April 15, 2012
By Bernie Rosendahl, MSU Athletic Communications Contact for Track & Field and Cross Country.
EAST LANSING, MICH. -
Senior Stephen Humes is an amiable, affable individual. Talking with him, you would never guess that he participates in the most brutal, punishing events on the track: Middle Distance.
For the past four years, Humes has given his all to the Michigan State Track and Field and Cross Country programs. However, injuries have set Humes back from reaching his ultimate potential. Although 2012 is his final year on the track, the diligent upperclassman is still hopeful for what the future holds.
Humes was born and raised in Troy, Michigan. The athletic background of his parents – both of whom ran marathons – enabled Humes to succeed in sports from a young age. A lifelong soccer player, Humes was one the fastest guys on the field. He was able cover even the quickest of opposition and earned numerous league accolades. At the time, Humes used track as nothing more than a conditioning springboard to stay in shape for the upcoming soccer season.
It was through this conditioning that Humes realized he had a wealth of natural ability, and it would be track – not soccer – that would allow him his best chance at becoming a Big Ten athlete.
This realization would lead Humes to walk on at Michigan State in the fall of 2007.
With considerable experience and success in shorter, faster events in high school; Humes felt his best chance to be competitive for MSU was the 400 meters. Through a little trial and error, Sprints coach Randy Gillon and Director of Track and Field Walt Drenth felt that Humes’ combination of speed and strength would be best utilized in mid-distance events.
The switch would be difficult in the beginning.
“Throughout my entire life, I had never done any type of mileage,” said Humes. “Coach Drenth was pretty good about working me into the program. He started me at 30 to 35 miles a week. But even that was difficult for me because it was tremendously more than I’ve done on a consistent basis. It was a huge transition.”
So much so, that Humes once considered leaving the team.
“My freshman year over winter break, everything was not going well. The mileage was too much, the workouts were too tough I and had it set in my mind that I was going to quit.”
Humes cites a few individuals that helped him stay on track. He went and spoke with his high school coach, who convinced Humes to stick with the team and stay through the following semester and reevaluate his options.
Helping him from a performance standpoint was Kevin Dacres, a fifth-year senior who would become Humes’ training partner.
“We did all of our workouts together, and he beat me up quite a bit,” recalls Humes of Dacres. “He was just this workout machine and showed me what to do in order to progress.”
With some newfound support and confidence, Humes’ would go on to compete in his first collegiate meet at Eastern Michigan University.
“My first indoor meet at Eastern (Michigan), I ran horribly,” said Humes. “I was getting over the stomach flu and wasn’t quite prepared for the competition.”
However, the experience gave Humes something to work for. He kept pushing in workouts and by the outdoor season, Humes had worked his way to up to traveling with the team and running in uniform as the only true freshman.
“It showed a moment of weakness, that when things got too tough I almost left,” recalls Humes. But I’m really glad I stuck with it.”
The Spartans are glad he stuck with it, too.
In the past three seasons, not an individual on Michigan State’s active roster has been able to match Humes’ speed in the 800 meters. He had a personal best time of 1:50.17 at 2010 Jesse Owens Track Classic. Two weeks later Humes would run a blistering 1:50.79 at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships and become a regional qualifier, later running 1:50.24 in the first round of the NCAA Championships.
Unfortunately, Humes would have to deal with more adversity. Throughout 2010 and 2011, Humes has dealt with significant back injuries. These injuries have prevented him participating in important workouts with the team that would have helped him reach his full potential as one of the Big Ten’s premier middle-distance runners.
“It’s been really, really tough to look back,” lamented Humes. “I was a regional qualifier and I thought I was really coming into my own in 2010, and then the back injuries started happening. I always knew I had a lot more potential and it’s been one of those things I’ve always looked back on. Just that moment of hope – and potential that I saw in myself – and that coach Drenth saw in me too.”
In 2011, Humes opened up his senior year of cross country with a 16:22 5K in the stifling heat of early September at the Jeff Drenth Memorial. He continued his comeback trail into 2012, progressing through fall workouts and working his hardest to return to his old form. He continued to train throughout the winter but suffered yet another setback – a stress reaction and tendonitis in his tibia which forced him to take most of this past February off from training.
Humes has resumed practice recently and will continue to compete for the green and white for the remainder of 2012.
“My chances of competing really well during the outdoor season might not be the best. But, I don’t see the point in not trying,” said Humes.
Outside of track, Humes is looking forward to wrapping up his undergraduate degree. He entered Michigan State via the Lyman Briggs College and during his sophomore year he declared a physiology major. He also picked up a specialization in Bioethics, Humanities, and Society.
An Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Hume’s ultimate goal is to get into medical school and he’s currently applying to grad school to pursue public health.
He’s also looking forward to watching Michigan State Track and Cross Country progress over the next several years.
“We’ve had a lot of good guys over the past few years but the Big Ten is probably one of the most competitive distance conferences in the country,” said Humes. “The cross country team has a legitimate shot at being in the top 3 (at the conference meet). We’ve been a little unlucky with injuries, but I really think we have a good, young team right now and a lot of guys are going to step up. At the Spartan Invitational, we had a few guys run really good 1500 meter times that were not 1500 meter runners. It just shows the depth and range of our team. ”
When discussing coach Walt Drenth, Humes is quick to point out his intensity and passion towards the sport of track and field. He also makes note of the personal attention he gives each one of his athletes.
“I can go into his office and talk to him for three minutes about running and the rest time will be spent talking about whatever else is going on in my life,” Humes said. “He not only cares about our success and progression as athletes, he cares about us as students and people as well. He cares about who we are, and what we do – and it’s easy to buy into the program when it’s being directed by that type of a person.”
Drenth returns similar sentiments about Humes, confirming the unique understanding between athlete and coach.
“You can’t go very far without talking about incredible integrity,” Drenth said of Humes. “He is an incredible human being from every standpoint. His character speaks volumes about him as a person, as an athlete, and as a student.”
Drenth continued, “To run as well as he’s run and to qualify for numerous regional meets and the first rounds of the nationals, it’s really been a testament to his work ethic. I could always count on him to find a way to be his best. I never questioned whether he was all in. Occasionally, especially with the distance runners, we’ll have someone who will be pretty good some days and other days not so much.”
“With Stephen Humes, he was consistent as you could run across and that’s a huge attribute.”