After 10 years as girls track coach, Mike Selmer is retiring during `a spring of good and bad happenings.'

It's not a perfect ending to Selmer's Glenelg run

Sports Beat

Howard County schools

June 01, 2005|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Mike Selmer has had some very good springs.

Three years ago, Selmer and the Glenelg girls track and field program captured only the school's second Class 2A state crown and first since 1993.

In 2003, the Gladiators recorded top-five showings in the state, Class 2A West regional and Howard County championships.

Last May, Glenelg claimed the Class 2A South regional title before placing third in the state meet.

And this past month, the Gladiators finished second in the regional meet and fourth in the county championships.

Yet, as Selmer makes final preparations to step down as Glenelg's coach in two weeks, his ride into the sunset has been a bumpy one.

On May 1, his mother, Marjorie Selmer, died after a prolonged battle with heart and lung problems. The same day, Selmer learned he had a kidney disorder called minimal change disease, in which protein leaks into the urine.

The condition caused Selmer's body to retain fluids, resulting in his weight soaring from 150 pounds to 190 and leaving him so stiff he could barely move.

Selmer is fighting the disorder with what his doctor has called "industrial doses" of prednisone, a corticosteroid, and is back to his normal weight.

His son is getting married later this month, and Mike Selmer is a grandfather for the first time.

Second thoughts

"This has been a spring of good and bad happenings," said Selmer, an electrician in his "other" life. "I kind of wish I could go into a cave somewhere and let nothing happen for a while - good or bad. ... This wouldn't have been the year that I picked to retire. If I had known this was going to happen, I might've said, `Maybe I'll retire next year.' "

Selmer's reluctance to walk away from track and field is not surprising. Ever since he took up the sport at Northwestern High in Prince George's County, he has been devoted to track.

As a senior at Northwestern, he became a state champion in the 600-meter run. In 1976, he signed on as a volunteer assistant with the women's track team at the University of Maryland.

After coaching the boys and girls outdoor teams at McConnellsburg High in Pennsylvania, Selmer and his family returned to Maryland, settling in Glenelg in 1989.

He served as a volunteer assistant for the boys team for the 1992-93 school year, became a paid assistant the next year and the head coach for the 1994-95 campaign.

In the 10 years he has coached the Gladiators' girls, Selmer has guided them to four county indoor track crowns, the 1999 Class 2A-1A state indoor championship and the aforementioned 2002 2A state outdoor title.

"I really love it," Selmer said of track and field. "I love it so much that it's hard to watch some of the things that have happened to it over the years. It has become a much less marquee sport than it used to be."

Selmer attributes some of the problem to a dearth of track and field programs available to youth, as compared with soccer and lacrosse.

Selmer reserves most of his disappointment, however, for the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, the governing body for sports in the state's public high schools.

He criticized the organization's method of qualifying athletes for the state meet. Under the current system, the top four finishers and those who meet predetermined standards in each event at regional meets qualify for the state championships.

Selmer advocates using the NCAA's model of using several invitationals that use fully automatic timing as opportunities to meet strict qualifying times and organizing a few more meets near the end of the season as "last chance" opportunities to qualify for the state championships.

Web site controversy

Selmer also thinks he was poorly treated by MPSSAA officials at the 2002 state meet. Selmer, who created the TrackFirst Web site in 1997, dissolved the popular site after the MPSSAA ruled it could not give out results on a disk to a Web site that had no official link to the MPSSAA.

Interestingly, the MPSSAA Web site now features a link to MDRunning.net, which filled the void left by TrackFirst's departure.

"All that I was ever interested in was what was best for the sport, and the way I got treated at the state meet just drove me out of it," Selmer said. "It completely killed my desire to keep that Web site going."

C. Milton Wright coach Don Mickey, who founded and helps run MDRunning.net, called TrackFirst "huge."

"It gave a great boost to Maryland high school cross country and track," Mickey said. "The only reason there is a MDRunning is because TrackFirst shut down. Mike worked very hard on his site, and it showed. All coaches, athletes and parents used it as a source of info."

The top beneficiaries of that information have been Selmer's athletes. Sophomore pole vaulter Lexy Parsons said Selmer's advice on technique has helped her improve her best by 1 foot this spring.

Selmer also gains points from his athletes for creating boredom-diverting workouts.

In one workout, Glenelg's runners ran up hills with an egg in each hand. Any eggs that were unbroken at the end of the workout could be tossed at Selmer. In another, the athletes picked dominos out of a bag to determine how far they had to run.

"He really motivates you out there when you're running in the workouts, and that just turns over into the meets," said senior middle-distance runner Katie Pencek.

Asked if he will get emotional at the June 14 spring sports banquet - his last function as head coach - Selmer said, "I don't know that there will be tears, but I'm sure I'll have trouble at some points. I am an emotional person."

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