Interview with 800m national record holder, Michael Granville

Bell Gardens HS graduate Michael Granville (photo above courtesy of his twitter account @GFITinthis) set the still standing high school 800m national record of 1:46.45 on Friday, June 1, 1996 at the California State Meet Trials. The previous national record of 1:46.58 was held by Mississippi high schooler George Kersh set during the 1987 spring season. Granville made his presence felt right away as a freshman by winning the Arcadia Invitational with a still standing California freshman record of 1:51.03. He improved his 800 time throughout his high school career and headed into his senior season with a best of 1:47.96, trailing only Kersh and Berkeley's Pete Richardson's 1:47.31 from 1981. Granville's high school record qualified him for the 1996 Olympic Trials were he advanced to the quarter finals. He went on to compete at UCLA and eventually ran for the Stanford Farm Team in the bay area where he still resides. You can check out his state final performances from his 10th, 11th and 12th grade seasons below. All great races!

1) When did you start running and who got you involved in track and field? What other sports did you play? What were your personal records before high school?
My dad was a half-miler and noticed my competitive nature and speed in 1987 when I played Pop Warner football. I had my first track meet at Bell High School in East LA on a dirt track the next year, 1988. I ran the 400 meters in about 80 seconds. I remember it was me against my sister Sha Laura and another older girl. I slipped at the start and came in second place. Later that season, I competed in the 200 meter that summer and took 2nd place while competing in the ARCO Jesse Owens Track and Field Championship.  

Personal Records before high school: 100m 10.5, 200m 22 something, 400m 48.4 , 800m 1:56.3

2) What were your most memorable races during your freshman season? Personal records at the end of your freshman track season?
My most memorable race of my freshman year was at the Arcadia Invitational. My dad and high school coach, Mr. Elizarez, were able to get me in the night time 800m with a 1:55 entry (at that time, I had never ran that fast but my dad had a feeling). I ended up winning my first of 4 Arcadia Invite 800s with a time of 1:51.61! I took 3rd in the California State meet in the 400 meters. That was the same year that the meet was cancelled and rescheduled a month later because of rain.

PRs: 400m - 47 low 800m 1:51.03

3) What about your sophomore season? What were your PRs after your sophomore season.
Memorable events: Winning the indoor national scholastic in the 800m setting the 10th grade record at the time. I won the California State meet in the 800m. as well that year.

PRs: 400m 46 low and 800m 1:48.98

4) One of your main competitors before and during high school was Obea Moore. Can you tell us a little about Obea, when you first met him and what were some of the more memorable races with him?
I started running for the West Valley Eagles in 1990, fresh off the baseball mound for a local (Cudahy, CA) little league. I hadn't competed in track since 1988. Next thing I know, I am running in spikes and taking a plane out of state to compete in the AAU championships in Spokane, WA. I met Obea for the first time when he passed me at the 200 mark in the 400m final. I reintroduced myself to him at the finish line ( I took second in a photo finish). We would meet again at the Junior Olympics in Lincoln, NE. We would compete indirectly in the 4x400m as the strategy was to make up any loss created by his blazing relay leg. I did (running 3rd leg) and our anchor Armone Lochard was amazing and brought us the Gold medal. We had another memorable race in my sophomore year (his frosh) at the State meet. He had totally changed the whole race strategy by taking everyone out at like 49/50 seconds!! I was able to make a late rally and sprint past him (Obea), Aaron Richburg and Vondre Armour for the win. This race is on youtube (below)!

5) You lost the 800m at the state finals as a junior to Aaron Richburg. What was your plan going into that race and what do you remember most about that race as you reflect back to that meet? What were your PRs at the end of your junior season?
Man my strategy was "business as usual" get out stay out bring home the win and hopefully another record. I knew Aaron was my biggest competition and had the build of a man in a high schoolers' body. I had the race won in my eyes. The finish line was just steps away. The crowd was unusually loud for some reason. So curious and distracted I looked back (never did this again) hoping I had maintained a comfortable lead, and, to my "deer in headlights" surprise, there was Aaron with this look in his eyes. He got me at the finish line in a fashion that I had won the year before. That was a tough loss. After a week of questioning to run again, my dad pleaded with me just to go out for a jog. A jog became a 10 laps and like 500 push-ups and a new drive for 1:45!

6) You broke the high school record in the 800m as a senior in the state meet trials. Where there other attempts to break the record during the season? What was your reaction when you first heard that you broke the record? What was the plan for the finals?
 My goal was to get an 'A' standard for the Olympic Trials and to win State. That meant breaking the national record. I remember really gunning for it at the Southern Sections and Masters meet leading to States. Both attempts where challenging because of unusually high winds that spring. The day of the prelims, the tension in the air was thick in the Granville house. Time was truly running out. The ride to Cerritos CC was quite. The warm up as well. My dad finally breaks the silence to get me to look at the flags… No movement = No wind. He said do it today. LOL, really? My goal was to run so hard that I could pass out at the 600m mark. That didn't happen. I used the bell lap as the sound of another race and for the first time I sprinted into the 400m mark like I just had 200m to go. I still felt good with 200 left. My Dad usually sat there and yelled out my 600 time. No sound… He had moved to the 700m mark and to my astonishment he said a time I never heard before. So, quickly doing the math I knew I was ahead of record place. I felt good until the last 40 meters. My legs felt like tree trunks, but, I pushed on. I recently made T-shirts of the FAT image of me crossing the finish line with my hand up in the air in celebration as I crossed the line. 1:46.45!!! I didn't want to run the finals! I said, "I am cool, pops. I am done." He said, "How about this strategy. Your competitors are not going to go with you thinking you will go for the record again. So, after 200m just jog. By the time they figure out what is going on you will be fresh to sprint home again. Wow, he was right! This race is also on youtube (also below)!

7) You attending UCLA after Bell Gardens HS. What were some of your highlights and achievements from your experience there? 

 My highlights were being part of two NCAA championship relay teams both in 1999; Indoor DMR Champions (Jesse Strutzel, Brian Fell, me and Mark Hauser) and 4x400m Champions (Me, Terrance Williams, Malachi Davis and again B. Fell). Also was Pac 10 400 meter Champion. The experience that sticks with me more was coming to the track before practice and witnessing the world's fastest humans working out. John Smith and his HSI (Hudson Smith International) legends Ato Bolden, Maurice Greene, Jon Drummond, Marie Josie Perec, Quincy Watts right there. I remember Maurice saying, " I love my office!" At that moment, I knew I wanted the track and outdoors to be my office as well.

8) You are now living in the Bay Area? What led you into moving here?
 I moved to the Bay to pursue my Olympic dreams! Coach Gagliano was so kind to give me a shot, so I made the move to Palo Alto to run the NIKE FarmTeam. Look Mom, I am a Pro Athlete. After three days, I knew this is where I wanted to raise my future family.

9) Tell us about what you are doing now. What is the best part of your job? How would someone get a hold of you to join your group?
I am the founder of G:FIT Boot Camp. G:FIT is an outdoor group fitness program that welcomes all ages and fitness levels/goals. I meet at Stanford's Cobb Track everyday at 6am, 7am, 8:30am and 6pm. Please, visit or email me at or just come to the Stanford track and let me take it form there!

10) What do you remember about your high school training? What do you feel really worked for you? Toughest workouts?
 My father designed the whole program. He was creative and intuitive with our training. He was inspired by boxer's training. I hit the all of the bags, jump roped for days and ran in sand. He would have me push our '72 El Dorado for intervals. Most of our "track" workouts were on the grass field of Bell Gardens Elementary. I think this was important for me as far as staying injury free. I was fortunate enough not to sustain any injuries throughout my high school career. The hardest workout was the 100m, 200m, 300m, 400m, 300m, 200, 100m at race pace with equal distance rest.

11) During your track career, who coached you and what did you learn from each coach?
Grade School through HS: My Father. He taught me race strategy, he instilled confidence in me like a prize fighter's corner man.

UCLA: John Smith. He was at the forefront of the drive phase and sprint technique (dorsiflexion at the ankle and hit that sweet spot. Run with rhythm as a quarter miler.

Nike FarmTeam: Frank Gagliano. He taught me how to coach with compassion and sense of humor. I really am thankful to know Coach Gags.

12) Looking back, what do you wish you could have done differently whether that is before, during or after high school?
 I know I should have kept/demanded grass training after high school. I started getting nagging injuries that made it challenging to get through a whole season. Also, with the Farm Team, I didn't do all of the necessary things outside of the track to complement my training. For example, working core, leg strengthening and even stretching. I was just reaching for a miracle fast time that I felt was just one race away.

13) This past season, you helped coach cross country at Palo Alto HS. How did you end up coaching there and tell us a little about that experience? Did you run cross country in high school?
I wanted to be of service to my community and lend as much of my knowledge to our young athletes. I reached out to Mary Jo Pruitt (AD at Castilleja) in hopes of volunteering my services to her team. She was kind enough to refer me to Kathi Bower (Palo Alto AD) who was looking for an Assistant Cross Country Coach. The Head Coach (Mike Davidson) and I hit it off right away. He encouraged me to design the athletes' conditioning, balance and core training. Our boys team won the SCVAL Championship, took 2nd at CCS and competed in the California State meet (along with our precocious freshman girl Miranda Jimenez). I ran a few Cross Country races in my day but this was my first experience going through an entire season. OMG, I love Xcountry life. I recommend everyone to attend a race as a fan. So much support all around.

14) Favorite track invitational? Favorite track workout? Favorite track event? Favorite song? Favorite movie? Favorite free time activity? 
Favorite track invite: Mt. Sac Relays (back when they used to give out that Mazda Miata) I dreamt about driving off with that car before having a license!
Favorite track workout: 300m, 300m, 200m with 1 min rest between intervals. 3 sets.
Favorite track event: 800m and my new love The Steeplechase. (The sprints are low hanging fruit; you know I like those, too)
Favorite song: Aaliyah - Are you that somebody
Favorite Movie: Man of Steel Favorite
Free time activity: Lifting weights

15) What is your advise for a young, talented track runner about to enter high school?
Spend the time to do your homework, ie., abs, stretch, write down your goals and race strategy and watch it come true.

16) Anything else you would like to add.
 Thank you for this opportunity to tell my story and for all you do for our sport! I wish you continued success.
Michael Granville II