Behind most successful accomplishments, there is usually a story that goes with it.
That is certainly the case for Utica High’s Freddie Crittenden, who won a Division 1 track and field state title in the 110-meter hurdles and finished as state runner-up in the 300 June 1 at East Kentwood.
Given that, along with Megan Berry, Roger White is the co-coach of Utica’s track and field team, it is safe to say White had a pretty nice vantage point as to how Crittenden was able to come away from the season as a state champion.
Crittenden had already experienced some success as a track and field athlete before he arrived at Utica, as he ran for McCluer North in St. Louis, Mo., during his first two years of high school, where he was All-State as a sophomore.
Before he officially became a member of Utica’s team, White had already heard rumors that Crittenden “was pretty good.”
And while White acknowledges being skeptical, after having the opportunity to work with Crittenden, he realized the program had a nice talent on its hands.
In fact, Crittenden nearly won a state title in the 300 in his first season with Utica as a junior, but was disqualified for hitting the last hurdle, according to White.
Instead of allowing dejection to get the best of him, Crittenden went to work. White worked with him on increasing his overall speed, as well as his speed between the hurdles during the offseason.
Crittenden proceeded to win a national indoor competition in New York, and finish second in a race in Washington — which was won by a former teammate of his from his old school in St. Louis — before laying claim to a state title before departing from Utica’s program.
White thinks his disqualification last year may have actually turned out to benefit Crittenden.
“Now, he’s not the state champ, he’s just a DQ in the record sheet,” he said. “That actually kind of fed that hunger into this year. That was probably the biggest driving force this year. What looked like a bad thing motivated (him). I don’t know how things would have been this year had he been state champ as a junior.”
Crittenden concurs with the sentiment of his coach.
“It definitely has,” he said of the benefit that has come since being disqualified. “I believe everything happens for a reason. There was a purpose for that happening. In the end, it turned out for me. It was a good thing, despite being a bad thing (at the time).”
High-end results aren’t typically achieved by accident, and White shared some thoughts as to why he thinks Crittenden has been able to enjoy the kind of success that has come his way.
“He’s (an) extremely hard-working kid,” he said. “He’s really hungry. He’s such a hungry kid for success. The better he got, the hungrier he got. He’s one of those real motivated kids. He’s very coachable.”
While there are plenty of other things he could have been doing besides training, from Crittenden’s perspective, things just wouldn’t have seemed quite right if he didn’t believe he was putting in the kind of time he considers to be required to be a champion. He offered some ideas as to what it takes to be successful in track and field, and life in general.
“If I was to tell a freshman or sophomore, if they (want to) become successful, you have to learn to make huge sacrifice,” he said. “You have to spend a lot of your time at the track training. You have to make proactive choices that will help you be more successful in track and field. The peer pressures of high school … drugs, you have to go past all of that and just kind of ignore it.
“You have to eat right, you have to sleep right. It crosses over into any category of life. If you want to do well, you have to make some sacrifices.”
According to White, he referenced advice he got from some coaching mentors who have taken athletes to world championships and Olympic games, which he thinks has also been beneficial for Crittenden.
As his coach, White wanted to make sure to strike the right balance and not over-train Crittenden, even opting to hold him out of some races Crittenden expressed interest in running.
After trying to help him get the most of his talent, and all the work that went into experiencing success as a coach-athlete tandem the last two seasons, Crittenden will be moving on to continue his track and field career at the college level, as he has accepted a full scholarship to Syracuse University.
White expressed optimism that Crittenden’s future has the potential to be a bright one.
“I really feel he’s in good hands at Syracuse,” he said. “I was pretty active in (the) recruiting process with him. It’s a program with a good hurdle history. They’re expecting good things for (him) in the future. I’m excited for (him), and he’s excited to go and embark on that experience. We’re going to miss him at our school, but really exciting to have a kid have that opportunity.”
While Crittenden may be looking forward to taking the next step in his track career, he will miss being a part of a program he credits for helping him get better.
“I will definitely miss being a part of Utica,” he said. “I’m attached to my coach, friends, track team, teachers, school faculty, principal (and) assistant principal. Find myself (getting) more and more sad as the year dwindles down. As graduation approaches, I’m kind of realizing I’m (going to) have to leave soon.
“Coming here has been beneficial. Coach Roger helped me out so much. I don’t think I would be the 110 hurdler I am without the help of Coach Roger. He’s given me plenty of help, tips (and) suggestions. Everything happens for a reason. God made me come here for a reason.”