Monday, July 1, 2019

Wow, Just Wow

I took my time to ponder, consider and ruminate over the amazing season of track and field that was produced by the high school athletes who attend high schools across Lee County.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I focus mainly on distance runners, but I must give a tip of the cap to the incredible senior season from Fort Myers High's Jacob Lemmon.

I have a soft spot in my heart for throwers.  My cousin Doug Knop was a multiple Big 8 champion in the discus and was an All-American at Kansas while being a long time school record holder.  Lemmon stepped his game up leading the nation for most of the season with a state record toss of 209 feet, six inches.  The Virginia bound thrower became a more than adequate shot putter this year and added a second gold medal at State in that event.

Then there were the sprinters from Dunbar.  Seneca Milledge will join Lemmon at Virginia.  Besides snagging 100 meter gold at State he and his Tiger teammates blazed a stunning 40.27 4 x 100 relay to take another gold in Jacksonville.  Milledge assets, his incredible physique, makes him susceptible to breaking down.  Otherwise I have little doubt he would have had a monster season in the long jump and been a force at 200 meters.  He is simply an amazing sprinter.

But I gravitate toward distance and middle distance runners.  Those of you who follow my blog know that I had great expectations for this outdoor season and I was waiting to write about it expecting some big results in June from the state's best middle distance runner.  Estero's Hugh Brittenham capped an outstanding high school career completing a difficult double at the Florida State Championships. Brittenham scored double gold running 4:14.73 and 1:52.4 in the 1,600 and 800.

We all expected Hugh to compete in the post season and make a run at a sub 1:50 800.  But I will praise Brittenham and his coach Brian Olitsky for deciding to end the season early, on a high note.  Last season Brittenham was running on fumes when he ran both the Brooks and New Balance post season meets.  Instead, he's spending the summer getting ready for cross country at the University of Florida.

The Oliveira twins didn't disappoint either.  Neither Sierra or Moriah captured individual gold but their efforts led Evangelical Christian to a team title at State and both ran on winning 4x800 and 4x1600 relay teams.  Sierra ran a PR at 800 meters in a superb 2:11.04 to finish second.  Moriah ran an astounding 53.70 to finish 2nd in the open 400. Both young women will be seniors next year.  We should see more fireworks.

The best single performance of the year belonged to double state champion Jessica Edwards of Cantebury.  She ran a monster PR to hold off Sierra Oliveira in winning the 800 clocking a national class time of 2:08.40.  Edwards also captured gold in the 1,600 running 5:06.78.  Edwards had a couple of tantalizing attempts at a sub 5 minute 1,600, a barrier that will most certainly be broken next year.

2020 promises to be wide open on the boys side of the distance scene while Edwards and Oliveira will duke it out over the middle distances.  Can either of these outstanding runners clock a 2:05?  I wouldn't be surprised if either or both did.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Bruce

I'm getting tired of writing about work friends who have left us.  A man who was probably one of my closest friends in the television news business died this week.  Bruce Lindsay was a larger than life personality who ran the assignment desk at WDAF in Kansas City for years. 

Bruce and I started at WDAF at about the same time.  He was older and knew the city like the back of his hand.  His contacts with local law enforcement were the stuff of legend.  Bruce broke more big stories thanks to those contacts than anybody I ever worked with in K.C.  If something was in the air Bruce would say, let me use the source-o-phone and make a call.
  
Bruce was wise enough to know who was answering calls on the detectives desk at KCPD and would have me make the call for him if it was someone who didn't like him.  He would advise me as how to talk to the detective and more often than not the result was a story.  I know he pissed off somebody at the department for the information he got about legendary Kansas City serial killer, Bob Berdella.

Bruce and I spent a lot of after work hours together listening to jazz.  We would go somewhere for live music or hit a popular bar with an incredible collection of jazz records for a beer.  Milton's Tap Room was a one of kind place for a one of a kind man like Bruce.  

Bruce loved his guns.  He collected them, lots of them.  He brought them to work when he shouldn't have.  I think his love of guns was only topped by his love of music and his three daughters.  

No one put on a show at the assignment desk like Bruce.  He would spout lines from his favorite movies, particularly "Full Metal Jacket," and regale anyone who would listen about his time as a Marine.  If it wasn't for a bad spine I think Bruce would have served 20 in the Corps. 

When I returned to Kansas City after a three year stint in Phoenix, Bruce pulled me aside after I had been back on the job for a couple of months.  He confessed that my re-hire had made him mad.  He thought I was an asshole but he could see that I had changed and was happy that I had come home to Channel 4.  I think it's the nicest thing has anybody ever told me.

Then there were the nicknames.  Bruce had nicknames for everyone, mine, Rink, became Stink or Stink Boy Brown depending on his mood.  Sportscaster Frank Boal became the Boal Weevil, anchor Cynthia Smith was dubbed the News Hawk.  He was indiscriminate with his nicknames and they were always spot on.

During my last couple of years at FOX 4, Bruce and I delighted in terrorizing the new associate producers.  I would whisper to them that Bruce had served time for murder at Brushy Mountain Prison in Tennessee so it was best not to anger him.  Given his usual sour disposition the AP's would take my stories as gospel.  

The last 30 years of his life were unfair.  His woes started with a lawn mower accident that cost him a finger.  His bad back would lead to several medical complications. Those issues led to a whole slew of other problems that didn't make for a life that he deserved. 

Bruce Lindsay was a difficult man who lived a difficult life.  But he brought a joy and an uproar that kept the newsroom alive and humming.  His passion for music will always stay with me, as will the Jazz in the Night poster that he gave me some 30 years ago.  It's sad that he left us probably not knowing how many lives he touched and how many people loved him.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Dasha

Who is Dasha Dorofeev?  She is an eight-year-old getting ready for the third grade.  Dasha is a gymnast.  She speaks fluent Russian, but that's because mom and dad brought her here from Riga, Latvia when she was just age two.

Eight days ago Dasha, her mother Natasha and sister Masha were in a horrific car crash during a driving rain storm.  The crash broke Natasha's shoulder and left her with two collapsed lungs.  Masha survived with a slight concussion and a scratch on her arm.  Dasha was trapped in the wreckage and San Carlos Park firefighters cut her out of the car to save her life.

Dasha was taken by helicopter to Lee Memorial Hospital and then transferred by ground to Tampa General which has a pediatric unit that can handle neurological crises.  She was incubated and heavily sedated.  By Monday the breathing tube was removed and the recovery process began.

The last eight days have been a blur.  I have been in Fort Myers the entire time save for two trips to Tampa.  My first responsibility was to take care of Masha while mom recovered.  My first trip came on Wednesday after I retrieved Natasha from the hospital and the other this weekend to take my wife Tatyana out for dinner and a much needed cocktail.

Vlad, Natasha and Tatyana take turns sitting with Dasha around the clock. The progress is measured in teeny, tiny increments of hope.  A hug here, a kiss there, and finally a giggle plus a trip down the hallway to put together a puzzle.

Seeing Dasha is like seeing a severe stroke victim.  She struggles to focus but she fights mightily to do so.  She has yet to speak.  It may take weeks for that to happen.  But she has accomplished the impossible in a matter of days.

For grandma, mom and dad the days have no meaning.  Masha has gone to Sarasota to stay with a friend, a great getaway from the grind of watching her sister.  I don't know how she will rebound from all of this.  I don't know how any of us will recover.  But we will and so will Dasha. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Tim

Tim Richardson was a local television news star.  At least that's the way I thought of him as a teenager growing up in Lawrence, Kansas watching Kansas City television.  Tim worked at KMBC.  He was a consumer reporter who helped people.  The charisma just oozed off the screen. 

So I was awestruck when I first met Tim.  I was working at KMBC as an intern in the spring of 1978.  By this time Tim had left television news and if my memory serves me correctly he was working for the city of Kansas City, Kansas at the time. 

I didn't have strong feelings about many of the on-air people at the start my career.  Tim was out of the business but he had left his mark on this impressionable young journalist.  I felt the same way about Charles Gray, who had migrated to radio by the time I started at Channel 9.  And I eventually felt that way about his replacement at KMBC, the larger than life Larry Moore.

I learned tonight that Tim Richardson had died.  The news left me crushed.  I don't know why.  Losing people who had an impact on your life is part of living life.  But Tim left a deep impression on me.

It's probably because I got to know Tim when he returned to television at WDAF TV.  I soon found out that Tim like most heroes, had his weaknesses.  But he was a special man, with incredible ties to the community at large.

I always felt that Tim was looking out for me.  He would even fetch me a meal from Gates BBQ and makes sure my beef sandwich was lean.  I think we had a bond because I gave him respect that few of the other producers at the station gave him.

Tim could be slippery and could be prone to not pushing to do his best work.  That angered the other producers.  I was tolerant of his unusual work habits because I knew that when I needed him, when it was important, Tim Richardson would come through for me.  He would get the story.

Tim was a dapper, hip man of the town. One day I came to work one day in a pink dress shirt.  He quizzed me about whether wearing pink would in some way mask my masculinity.  I assured him that it didn't and it wasn't before too long that Tim had purchased a pink dress shirt.

I remember when Tim had learned that Kansas City Chiefs great Buck Buchanan was dying from lung cancer.  Tim and talked about whether we should break the news.  Tim spoke with the Buchanan family who pleaded with us to wait, that when the time was right they would give us the scoop.  Tim trusted me with the information knowing I wouldn't share it until the time was right.

It wasn't a month or so later that the Kansas City Star broke the Buchanan news and we were beaten out of a big story.  Tim showed me something in that moment.  He wasn't angry.  It was just part of the job and that you just had to push forward and do the best with the hand you were dealt.

Tim wasn't the best reporter I worked with and he certainly had his faults.  But I always enjoyed working with him.  I savored his company whether it was a beer after work or a quick lunch together at Gates.  I wish I could be with him one last time for a beef and a half with fries.

 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Jacksonville


A big weekend lies ahead for a handful of outstanding track and field athletes from Lee County.  At least a half a dozen runners and throwers stand a chance of claiming gold at the Florida State High School Track and Field Championships in Jacksonville.  The two day event starts Friday at Hodges Stadium on the campus of the University of North Florida.

We’ll start with the throwers and Fort Myers High standout Jacob Lemmon.  The senior discus thrower leads the nation with the best ever toss in Florida high school history of 209 feet six inches.  Lemmon could also score points in the shot put.  SFCA’s Rebekah Bergquist is a standout discus thrower as well.  She sits just outside the national top ten in the discus and Bergquist should score points for the Kings in the shot put as well.

Dunbar has the market cornered on sprinters.  A healthy Seneca Milledge could end his storied career for the Tigers with a Class 2A 100 meter title.  And if Milledge is on Dunbar’s 4x100 team, the result could be double gold.  Dunbar has a pair of girls who could make the podium as well in the sprints. Junior Teera Stewart shines in the 100 and 200 and hurdling sensation Lucheyona Weaver is coming into her own as a sophomore.

A pair of gold medals would make up for a rough and tumble season for the greatest middle distance runner in Southwest Florida history.  Estero senior Hugh Brittenham overcame health issues to put himself in a position to capture both the 800 and 1,600 meter titles.  Brittenham is the defending 3A state champion in the 800.  Assuming he’s healthy, the Florida bound star stands an excellent chance of winning the 800 and adding the 1,600 crown, a race he finished second in last year.

ECS 400 meter standout Moriah Oliveira should defend her Class 1A 400 meter crown.  With the help of her twin sister Sierra, ECS could also claim the 4x800 and 4x400 relay titles this weekend.  A team podium finish could result if Sierra can duplicate her 2015 victory at 800 meters.

And that takes us to the Friday morning Lee County showdown that will highlight the meet, Sierra Oliveira vs. Cantebury’s Jessica Edwards over 800 meters.  This duo went one-two at last year’s state meet with Edwards taking her first state gold.  Edwards has dominated the meetings at 800 meters so far this year.  With good weather and great competition Lee County could see its second high school girl under 2:10 for that distance, the question is will it be Edwards, Oliveira or perhaps both?

On Saturday Edwards will try to add a 1,600 meter crown after her 4x800 duties.  Last year as a ninth grader Edwards took second.  This year besides the 1,600 title, Edwards will hope to join the exclusive list of Lee County girls who have broken five minutes over that distance. 

Regardless of the times, Lee County athletes stand ready to make an impressive haul of gold medals this weekend in Jacksonville.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

My Marathon Journeys: Long Beach 1988

Running and racing is a learning experience.  I was a decent runner.  Running a sub-3 hour marathon is certainly something every serious runner aspires to as well as running a BQ, a Boston qualifying marathon.  I didn't care about running Boston.  I had an itch that I needed to scratch and that was a 2:45 marathon, something I had missed out on at Grandma's the year before.

Moving to Phoenix was a blessing and a curse.  I had found a great long run group that operated out of Scottsdale.  My long runs went from the 21 mile staple to 16 miles.  That was an adjustment.  I eventually would find a new coach, Fred Moore, who would teach me one of the most valuable run lessons of my life.  But it would take nearly a year for his advice to sink in.

My training was really back to indifferent.  My racing was stagnant.  I couldn't hold a decent pace for a 10K.  It was a mysterious frustration because my conditioning told me something  different.  Plus my job was stressful, the promised promotion never materialized.

For reasons that remain a mystery to me these three decades later I skipped all of the mid-winter marathons in the Phoenix area and decided I needed the extra months to run an early May marathon in Long Beach, California.

I remember one lead up race in particular.  It was called the Mad Dog 50.  It was in April in Scottsdale which means warm weather is certainly in the cards.  You had a choice of 50K or 50 miles.  I was no dummy.  A 50K run three weeks out from my race sounded perfect.

I planned to run 7:30 pace until 20 miles and then push to the marathon and then hold on for the last five miles.  The course was a 5K loop through a park little that would qualify as a hilly.  As I recall there weren't more than 50 runners for this insane exercise.

It all went as planned.  Sometime after 15 miles I started picking off runners here and there.  I pushed for about five miles after 20 and could barely run seven minute pace.  My log shows that I went through 25K in 1:57:05.  I was gassed by 27 miles.  In the end I finished third overall and ran 3:56.  For what it was worth, which isn't much, it was the 100th fastest 50K in the United States in 1988.

The race told me I was as fit as I needed to be to run 2:45.  I knew that if I was lucky I could break 2:50.  I wasn't lucky.  The weather was hot on Sunday May 1.  The course offered no shade.  It would turn into a death march.

The first ten miles were right where I wanted to be.  I hit 10 miles in 63:05, which is about 2:45 pace.  I hit 20 in 2:07:45 which kept me in the ball park for a 2:47 but the wheels were coming off.  It took 31:55 to run from mile 15 to mile 20.  Mile 20 to mile 25 took 35:18.  That's 7:04 pace.  The heat took it's toll and I ran 2:51:55.

I was happy in the sense that I had run a decent time in the heat.  But the wheels in my life were about to come off.  A little more than a month later one of my close former work colleagues, Sue Parcell would be dead at age 31.  We had been college classmates, co-workers for seven years and really good friends.  It was a gut punch.  I barely ran the rest of the summer.

The final blow came with the death one of my closest running friends, Jon Blubaugh.  Jon was one of the joys of my running life.  I had met him in the fall of 1974 when I had been kicked off the K.U. cross country team and he was just a 9th grader full of potential.  I lived my running dreams through him all through my time in college.  He became a state champion but injuries cut short his promising career.

He was only 28 years old and his death only helped push my personal life deeper into to the shitter.  I didn't care about anything.  I was heading to age 33 and I just didn't see much to get excited about in my life.  My personal funk wouldn't snap until the beginning of 1989.  It came in the form of a wake up call that would force me to re-examine my personal lifestyle and send me a glimmer of hope that I might, just might be able to break 2:40 in the marathon.

Monday, April 8, 2019

10K

Sometimes you just gotta race, no matter what kind of shape you're in.  So it was without much resistance from me the Czarina entered me into Saturday's Run for Music 10K in Naples.  This would be my first race since last year's half marathon in Riga, Latvia where I ran 2:04:33, my slowest half by about ten minutes.

I realized heading into the weekend that this would be my first race in Southwest Florida in three years.  I hadn't run a race on home turf since a 5K in the spring of 2016.  That same spring I had clocked a 52:36 10K at the aforementioned Run for Music.  Again, it was my slowest 10K ever.

This time I was under no delusions about what would happen.  I had knee surgery for a meniscus tear at the end of November.  I hadn't gotten my mileage above the 20 mile per week mark until March.  I had gained weight and my runs were plodding at best.  I was going into this race hoping I could keep my pace under 10 minutes per mile.

The race itself is a really good one.  The course is fairly shaded and a pancake flat out and back.  Musicians play at a few spots along the course which makes for some pleasant distractions.

I got through the race without completely blowing up or embarrassing myself.  I loped along at just under 9:30 pace for the first four miles.  I felt pretty good even through mile five which I hit in 9:35.  The last mile was a grind as I barely finished it under 10 minutes.  I hit the finish line 58:33, not great but not as bad as I feared.

I learned one thing from all of this.  I need to race more and incorporate a tempo run into my training regiment.  The mileage will come and I will lose the extra weight.  But unfortunately, nobody beats father time.