Charles A Janke
At the end of 2021 came the news that we had lost Charlie Janke, the legendary coach and official who was the driving force in creating the high school indoor track scene as we know it today. He touched countless lives and created opportunities everywhere he went. And while a list of his accomplishments would take a book, here we’d like to honor his role in making the Michigan Indoor Track Series possible.
Fifty years ago, a group of dedicated coaches and officials, led by Janke, inaugurated the first indoor track series for high schoolers in the state of Michigan.
High schoolers had competed in indoor track in the state since 1892. The Detroit schools had an indoor championship event for many years. The River Rouge Invitational, held at Yost Arena, once earned attention as the largest high school indoor meet in the nation. Janke and his friends fondly remembered those meets, as well as many others.
By the early 1970s, however, opportunities for high school athletes to stay in shape and hone their skills before the official start of the MHSAA season were quite limited. Janke saw the need for an annual series of open meets, which got off the ground in 1972.
The first two championships took place in Yost Arena. In 1974, the championship moved to East Lansing’s Jenison Fieldhouse for one year. Since 1975, however, the meet has been an annual fixture in the University of Michigan’s Track Building. That year also marked the historic addition of women’s events.
Many of the greatest performances in Michigan prep history have occurred in these meets. The procession of talent has never let up; future Olympians, NCAA champions, All-Americans, not to mention future doctors, nurses, teachers, and more than a few coaches, have spent many a winter’s night circling the track.
In the early years, the meets were held under the auspices of the now-defunct United States Track & Field Federation (USTFF). Then the mantle passed to MITCA for a few decades. In 2000 the circuit became known as the Michigan Indoor Track Series (MITS). No longer the director of the series, Janke continued to help guide the meets and could without fail be found officiating them through the 2021 season.
The series has continued to grow at a phenomenal rate. Never have we had more sites participate, never have we had more registered clubs, and—most importantly—never have we had so many young athletes take advantage of the opportunities. Some of them are running in the same meets that their parents ran in years earlier.
None of this would be possible without the half-century of volunteer work that Charlie Janke has devoted to the cause of high school track. For that, every lover of the sport in the state is indebted to Charlie.
MICHIGAN FEDERATION INDOOR CLUB CHAMPIONSHIPS
(Directed by Charlie Janke)
1972-73 Yost Arena, Ann Arbor
1974 Jenison Fieldhouse, East Lansing
1975-77 U-M Track/Tennis Building, Ann Arbor
(Dates: 3-17-72, 3-16-73, 3-15-74, 3-21-75, 3-19-76, 3-17-77)
MITCA STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
(Directed by Charlie Janke)
1978-99 U-M Track Building, Ann Arbor
(Dates: 3-16-78, 3-16-79, 3-18-80, 3-19-81, 3-18-82, 3-17-83, 3-15-84, 3-14-85, 3-13-86, 3-12-87, 3-17-88, 3-15-89, 3-15-90, 3-14-91, 3-18-92, 3-18-93, 3-16-94, 3-15-95, 3-14-96, 3-13-97, 3-19-98, 3-11-99)