Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On the Run - Spring 1974

It just wasn't meant to be.  The winter of 73/74 was brutal.  It seemed that every time I attempted to go on a training run I would get sick.  I remember hoping to log miles over the winter break with Kent McDonald only to be met with terrible cold and snow.  It was slow going.  One step forward, two steps back.

I can remember completing a hard training session in Allen Field House.  The field house was just a half mile from my house.  As I walked home I started coughing, blood spurting out as I hacked my lungs up.  The doctors just couldn't get a handle on my illness.

By the time track started I had no strength.  I was getting pounded by my teammates in training sessions.  Our first meet was a return to the indoor track at Pittsburg State.  I took it out hard hoping to shake Mike Mueller from Shawnee Mission Northwest.  I had a decent lead and then with a little more than a half mile to go a clueless pole vaulter walked across the track carrying his poles blocking the four inside lanes.  I had to come to a complete halt as he stood there dumbfounded and jumped all the way out into lane five.  As I got back up to full speed I could hear Mueller coming up behind me.  He went by me along with one of his teammates and I ended up third in 10:19.  I was spent.

The state indoor was no better.  I slugged my way through a 4:45 mile to finish dead last in my Friday night heat.  The next meet we ran on the horrid cinder track at Washington High School on a windy, bitterly cold day.  Why they didn't cancel the meet is beyond me.  In the mile Clay Kappelman took me to the woodshed and I finished second in a blistering 5:02.  I was spent and we still had the two mile to run.  The gun went off and I drifted back to five place in a six man field.  By the mile I had pulled up to third.  Running in first was my teammate was Edwin Tubby, running his heart out because he knew he had a shot at beating me.  His effort started to catch up to him and with a half to go I had caught him and the other runner in front of me and won in a scintillating 10:48.  Eddy was heart broken and I was sick, literally, out of school for another week and missed our third meet of the season.

By the time I came back I got the chance to run a mile steeplechase at Northwest.  It went a lot better than the effort at the KU Relays my sophomore year.  I didn't fall and I managed to finish third.  The race was probably the best I'd run that spring.

The Relays followed and I went in the tank again.  I had time trialed my way onto the DMR beating out teammate Vince Miller who probably should have run the 1320 instead of me regardless.  It was brutal.  I got the baton in 1st place by at least three yards.  I held onto the lead for a lap then Eric Lathrop rolled by me down the backstretch followed by a whole slew of runners.  By the time I handed off to Clay we were back in tenth place.  I had run 3:25, a good 10 seconds slower than I was capable of.  I was scheduled to run the steeplechase the next morning.  I was mentally and physically beat and watched the race from the stands. 

I managed a couple of fifth place finishes in the mile and two mile the following week in Topeka before heading to the league meet at the same locale the following week.  The highlight was watching the boys mile.  Jim Nicolay from Shawnee Mission South had been enjoying a dominating season.  He had taken both the boys mile and two mile at the Relays running around 4:17 and 9:13.  On this night Tim Davis from West decided to take a page from the Filbert Bayi school of running.  Davis hammered the first lap in 60 flat with Nicolay 15 yards down.  Davis hit the half in 2:01 showing no signs of stress and Nicolay was even further down.  The stress began to show after three laps which Davis hit in 3:07.  Slowly Nicolay began to reel Davis in but it wasn't to be.  Tim Davis hit the line in about 4:16 a couple of yards ahead of Nicolay.  He would use the same strategy to win the state championship later that spring.

I ran the two mile and just hung on for dear life through the first mile.  I ran about 4:59 in fifth place and slowly began to drift back.  I ran 10:19 and finished 7th.  It wouldn't get any better the following Monday at our home meet.  I ran the best mile of the my horrible season hitting the finish line in 4:39, good for fifth place.  Then half miler Tom Reynolds was a no show at the meet and the coaches forced me into the 880.  I was completely drained from my effort in the mile and ran 66/66 to a dead last 2:12.  I had nothing in the tank.

My season would come to an end at regionals.  For the third year in a row I would finish fourth in the two mile.  I ran 10:19.  The same time I ran at the beginning of the season.  A lot of what happened over the season was my fault.  My training was spotty at best, even when I felt healthy.  My heart and head wasn't in it because it seemed like my peers had roared by me and left me in their wake.

But as disappointing as my senior year was I look back at my high school running career with many, many fond memories.  Watching Russ Wesley from Shawnee Mission West reel in Joe Clark from Wyandotte in a hotly contested two mile relay at North, watching Steve Shaad after yet another second place finish in the mile steeplechase double back 20 minutes later in the two mile relay and breaking into a joyous celebration when his teammate Mark Denney broke the tape at the Kansas Relays leading Bonner Springs to a victory, watching my teammate Tad Scales do the impossible and pole vault over 16 feet inside Allen Field House on standards set up on coke crates in order to reach the magical height and set a national record, and all those quarters run on the horrible cinder track at Lawrence High School, with Glen, Tom, Clay, Edwin, Vince, Keith, and Barney, the bond of sweat and pain will endure forever.

1 comment:

  1. In any case, as for any young runner, the formative years of secondary track and cross country, even if the the training and performances are marked by pain and disappointment, are often critical to establishing a life-long passion for the sport. This is clearly exemplified by your later accomplishments.