Sayen sets record as Houghton hosts track night
HOUGHTON — With just under two laps remaining in his attempt at an Upper Peninsula record for fastest mile, Houghton native Clayton Sayen kicked his legs into a higher gear. He drove hard over the final two laps, and in the end, he finished hard, breaking the old record of 4 minutes, 12 seconds, to cap a very successful Community Track Night at Houghton High School Wednesday.
In the weeks leading up to the event, Sayen had to practice in between planning the event, which he wanted to hold as a fundraiser for the Houghton Gremlins track and field program. When it was finally time to step up and attempt the U.P. record, he admitted that the energy of the whole event got to him.
“I was tearing up a little bit on the start line,” he said. “You know, there’s a lot of energy in the air tonight, and (it is a) beautiful night, couldn’t ask for better conditions.”
When he crossed the finish line, the time on the scoreboard read 4:05.97. He called off his teammates who were helping set the pace for him with a lap and a half left, and he pushed hard to get to the finish line.
“Honestly, I’m a little emotional about it,” he said. “I’m so grateful for this sport, this community. (I) couldn’t have done it without everybody here tonight, especially the crew that got me here: my family, my high school coaches, my fiance, and ultimately my coaches at Michigan Tech.
“They did a great job getting me to where I am. I’m blessed to have been able to do this on my home track.”
Sayen has spent the past five years running for Michigan Tech, competing in cross country in the fall and track and field in the spring. Running the last official race of his collegiate career on his high school’s track while setting a U.P. record was more than he could have ever hoped for.
“This is what I’ve been dreaming of for years,” he said. “I’m so happy that the last race in my career got me the U.P. record, my fastest mile time to date. This is awesome.”
Many members of the running community came out to support Sayen and all the other runners throughout the evening. Sayen was blown away by the overall turnout, even though he had worked hard to get the word out prior to Wednesday.
“I’m so happy with the turnout we had,” he said. “We have a full parking lot out there. That’s unbelievable. I mean, I know I did put a lot of work in, getting a lot of promotion for it, but this is like three times as much as I think, in best-case scenario.”
Houghton High School athletic director John Sanregret agreed with Sayen.
“Great turnout. This is fun. It’s exciting,” he said. “The weather is perfect. Just a perfect night for a fun community event.”
For Sanregret, getting a chance to be involved and to host the event was something that excited him from the moment Sayen pitched him the idea in the first place.
“I was excited about this months ago,” said Sanregret. “I love track and field, and I know Clayton and I talked about this a long time ago. We weren’t sure of, being its first year, what the result or the turnout would be. But, you know, I look at the stands here, I’m seeing a lot of people, and the participation with the runners is fantastic.”
Community Track Night was a special night for more than just Sayen’s record-breaking run. Michigan Tech track and field assistant coach Robbie Young, competing in the 1600-meter run, broke five minutes for the 23rd straight year. He had to work for it over the final two laps, but was pleased to be able to continue his streak.
The night also included a chance for parents and their children to run events on the same day. Hancock track and field and cross country assistant coach Ryan Towles ran the 1600-meter run in the 40-plus race. Later in the evening, his daughter Raina, who runs for the Bulldogs during the season, ran the 1600-meter race in the women’s division.
“I thought she was going to be a basketball player, but she’s chosen running, and she’s dedicated herself so much to it,” he said. “She chooses to do things like this. She chooses to go on her own, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
“I’m just glad I’m still able to be out here, and do it, just so we can do it together. So, it’s great.”
Towles was also very appreciative of how the community came out to support the races.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I mean, it’s just a pick up track meet, for lack of a better term, and look at the turnout. Look how many people are here. Guys are taking it seriously. Ladies are taking it seriously.
“We have a great running community in this town. I don’t think as many people realize that it as should. So, it’s a good showcase. It’s a great event to get it out there.”
Other races included a 400-meter dash for kids aged nine and younger, and one for kids aged 10 and older. There were also a 400-meter and an 800-meter adaptive race as well.
The running community is a very supportive group throughout the Copper Country, and that support was helpful to Gowtham Es, known throughout the community as “G,” who ran his first 1600-meter run as part of his training for the Thatcher Markham Memorial run during Bridgefest.
“I wasn’t really sure, with the marathon coming up in 10 days, how the legs would feel, respond to a different surface, but very grateful things worked out well,” he said. “A little hard headwind played some tricks on my head, but that’s on me.
“(I) never have been part of one specific event like this. For this to be my first-ever mile race, or 1600-meter race, and to have this much of the community be here, just about everybody that ever got me into running or kept me in running, they’re all here. So it’s pretty special.”
Sanregret is hopeful that with the response they had from the community on Wednesday, there will be interest in further such events during the summer months.
“(Track and field) probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves, especially in the Upper Peninsula with our short spring,” he said. “I think if we could try to do more of this in the summer, to try to bring more awareness to a great sport, I would be all for doing it.”