of it as a “who’s got the most guts” kind of thing. It’s at the end of the meet, and some of these bigger schools like to run a fresh team. For a smaller school like us, we’re coming back after two or three races. It’s like “this is my last event of the night and I don’t have to run any more,” and lay it all down on the field.

EH: Can the finish dictate your mood for the week, or how you practice leading to the next meet?

LM: Yeah, it can a little. In indoor conference, I was supposed to run the 4×4, and was having some injuries, and ran on a different team. It was a two-point difference headed into that race, and our alternate team won it. That whole week, going into our first outdoor meet, we were stoked. We were like “that was amazing.” Training ahead, it just sets the mood for the whole week.

We just came off of that and see what we could do next week.

EH: Coaching has to be quite strong in a season like this. What did your coaches stress and what kind of personality did they show while coaching?

MC: Track and field is so diverse. You’ve got weight events and pole vault, hurdles, sprinting. Every one of these events has it’s own set of techniques. It’s a very difficult thing for a finite group of coaches to be real good jacks-of-all-trades. But Kaneland’s been very fortunate over the years. Back when I was there, Bruce Pederson was an icon, and everybody looked up to him. He’s still my greatest mentor, and I still talk to him a couple of times a year and he’s in St. Augustine, Fla. He would set the tone mentally.

LM: I’ve loved the coaching. It’s not just “go to practice and do your workout.” It’s “go to practice, and if you’re feeling bad, give them a call.” They’re not just your coaches, we really got to develop a friendship. Just the time and effort they put into it, you can tell they’re really dedicated. I would think it’s hard to do with a family and everything. I was fortunate to have such great coaches. I really don’t think I’m going to find something like this anywhere else.

EH: Mark, you competed in Big Ten track, what was the time like for you and what can Logan expect?

Claypool and Markuson

Knights track great Mark Claypool shares some mementos from his athletic career with KHS standout Logan Markuson at the Elburn Herald office. Photo by Ryan Wells

MC: Well, I went down to the University of Illinois on a full ride. It is a whole different ballgame. You’re suddenly living on your own, you’re away from family, and your freshman year is a whole different scenario. It becomes almost a profession that you’re doing, because you’re expected to be there at such and such a time and you arrange your class schedule around that. You get tutors to help you because you’re spending so much time in the afternoon and early evening, and you’re really working hard. With what Logan’s going to be doing, decathlon and heptathlon indoors along with everything else he’ll do, he’s going to be working on an awful lot of stuff. It is entirely a different ballgame. You’re going from a team with some real standouts like Logan with some success at State, and you’re amongst others who also are at the top of their game. All of the sudden, you’re not just a standout on your team. You’re one of many, many fine athletes on a team of fine athletes. So, it’s an eye-opener the first time you run and you’re wondering “why is everyone right here with me?” Leave your letter jacket at home, don’t take it to school there. That was high school, now you have to perform at an entirely different level. Minnesota’s a powerhourse and returning Big Ten champions.

LM: I’m looking forward to it. I know, with the different ballgame, how busy it’s going to get. I’ve already kind of scheduled my classes, and I’ll probably have to work out in the mornings. Then class and then practice and maybe another class. They expect you to study two hours for every hour you’re in class.

EH: It’s only for four years, though.

LM: I’ll catch up on sleep when I’m older.

MC: Time management’s going to be key. It’s not just going to school, it’s school and athletics in there.

EH: In college sports, you’re not looking at a three-month season, especially nowadays. It’s almost a year-round profession.

MC: Absolutely, even in high school, you had to find something to keep yourself in shape. We were typically running three-lappers around the school. We would get heavy sweats and wrap towels underneath in the wintertime. We were outside in January and Feburary, below zero. I played basketball my freshman and sophomore years and that kept me in shape in the offseason. After sophomore year, I went to Purdue basketball camp and got hurt.

EH: Was Gene Keady not happy?

MC: Well, Bruce Pederson wasn’t happy. He said, “okay, that’s it. No more basketball for you.” I got my cast off in August and couldn’t run on it just yet, so I went out for the golf team.

EH: Mark, it obviously meant a lot to come back and be involved. Logan, can you see yourself coming back in 30 years if asked?

LM: If I was asked to come back and coach or do something else, I’d be happy to. My mom told me that she sat next to Mark Claypool at the Kane County Meet, and said he’d be willing to work with me on starts and I was just like, “Mark Claypool? That’s awesome.” I’d love to come back and help any way I could. Just because it’s really cool when others come back to share their memories.