Michael Stevens interview
GRANGEVILLE — On the track, Michael Stevens’ first breakthrough came when Grangeville High School coach Larson Anderson pushed him out of his comfort zone. In the field, years of training came to a pinnacle after a little bit of friendly braggadocio among peers one afternoon in Kamiah.
More breakthroughs came at the state track and field meet in Middleton, where he won both hurdles events and placed second in the triple jump.
All of that led to another break: a $21,000 scholarship offer from Corban University, where Warriors coach Norm Berney sees potential for Stevens to fit in what he called “a strong decathlon program.”
“We think he can score in the hurdles and help in the relays,” Berney said. “The other thing that stood out to me on the phone and when I met him at the state meet is his leadership potential. We’re very excited to get a person of that quality in the program.”
Last Thursday, July 16, Stevens told the Free Press he was drawn to Corban, a private Christian NAIA affiliate, after a campus visit. He plans to work toward a physical therapy career by way of an exercise science major and a biblical studies minor.
As for the decathlon? “That’s a pretty big undertaking,” Stevens said. “Basically, it would require constant training every minute I’m out of school and not studying, I’d be working out and training for an event. That would benefit my team more, but it would definitely be a lot more work on my part. When the college is paying you for a sport, if that’s what my coach says he wants me to do, that’s what I’ll be doing.”
Stevens has a history of achieving what he has set out to do, but also a history of doing well when coaches have presented him new opportunities.
“I started track when I was in eighth grade, and I didn’t have a clue I would be a jumper,” Stevens said. “I didn’t even want to be jumping because I was so tall and gangly, they said don’t even try it.”
“Freshman year, Mr. Loeber, Mr. Anderson, they were trying me out in different things,” he continued. “Honestly, I wasn’t all that fast, I really wasn’t. Ben Marek was still in high school and Todd [Marek] was helping coach the jumpers. One time Todd said he wanted to see me triple jump, just to see. So they signed me up for an event in Lewiston....that kind of sparked my triple jump career.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, that’s what I’m doing now,” he said. “Todd helped me a lot figuring out those first stages.”
After Todd Marek’s son, Ben, graduated, Stevens started working with Ed Jacoby, and Stevens went on to surpass Todd Marek’s triple jump record.
“Ed helped me so much with form, working out, what to work out, when to work out,” Stevens said. “If I had a question about anything I could go to him. Ed was actually there the day I jumped the 45 feet that broke the record.
“He was excited, but he was like ‘Well, you were a little high in your first phase,” Stevens laughed. “I can’t thank Ed enough for everything he did to help me get there.”
“On that third one, there were a couple of guys there and I was like ‘This is the one, this is the one,” Stevens recalled. “I was kind of joking, but I was definitely hyped about it. ...I went all out, didn’t look at the board, just ran straight... I remember landing. I felt good about it, and when I looked back, my mind was just blown.”
Stevens’ hurdles breakthrough came during his last meet in a Bulldogs uniform.
“I didn’t do hurdles until my sophomore year, because I had tried them once and I was horrible” he said. “Just terrible...and one time, Mr. Anderson signed me up without telling me. So I tried them. I don’t think I even did that well in the race, but I could tell if I worked on them I could do OK, just because I’m tall, I was going over them fast, and felt a lot better than they had before.”
He had just four high school races under his belt when he qualified to run the 300 hurdles at state.
“Then I was ready for hurdles, too,” he said. “I have to thank both my coaches. Number one, Mr. Anderson, for just slipping me in there. And also Mr. Loeber, for being there to help me with it. He helped me with every workout, he wrote every workout we did. So, everything those two guys have done, it’s unbelievable.”
As with the triple jump, after the GHS coaches sparked his interest, Stevens started working with Jacoby on the hurdles. “We just did it and did it and did it until finally my form was up to the level I could work on it myself.”
During his last 110 meter hurdles race, Stevens ran a 14.82 — breaking into the 14’s, thereby making good on another of the goals he had set for himself.
“That day, I was like ‘This is it,” he said. “That last run, ‘This is it.’ And that was the run, a great ending to my track career.”
[Note: Find video of our interview with Stevens online at idahocountyfreepress.com. We’ll be featuring more of our area scholar-athletes in “next level athlete” profiles during upcoming weeks. -ao]