Monday, February 23, 2009

Coach Jim Knapp soaks in moment during his last home men's track meet

Issue date: 2/23/09

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

During his final home meet inside the Indoor Athletic Center at the Jack Skoog Track, Jim Knapp took the opportunity do something he had never done before.

Early in the meet, just as the healthy crowd of alumni that attended was forming around the track, Knapp emerged from the stands with his wife, Mavin, and grandchildren McKenzie and Ian, 11 and 6 years old, respectively.

Knapp, hand-in-hand with his grandchildren, weaved his way around the track, giving the youngsters a close-up look at the athletes.

"I had the most important people in my life right there with me," Knapp said. "It was the last opportunity I'll have to do that I so seized upon it. It was a very special moment."

It was also a special moment for his athletes, who, in front of a capacity crowd that Knapp said was the biggest he's seen at the track, put on one of the best performances of the season, with five individual winners on the day.

"I think that played on everyone's heart strings a little bit," junior pole vaulter Marcus Briedinger said of the occasion. "We all wanted to go out there and give him a memorable last meet."

Briedinger won the pole vault by clearing a season-best 16 feet, 5.25 inches. Other winners on the day for the Chippewas were sophomore Oz Lifshitz in the long jump (22 feet, 4.5 inches), sophomore George Flanner in the shot put (53 feet, 6.25 inches), freshman David Ashcraft in the 400-meter run (50.04 seconds), and sophomore Nick Agosti in the 600-meter run (1:22:04.)

It was Lifshitz first competition in the long jump and Flanner's career-best throw.

"I feel good in terms of where we are," Knapp said, commenting on this weekend's Mid-American Conference Championships in Kent State.

Briedinger said the team is together and ready for a run at a MAC championship.

"(Friday) greased up the gears for the MAC meet," Briedinger said. "I feel like we had the most team chemistry than we've had all year. It's setting up real nice."

During the event, Knapp was honored with an award by Athletics Director Dave Heeke, commemorating his service with the school.

Knapp accepted the award with his family, and shortly afterwards alumni and the team gathered around him for a picture, as "Thank you Coach Knapp for 24 great years!" was displayed on the scoreboard in the background.

"I've never felt so humbled in my life," Knapp said. "It's just overwhelming."

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