Duane Haring first took over the Grand Ledge gymnastics program in 2002 because his daughter Allison and her friends kept asking. He left to work as an assistant coach at Michigan State from 2005-06 -- but realized Allison and her teammates were on to something.
Haring returned to the Comets in 2006-07, and last weekend led them to a record fifth-straight MHSAA team championship. Grand Ledge senior Christine Wilson and junior Sara Peltier also won the Division 1 and 2 individual titles, respectively, making it two straight seasons Grand Ledge has swept all three competitions.
This winter's Team Final came down to Grand Ledge's last apparatus, bars, after a below-expectations performance on vault. But just as they have for a decade, Haring's Comets came through when it counted. And although Allison graduated nearly a decade ago, Duane plans to keep the winning streak rolling for years to come.
What was the conversation you had between your third and four apparatus? How would you paraphrase it?
I was sitting with the parents and I told them I was really angry because we can vault. We're a good vaulting team. I think we're the best vaulting team in the state, and we didn't do it. So I told them I just have to go for a walk, because I can't talk to them right now. I started to walk way, and I thought, “Oh yes I can.” I dragged them off the bleachers, and went out in the hallway. Trust me; they were wide awake for bars. They understood, loud and clear.
I know what they can do. All year I've been waiting for them to do bars like that.
Are all these championships different for you, or are they the same?
They're all nerve-wracking. This is supposed to be fun ... (he laughed). It's nerve-wracking.
How do you get them to come back and want to do six?
We lit a fire under them when we first did this. The community loves these guys. Most communities talk about football and basketball, and they still do. But more and more people in Grand Ledge talk about gymnastics. Almost everywhere you go, how about that gymnastics team? They're 75-0 ... that's in the paper, and people pay attention to that. They're into their gymnastics team in Grand Ledge.
Does this make you happy you came back and did this a second time?
It does. I'm glad. It's a good fit for me.