CROSS COUNTRY: Grand Blanc's Fisher races for successTrack and Field  |
By Bill Khan
Grand Blanc - If you want to make Grant Fisher uncomfortable, start comparing him to Dathan Ritzenhein.
The comparisons are increasingly valid, as Fisher's body of work creeps ever closer to the feats of Ritzenhein, the 2001 Rockford graduate and three-time Olympian who is the consensus choice as Michigan's greatest high school distance runner. Think of "Ritz" as running's version of Magic Johnson.
"The closest thing we've had since Ritzenhein ran is Fisher," Milford senior Sean Noone said. "That's pretty cool."
But even though it has never been more reasonable to mention a Michigan runner in the same breath as Ritzenhein, Fisher can't quite wrap his head around the concept.
"It's very weird, actually," said Fisher, a senior at Grand Blanc. "Ever since I started running, the first big name you learn in Michigan is Dathan Ritzenhein. After my freshman year and my sophomore year, I got to know what he had done during his career. Now that people are comparing what I'm doing to him, it really doesn't feel right. It's kind of surreal. I don't think it's a fair comparison to compare anybody to Ritz."
So, Fisher maintains a healthy case of hero worship, even as he's become the biggest deal in Michigan distance-running circles since Ritzenhein enjoyed rock-star status as a senior at Rockford.
Before last December, Fisher was just another fast kid - if such a thing can be said about someone who ran 4:15.8 for 1,600 meters and 9:04.33 in the 3,200 as a sophomore at the state meet.
Fisher's profile elevated considerably when he won an epic duel with John Dressel of Washington at the national Foot Locker meet in San Diego. Ritzenhein was the only junior from Michigan to win Foot Locker, doing so in 1999.
The hype intensified during track season. Fisher followed his distance sweep in the state meet by winning the Adidas Dream Mile in New York with a time of 4:02.02 and the two-mile run at the Brooks PR Invitational in Renton, Wash. in 8:51.28.
To top it off, Fisher was featured on the cover of the September issue of Running Times, a major national magazine. The cover shot showed Fisher and some of his training partners doing a summer workout at Bicentennial Park in Grand Blanc.
Typical of Fisher, he was more excited that his friends got to share some of his glory than in being the focus of the cover.
"It was really cool that the place I ran and put in a lot of hard work made it on the cover of the magazine, and all my teammates and all the guys who push me every day made it on the cover," Fisher said. "It means so much. Those guys I've known for four years. We train together. We work hard together. We see each other every day. We have a pretty tight bond. Obviously, some of the experiences I have my teammates don't also have. So, in that situation, to take something that I would experience and share it with those guys, it means a lot."
Fisher took a two-week break after an intense summer of elite track races, then slowly got back into cross country training. He missed Grand Blanc's first few meets before returning to the lineup on Sept. 20 to win the Jackson Invitational in 15:22.3. Two weeks later, the comparisons to Ritzenhein reached the boiling point when Fisher smoked a tough field at the Portage Invitational in 14:43 - just one second off Ritzenhein's 2000 course record.