Chemical Bank Good Citizens Made in Michigan: Sanford’s Jason LaFave
By Clint Kern
I asked Jason what sports he played at Sanford-Meridian High and what were some of his fondest memories and lessons he absorbed from Coach Bob Cole’s tutelage. LaFave ran cross-country four four years, track for three years, he played basketball for three years and baseball one season.
“My favorite story to tell is that when I was a freshman in Coach’s Geography class, he asked me to run cross country to get myself in shape for basketball. He didn’t say anything about the fact that I was short or that I wasn’t a good shooter. To Coach, it didn’t matter whether your were the best runner on the team or the slowest, he treated us all as equals. I try and carry that with me on a daily basis. My favorite Coach Cole pep talk and you could count on it before every race, ‘Shoes double tied. Let’s go Blues!!’,” replied Jason LaFave.
Jason felt that his greatest accolade or performances at MHS was during his senior year, when his cross country team won the county meet, beating Midland, Dow, Bullock Creek and Coleman and the fact that they were the first cross country team from Meridian to qualify for the state finals. Individually, he ran 16:54, was the county runner-up and finished 6th at Regionals.
Jason ran at SVSU for three years of cross country and two years in track before he decided to focus solely on school and getting a job.
Presently, LaFave is employed by The Dow Chemical Company as a Workforce Planning Recruiter. I asked him who has inspired him to set high goals and what combinations of forces developed his extremely diligent work ethic. “My dad always taught me about working hard and making it pay off. If you start something, you don’t quit. I am working to instill that same thing in my kids. I think my drive and desire now is because I never want to take anything for granted. I don’t know when my last day will come so I want to live life to the fullest and some day look back with no regrets,” LaFave said.
Jason enjoys volunteering to coach MHS varsity basketball with his brother Andy. He assisted with the Meridian track program in 2011, but last year he supported his kids who participated in the Fleet Feet running program. Jason strives to have a similar impact on athlete’s high school experience that Coach Cole and Coach Pettyplace had on his. Coach Cole always found the positive in what they were trying to do and if we had a bad race, he picked us up. Coach Pettyplace gave him the tough love that he needed. If he had a bad race, rather than coddle Jason, they’d talk about what needed to change. Jason recognized that he needed that feedback as well. “When you are coaching, you need to be able to read your athletes and understand that you have to give feedback to each athlete differently. Both coaches understood me and what made me tick. If I can reach just one of the kids that I have coached over the past few years and have the same impact in their life that Coach Cole and Pettyplace had in my life, it will have all been worth it,” said LaFave.
Jason has galloped in the Qualifier Marathon (10th place), Bayshore Half Marathon (4th place), Charlevoix Half Marathon (1st place), Great Lakes Loons Pennant Race (1st place), Big Fish Sprint Triathlon (3rd place), Beatles to Bay Duathlon (1st place) and recently in his most cherished race the Bob Cole 5K, Jason was triumphant with a PR 16:12. Jason was thrilled to have Steve Menocvik and Joe Whitman come from over an hour away to support in the race, as did the Breckenridge harrier program.
The next day Lafave ran a 17:24, biked 20K at 22.9 mph and ran another 5K at 17:52 clip in the Caseville duathlon. Not bad for a 37 year old man. He was a little sore the Monday after, he ran eight miles that night to stretch out. Jason plans to compete in the State Duathlon Championships later this year.