Thursday, December 15, 2016

Well, That Stinks!

Running takes a seat, way, way, way in the back of the bus that is sports journalism.  I noticed a change in that the last couple of years when the Fort Myers New-Press started doing more profiles on local runners and more stories on road races, cross country and track and field meets.  When I asked News-Press editor Ed Reed why the sudden love fest with running and he just smiled.  Ed said two words, Cory Mull.

It turns out the man leading the charge for high school sports coverage at the News-Press was a big fan of running.  I let Ed know and Cory how much I appreciated the sudden wealth of coverage the sport was getting.  Cory, true to his passion, even started showing up time to time to takes part in our Wednesday night interval workouts at Cypress Lake High School.

Cory Mull at the track
Cory's passion was evidence.  One night he sidled over to me totally geeked out that one of the women running the workout was a one-time Footlocker finalist, pretty heady stuff in the world of high school running.  Cory had covered the one-time phenom when she was in high school and he knew I would be just as psyched as he was by her presence.

I was lucky enough to work freelance over the last year for Cory and the News-Press.  He helped me tremendously with my writing and my story telling.  I'm a pretty good television writer but writing for print is a different beast.  Cory has those chops in spades.  His guidance and spot on critiques meant the world to me.

But as often happens, good things come to an end.  Cory leaving Southwest Florida for the mean streets of Austin, Texas.  He's taking his love of running to a whole new level.  He'll be covering the running scene in one of the country's hottest running communities.  It makes me sad because I doubt that we'll see a News-Press reporter scrambling around the local Turkey Trot and I suspect our high school track and cross country meets will receive a little less love.

Here's to Cory Mull and to his next adventure in journalism.  May his passion for running carry him to even bigger opportunities.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Nothing Beats A Long Run

I'm not Jack Daniels, I'm not Arthur Lydiard, I'm not Alberto Salazar, but I know one thing that these three great distance coaches all know, if you're a distance runner, long runs matter.  10 miles is NOT a long run.  Not even 12 miles qualifies as a long run.  A long run 16 miles or more.  A long run takes between two hours to two and a half hours.

Why is this important to me?  Because I know too many runners who think that logging 10 to 12 miles every Sunday will get them in half marathon and marathon shape.  The sad truth is they are cheating themselves.

I ran my first marathon on runs no longer than five or six miles.  I suffered and ran 3:14.  Not bad, but the only reason I ran that fast is because I was just 19 and I was a reasonably trained runner in high school with pretty decent mile and 2 mile PR's.  Two years later I broke 3 hours in the marathon with my longest run being just 10 miles.  Both marathons had the same thing in common, I suffered like hell over the last six miles.

I ran a couple of more marathons in my 20's, both with the same kind of haphazard training and both ended in the 3:11 range.  It sucked.  It hurt.  But I knew deep down inside if I could run 2:57 on 25 miles a week at 19 I could run much faster with a decent training regiment.

I turned to a private coach, Tom Dowling, at the end of 1985.  The centerpiece of my training was a weekly Sunday long run.  It started at 8 miles and after several months I progressed to 21 miles.  It didn't take long for this run, this impossible 21 mile beast, to become an enjoyable part of my weekend.  I looked forward to it.  We had five to six planned water stops.  We had a large group, usually eight to 20 runners, of different abilities, all with the same goal, racing faster.

I ran my first marathon 10 months into this new program and broke 2:50 with ease.  The only difficult section of the run was the last 2 miles and that was mainly because it was uphill.  I was hooked.  I followed it up eight months later with a 2:51 in extremely hot conditions and I knew I could run even faster, maybe under 2:40.

In 1987 I moved to Phoenix where my new long run group did just 16 miles.  Sometimes I would show up early and do a few extra miles, but the bulk of my long runs were at that distance.  My marathon times stayed pretty consistent topping out with a 2:48 PR in 1989 when I was actually running just 40 miles a week.

When I ran my fastest marathon in 1990, I probably did at least three long runs of 25 miles in the three months leading up to it.  I broke 2:40 and I didn't suffer one bit.  It was the easiest race I had ever run.

The point of all this is when I trained in a serious manner, the 16 to 21 mile long run was a fixture in my training routine all the way up until 2003.  When I was shooting for a marathon I knew that I needed at least six to nine long runs in the three months leading up to the marathon in order to complete in a manner in which I didn't suffer.

The last marathon I ran in 2010, I tried to shortcut my training.  I had a good six months of training, but I only had three runs of two hours or more.  I thought that at age 54 I could get away with it because I had run for so many years.  The hot weather and my age did a number with me and I ran my slowest marathon by 40 minutes.  It just goes to show, half measure avail you nothing.

Now I realize that most runners that come across my path in a store who want to run a marathon are only trying to complete it.  It's a bucket list item.  But I say if you really want to tackle, take your time.  Don't shortcut yourself.  Training for a marathon in three or four months is just shortchanging yourself and the experience.  Carve out a year.  Build a training program that allows you to build your base to such an extent that the marathon doesn't tear your body apart.

Training for marathons in Southwest Florida presents two tremendous problems.  The weather from June through the end of September is awful.  You can go out at 5 a.m. but the humidity eats you alive.  That's why I believe the 16 mile option is probably the best way to go for runners in our area.  The other issue is the lack of hills.  Hill training is an essential component to any marathon training.  You need to hit the bridges at least twice a week, especially during that long run.

And this is the final part of my diatribe.  Get a coach.  A book is good but a book doesn't hold you accountable.  A coach will hold you accountable.  A coach is a sounding board.  A coach can work with you at finding alternatives when parts of your workload aren't giving the results you're seeking.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

One Year Late, One Big Body Short

Every year I watch a couple of University of Kansas men's basketball games and then try to dissect where the team is headed.  The 2016-17 Jayhawks have more than enough firepower to take a 13th straight Big 12 crown, but I doubt that it has the stuff of Final 4 material.  Last year's squad did and it couldn't get past eventual national champion Villanova.  Last year's squad had depth to die for.  This year's squad, not so much.

Talent wise, starting five, this team is much better than last year's squad.  I'll trade Josh Jackson for Wayne Selden any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  Carlton Bragg is more than an adequate replacement for Perry Ellis.  That leaves holdovers Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Landon Lucas, a trio that brings more experience to the floor than any team since the national champion squad of 2008.

But once you get past Lucas and Bragg, the front line choices are horrific.  Udoka Azubike is a man child who has so much potential in the post it's scary.  But after that you are left with Mitch "Gordon" Lightfoot, who is a year away from being a player who can contribute.  Because of this Kansas will be playing four guards, a lot.

The flip side Kansas has the best guard tandem in the country with Mason and Graham.  Their backups would start for 99 percent of the teams in the country.  Svi Myklailiuk will play in the NBA.  His ability to score is unquestioned, this ability to defend, well not so much.  The gem Bill Self who sat unnoticed on the bench much of last year is Lagerald Vick.  This long and lanky off guard can play defense and his game on the offensive end, while shaky, shows promise.

Kansas as it has shown in the first two games of the season will live and die by the foul.  The lack of depth will rear its ugly head on nights when Bragg and Lucas get into foul trouble, which is a sure bet.  The only up side is Kansas is better offensively in the four guard set, especially with Myklailiuk on the floor.

The other worry is Mason.  He was completely worn down by the time March Madness hit.  Self has to figure out a way to manage his minutes.  Given the slim pickings on the bench, that's going to be a tough, tough assignment.

K.U. would have been a Final 4 lock if Cheick Diallo hadn't turned into Cliff Alexander part 2.  At least Cheick is in the NBA.  But in the end, the Kansas Jayhawks will be one tough out when March rolls around.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Everything You Know Is Wrong

Firesign Theatre said it.  This season of cross country in Southwest Florida proved it.  Months ago I wrote about the promise I saw on the distance running scene in our area.  I hate to disparage high school kids, but man, it was disappointing.

Let's start with the positives.  Dunbar High School went to state.  It's a school where football rules and where running cross country for young African-Americans can't be considered too cool.  But Coach Joshua Evans lit a spark and this unheralded team ran their way to State.

Then there's Estero.  Don't kid yourself, the program is still trying to recover from the loss of the irreplaceable Jeff Sommer.  Kudos for Ben Pignatone, the boys coach, to being himself.  He swallowed some bitter pills, pulled his boys together and they ran with fierce pride over the last month of the season.  It's his program now.  I can't say enough about how much I respect what he's done.

The runner that never gave in was North Fort Myers Kayla Easterly.  She played second banana to Fort Myer's star Krissy Gear for the last two year.  In their last cross country battle of their prep careers in Florida, Easterly got the upper hand.  She is the most improved runner in our area by a country mile in the last two years.

Finally there's the unending enthusiasm of Riverdale's Dan Whaley and Cypress Lake's Chris Bradway who exude joy when it comes to running. If they can build the numbers in at their schools, both can build programs that could scare traditional powers Estero and Fort Myers.

Finally, there's the what should have been stories of both Fort Myers boys and girls cross country team.  This is not meant as a slam at any individual or either coach, but neither team fulfilled their potential and I think everyone would agree.

The Fort Myers boys caught a bad break when niggling injuries swept through their top three at various times during the season.  A nasty illness that staggered senior Sam Hordinski, was the final blow.  Yet in the end, finishing 5th at the State Champions is actually quite an achievement.

Then there's the mystifying crew of girls that run for Rob Strong.  Getting 3rd is nothing to feel ashamed of.  Fiona Kurland could be next year's Kayla Easterly.  But as a fan of this team and these young women, something was missing.  Each of the top ten girls on this squad had their moments during the course of the season.  But the stars seemed misaligned because they could never hit their peaks together on the same day.  Had they done, a spot on the podium was theirs. 

I'm crossing my fingers that the outdoor track season could be a special one for these special distance runners from across Lee County.  If the weather cooperates, we could see some staggeringly good times.  Here's to a great winter of training and a sensational spring.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Underappreciation of Steve Ovett

My summer reading frenzy about running is drawing to a close.  The last book of the four that I've read was written by Pat Butcher and it's called "The Perfect Distance."  It came out more than a decade ago and delves deep into the greatest middle distance rivalry in the last 50 years that pitted to Brits against each other, Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe.

The book has stirred a lot of memories and feelings I had about these two great milers, both Olympians and world record holders.  It was a rivalry in which fans were certainly divided.  Sebastian Coe was the perfect runner.  His speed was amazing.  He was smart, erudite and a media darling.  Ovett was a man born of humble beginnings, ran like a runaway freight train, showboated and had an awful relationship with the media.  I loved Steve Ovett.

Reading wonderfully written history filled in a lot of holes about my memories of these two middle distance giants.  I first became aware of Ovett at the 1976 Olympics and my feelings were that he was too young and in something way beyond his means.  I would be proven wrong a year later when he dismantled a world class field to win the World Cup, the same year Sebastian Coe first served notice that he was an 800 meter runner of ability.

Their first big head to head race was upstaged by East German Willi Wulbeck at the 1978 European Championships.  Coe showed his inexperience at international racing finishing third and Wulbeck snuck by Ovett for the gold.  The world wanted more but it would have to wait two years.

By 1979 Coe was on a world record setting run, breaking three world records in the 800, 1500 and mile over the course of 41 days.  He would later add the 1000 meter world record for good measure in 1980 with Ovett finally taking away the mile record a month before the showdown of showdowns at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

If it weren't for Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett the Moscow Olympics wouldn't have existed for the United States.  President Jimmy Carter's idiotic decision to boycott the games because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan ruined the games in the eyes of most Americans besides cheating hundreds of hard working athletes out of Olympic glory.  The British AAA had thumbed its nose at Margaret Thatcher and didn't join in the boycott, thus setting the stage for an 800/1500 clash of the titans.

The 800 was first on the schedule and everyone assumed it was Coe's race, everyone but Steve Ovett.  He literally bowled through the field on his way to gold while Coe was shell-shocked with silver.  Sebastian Coe was devastated but somehow mustered his self-confidence and managed to turn the tables on Ovett in the 1500 taking gold.  Ovett settled for bronze and back in eighth place was another promising Brit, Steve Cram.

Over the next year Coe and Ovett avoided each other.  More and more money was floating into what was supposed to be an amateur sport.  No one could come up with the right amount of cash to get the duo onto the track.  1981 saw the two men exchange world records in the mile. 

Then a series of three races between the two was announced for 1982.  Ovett suffered a serious injury during training and then Coe was hurt so the races never happened.  I even purchased a ticket for the final race in the mile set for Eugene in September hoping against hope that the two men would recover for a clash.  Instead, I saw Tom Byers hammer out a tremendous mile against a decent but certainly diminished field.

It wasn't until 1984 I finally got to see the two race at the Los Angeles Olympics.  Coe was on the comeback trail, Ovett was in tip top shape.  But the heat and smog of Los Angeles wrecked havoc with Ovett's breathing.  His Olympics featured multiple trips to the hospital.  He finished dead last in the 800 final while Coe once again had to settle for silver in his best event. 

Ovett was warned not to attempt the 1500 by doctors.  His race in the finals ended 350 meters from the finish as he stepped off the track and collapsed.  Coe ran brilliantly again, as he had in Moscow and became the first man to win back to back gold medals in the 1500.  Steve Cram, who was soon to go on a world record spree of his own, took the silver. 

1984 really put a cap on that magnificent rivalry.  Neither Ovett and Coe never raced each other again.  They raced each other only six times.  It's a shame.

Ovett's last major win came in 1986 at 5000 meters in the Commonwealth Games.  He continued to compete until 1991, one year longer than Coe.  British Olympic selectors cruelly refused to allow Coe a chance to defend his 1500 title at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.  Yet he was still good enough the following year to capture the British 1500 AAA title as well as running a super fast 800 under 1:44.

The decade plus span of their careers was pre-internet.  You had to rely on Track and Field News for the latest takes on their running exploits.  You were getting the bulk of the news then, usually a month after it happened.  It only added to the aura and mystery of these two great runners.

Both men are responsible for helping push track and field into a professional era.  There was no denying that they were huge draws wherever they ran.  Both made countless tens of thousands of dollars under the table before the sport finally caught up and made those illegal payments, legal.   

British middle distance running from 1972 through 1992 was dominant.  Brendan Foster, Dave Moorcroft, Graham Williamson, and Peter Elliot were right there with Coe, Ovett and Cram.  It's amazing that for more than 20 years British middle distance running was dormant and even now only Mo Farah, really a long distance runner, has run as faster than the great British trio.

Doubtless Seb Coe is the great middle distance runner of the last 50 years.  His range from 800 to 1500 was unmatched.  The dozen or so world records speak for themselves.  But Steve Ovett was the rock and roll rebel who captured my heart.  And the two made for a great decade of racing and record chasing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

And Then There Was Gene

2016 has been an unsettling year.  So many celebrity deaths, a handful of which have reached down into the core of the American soul of popular culture.  Prince, Pat Summit, David Bowie, Muhammed Ali, Morley Safer, Gary Shandling, and yes, even Nancy Reagan.  Then there was news of Gene Wilder's passing.  It doesn't pack the punch of an Ali, Bowie, Shandling or Prince, but I have the feeling that many people under the age of 40 don't realize just how great he was.

Outside of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Gen X'ers and Millennials don't have a clue about this curly haired comedic genius.  I remember the first movie I ever went to in which Wilder had a leading role.  It was 1974.  Barney McCoy had regaled members of the track team about a new movie he had seen, "Blazing Saddles."  Barney's description of the fart scene had us rolling.

So off I went not knowing a thing about Wilder or the genius behind this great movie, Mel Brooks.  Wilder was this sophisticated, alcoholic gun fighter, playing a buddy to a black sheriff ,Cleavon Little.  The chemistry was stunning and it laid the path for future black/white buddy films including a few that Wilder would star in with the legendary Richard Pryor, "Silver Streak" being the most memorable of their collaborations.

Yet it is two other Wilder/Brooks movies that will stand the test of time.  I didn't see "The Producers" until more than a decade after its release.  Gene Wilder made me uncomfortable.  From that sprung great comedy.  Every time I see that movie, it only gets better.

The greatest movie he ever starred in he co-wrote with Brooks.  If there ever is a movie starring Gene Wilder that you should see it is "Young Frankenstein."  The cast is brilliant and the writing was hilarious.  But it is a song and dance routine that captured the film's essence.  The young doctor tap dancing with the Monster to "Putting on the Ritz" is a classic piece of American comedy.

I can't wait for Thursday night's tribute to Wilder on TMC.  Let the hilarity ensue.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

USA Distance: Magna Cum Laude

Jager, present, Centrowitz, present, Chelimo present, Rupp present, excuse me while I hand out a major upgrade to America's distance running efforts at the 2016 Rio Olympics.  Does any team from any country deserve an A+ more than the USA?  Ethiopia came close with Anaya's amazing World Record run in the women's 10,000 and a silver in the men's the marathon.   Kenya, no finalists in the men's 5,000?  Impossible.  The usual steeple gold and Rudisha in the 800 but then a disappearing act in the 1,500.  The Kenyan women at least held their own.

When last we met a mere short five days ago the United States Olympic track and field team was on a roll.  The distance running hot streak continued right through Sunday requiring a major upgrade that the original B+.  In fact, we've just witnessed the greatest distance throw down at the Olympics by the USA ever.

There were so many surprises and so much to celebrate.  We'll start with Evan Jager, who cemented his place as America's greatest steeplechaser.  Henry Marsh held that title for years but Jager's American Record last year along with his silver medal in brutal conditions Wednesday morning closes the book.  Jager ran a gutsy race, pushing the pace, forcing the Kenyans hand.  It was America's first medal in the men's 3,000 steeplechase since 1984.

The most incredible fireworks came on the last night of the Games.  Matt Centrowitz, Jr. fulfilled the promise he first showed with his unexpected bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships.  He finished a disappointing 4th at the 2012 London Games but showed he was on a mission this year by breaking the long standing U.S. Olympic Trials 1,500 record.

Centrowitz exerted amazing control on one of the best 1,500 field ever assembled.  He dominated the race from the front.  Kenya's Asbel Kiprop, the heavy favorite, ran horribly, unable to position himself properly and wasting energy jockeying around the field.

Centrowitz was able to slowly ratchet up the pace with 700 meters to go, sprinting the last 400 in 50.6 to win the slowest Olympic final in more than 80 years.  In doing so he not only beat the world's top-ranked 1,500 runner, Kiprop, but took down the defending gold medalist.  For baby boomers like myself that have lived almost 50 years with the agony of Jim Ryun's silver medal of 1968, Saturday night was redemption.

The men's 5,000 meter final that followed was icing to the cake.  Great Britain's Mo Farah did what Mo Farah does.  He ran a brilliant race staying out of the mess that trailed behind him.  It was like watching roller derby over the last 800 or so.  Somehow, unexpectedly, the U.S.A.'s Paul Chelimo ran a massive PR to grab the silver medal.  Just two places behind him, 41-year-old Bernard Lagat capped his amazing career with another Masters World Record with his 5th place finish.

All that remained was Sunday morning's men's marathon.  Could the U.S.A. come close to duplicating the previous Sunday efforts by the women where Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Linden and Amy Cragg, who all finished in the top nine?  The boys answered with another trip to the podium.

Galen Rupp carved out his claim as America's greatest distance runner ever by grabbing the bronze medal.  When you add that to his silver in the 10,000 in London and his many American Records, Rupp is pushing his way past Steve Prefontaine and Frank Shorter as GOAT.  A win at one of the world's major marathons would only cement it.

Behind Rupp was an amazing run by Jared Ward.  A running every man, who carefully picked his way through the field that gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge laid waste to.  Ward judged his pace properly to run a PR in hot conditions and finish 6th.

Then there was Meb.  Yes, Meb Keflezighi finished a mere 33rd, but consider this, he's 41-years-old and he ran a solid 2:16:46 despite an unforgiving stomach.  Yes, this old man, barfed his way to a sub 2:20 marathon.  Think about that for a second.

So in the end, from the 800 meters to the marathon, the United States took one gold, two silver, and four bronze.  That's seven medals at one games.  That's distance medals than the U.S. won over the last five Olympic Games.

The question is why has it taken so long?  Well, it takes time for the seeds to grow and take root.  Those seeds were planted more than a decade ago.  Some of the credit can go to Meb and Deena Kastor.  Meb's marathon silver medal and Deena's marathon bronze in Athens showed that American's didn't have to take a back seat to the East Africans.

But I will argue that the bulk of the credit should go to a trio of three American high school boys.  Alan Webb, Dathan Ritzenheim and Ryan Hall sparked a running revolution that stirred the internet and sparked a renewed interest in what was possible in distance running at the high school level.  It gave us Rupp, Jenny Simpson, Clayton Murphy, Emma Coburn, Evan Jager and yes, the amazing Matt Centrowitz, Jr.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Health Plus

More than 20 years ago an ambitious venture aimed at exercise opened in Overland Park, Kansas called Health Plus.  Today that monument to fitness is being torn down.  I can't begin to describe how sad this makes me.

Health Plus offered a little bit of everything.  It had a small shoe store, it offered personalized coaching, it had a 25 meter pool, a full sized basketball court, weights of all manner and best of all, a decent indoor running track.  The club also sat just yards away from some of the best running trails the Kansas City area had to offer.

I first ventured into the facility in December of 1984 looking to bring some direction to my running as I was about to turn 30.  I sat down with coach Tom Dowling.  He proceeded to outline a six month running program which would have me completing a 21 mile long run by the end of June.  I looked at him incredulous and told him that was impossible.  I had a busy professional career and there was no way I could tackle anything longer than 10 miles in any given run.

I was running 21 miles on Sundays by May.  I had stumbled upon a unique group of runners of all abilities that had fallen in love with Health Plus and with Dowling in particular.  The long runs were so unique, such a powerful show of camaraderie, that I put together a four minute piece for a television sports show about the Sunday runs.

The runs took place over the rolling hills that stretched south of what was then an undeveloped part of Overland Park and Leawood.  There was a traditional water and bathroom stop four miles in at a Leawood fire station.  Water jugs were stashed in the ditches at various parts along the 21 mile route, which we sometimes stretched to 25 miles.  There was always time to stop for a big coke that we all eagerly shared at a Qwik Trip at 151st Street.  On really hot days, a water spigot at a now vanished nursery provided much needed relief at mile 19.

The most important long run I took from Health Plus didn't happen on a Sunday and it wasn't 21  miles.  It was a Saturday in the summer of 1988 when I went an 18 mile long run with Dowling and a kid I'd never met before named Mike Bloemker.  At the time I wasn't very happy about this kid tagging along.  Seven years later he would become one of my best friends and he now is the head track and field coach at Johnson County Community College.

Besides the long runs I became involved with Dowling's outstanding high school training program.  I discovered what it took to build a high school runner into a state champion.  Dowling and later Bloemker, had dozens of them.  The high school program led me to another great friend, Chris Ronan, a multiple state champion who would later compete for the University of Kansas.

When Tom passed away unexpectedly in 1995, his protege' Bloemker stepped in and while the sense of loss was deep, the high school program rolled along.  The national caliber runners continued to spring from that program including two-time Olympian Amy Cragg.

Health Plus was in the midst of change when Tom died.  The economics of this huge facility simply didn't add up.  It was on its last leg financially by the start of the new millennium.  Bloemker pulled the plug on the now legendary high school program to devote himself full time to his coaching gig at Johnson County.

Now the famous training ground, called Stress Plus, by the high school coaches who hated it, is being torn down.  My memories will endure.  The indoor track meets, breaking into the facility on Sundays to run long on the track during violent thunderstorms, the numerous sexual escapades inside the facility that were shared among the boys while out on those runs and even that precious black and green Health Plus singlet, are stuck in my mind and buried deep in my heart.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

In The Home Stretch

We've rolled through more than half of the distance finals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.  The United States is on its way to one of its most successful Olympics from the 800 to the Marathon ever.  Right now if I could grade the effort I would give it a B+.

It started on Friday with an amazing World Record in the women's 10,000 meters.  Even though Molly Huddle was left almost a lap behind in its wake she still blasted the American Record and finished a respectable 6th.  Our women's marathon team followed up on Sunday with its best team showing in the short Olympic history of the event.  Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Linden and Amy Cragg were all in the top nine.  All three ran terrific times in very hot conditions.

Galen Rupp put his stamp on the title of greatest American 10,000 meter runner Sunday night with his 5th place finish.  He won silver in London in 2012.  The skeptics said Rupp should stick to the marathon in Rio and forsake the 10K.  Rupp made those critics eat their words running a very competitive race and I think only sharpened his speed for this weekend's men's Marathon final.

Monday brought the U.S.A. double bronze.  In very hot conditions, a very cool Emma Coburn played a first rate waiting game in the women's 3,000 meter steeple chase.  The hot pace allowed the Colorado grad to slowly work her way onto the podium along with an American Record with her 3rd place finish.

Monday night Kenyan David Rudisha cemented his place as the greatest 800 meter runner of all time.  But the joyous surprise of that race was American Clayton Murphy's fantastic finish to grab bronze in a stunning 1:42.92.  His time was more than a second faster than his personal best and puts the 21-year-old in position to be a real 1500/800 favorite at Tokyo in 2020.

Tuesday night it was another Buffalo gal, Jenny Simpson, who ran as smart a 1,500 final as you could ever hope see.  Genzebe Dibaba's jaw dropping insane 3rd lap left Simpson and fellow American Shannon Rowbury more than 30 meters off the lead.  Both Americans didn't lose their heads during the chaotic final 700 meters and calmly worked their way up the field with Simpson nearly catching Dibaba for the silver, settling for a well-earned bronze and Rowbury just a step behind in 4th.  Simpson, who went to high school in the Tampa area, grabbed the first 1500 medal ever for an American.

A lot of medal chances remain in the upcoming events.  Evan Jager could break up the Kenyan logjam in the steeplechase with a medal.  Matt Centrowitz has a legitimate spot for a medal in the men's 1,500.  I think the American women have almost no hope to win a medal in either the 5,000 or 800, but Katie Grace could surprise in the later.  Getting to the finals of the 800 is a combination of strength by surviving the rounds and competitive smarts.

The real wild card left on the schedule is the men's 5,000 meter final.  Can a 41-year-old Bernard Lagat win another Olympic medal.  If the East Africans are stupid even to jog the first 3,000 meters Lagat has a chance.  No one in the field, outside of Mo Farah, can kick with Lagat over the final 200 meters.  But I'm not holding my breath.

Finally there's the men's Marathon which starts at 8:30 Sunday morning.  Since it is truly a race and not a time trial like the marathons in London and Berlin, Galen Rupp has a chance.  Rupp is a racer.  He can handle the changes of paces the Kenyans and Ethiopians will throw into the competition.  Another Olympic medal would cement Rupp's place as America's greatest distance runner. 

Medals by Jager, Centrowitz and Rupp could take that B+ to an A-.  A Centrowitz Gold over the amzing Asbel Kiprop would bump it all the way to an A+.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


The news came in the form of an email last week from my favorite boss.  Tommy Sifuentes was dead, natural causes.  He was just 58.  I anxiously waited on an obituary and all I've seen is the announcement for his viewing and funeral.  Tommy and I shared something very important and I feel compelled to write about him.

Thomas Sifuentes, Junior started working at WDAF TV in the late 1970's.  He was just a teenager.  A young Latino, a barrier breaker, like his co-worker Joe Arse and a handful of other Latinos working at KMBC like Ralph Siguera.  Tommy learned how to become a videographer.  Back then it was back breaking work.  Here was this little guy lugging around 70 pounds of gear.  He worked hard.

Tommy wasn't an artist with the camera.  But he cared deeply about his work.  I remember going out with him for a shoot at Royals Stadium in advance of a special story I was working on.  Tommy did everything I asked of him and more.  He was always careful to throw his hand in front of the lens so you couldn't use a shot that he felt wouldn't be up to snuff.  Tommy didn't want second class work making it to air.

Tommy and I both battled the same personal demons and we leaned on each other.  We learned how to be better people from each other.  I owe him more than I think he ever realized.  And I wish that he had known how often I thought about him.

Last year he parted company with WDAF TV.  I can only imagine how hard it was for him to walk away from the only job he had ever known.  I know he was unhappy.  I know that he wanted so much more for his life and for his children that he loved so much.

Losing Tommy caused me to think about all of my television friends that passed too soon over the last 40 plus years that I had the joy of working alongside.  It gets harder as you get older.  The list keeps getting longer and I want those folks remembered, because they all contributed to my life in so many ways.  God bless you Tommy, I pray that you are at peace.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What's Old Is New

It sat staring at me for nearly two years.  It was an old book, torn and tattered, part of a little library that's part of my running store.  Mike Pemberton kept more than a couple of dozen books in the store.  Most of them are about training, a few running biographies, including Marty Liquori's "On The Run."  It pains me every time I see that book.  I had a copy of my own, autographed by Liquori back in 1980.  It disappeared a long time ago.  I suspect someone kept it after borrowing it from me.

The sad book that stared at me was one that I would have never considered reading were it not for the fact that Mike had it sitting there and were it not for my boredom stemming from the slow days of summer that mark the running shoe business in Southwest Florida.  The book is called, "My Race Be Won."  It was written by Olympic 400 meter champion Vince Matthews.  Last week I finally gave in and started reading it.

Much to my surprise, it was a great read.  It's one of the better book about being a track and field athlete that I've ever read.  Matthews 40 plus years old autobiography taught me a very sorry lesson.  Little has changed in terms of race relations in the United States of America.

Matthews came of age as a track star when the sport was strictly amateur.  Any money an athlete made during that era was strictly under the table or by being clever when it came to asking for airfare and lodging.  He was a top flight high school quarter miler in the mid-60's but his academics limited his collegiate options.  In fact, it took him an extra semester of high school before he could graduate and enroll in a small, historically black college in North Carolina.

It's hard to think that a world class runner could emerge from a small black college.  But that was the world of track and field in the 1960's and 70's.  Matthews does a great job of dissecting the inherent racism that can cut both ways in society.  Even in a sport like track and field where it appears black athletes would have parity, it simply wasn't the case.  Let's face it, white distance runners get more ink and more shoe company dollars than black sprinters.  It was true in 1968 and it's still true for the most part in 2016.

Matthews' 1972 gold medal in Munich is a compelling a comeback as you can find in the world of track and field.  He jumped fences and barbed wire to train on a track.  He overcame terrible medical issues to compete.  He also overcame an indifferent United States Olympic Committee which refused to pay his way to compete at the 1972 Olympic Trials in Eugene.  They gave a big no to a man who ran on a world record setting 4 x 400 relay that won gold in 1968 at the Mexico City Games.

Matthews is an inspiration.  He is a renaissance man who allows us to go along for the ride.  His descriptions of the trips to Europe, the women, the gambling, the fight for the rights for African-Americans, it's all there.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Destination Rio

The U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials are complete and with the ten day extravaganza in Eugene, Oregon we saw an epic changing of the guard.  Yet, we also saw some crafty veterans doing some amazing things and I honestly think the U.S. is sending one of its strongest contingents of distance runners to Rio in decades.

Molly Huddle stood out on the women's side.  She became the first American to win both the 10000 meter and 5000 meter races at the Trials.  Huddle has a real chance to stand on the podium in Rio if she executes in the 10000.  Huddle just missed the a bronze last summer in Beijing at the World Championships when she eased up allowing another American, Emily Enfield, to sneak past her at the line.  Huddle has learned her lesson.  With the Kenyan and Ethiopian teams facing the shadow of doping allegations it's any one's guess as to how the 5000 and 10000 will play out.

Either Jenny Simpson or Shannon Rowbury could medal in the 1500.  Simpson timed a perfect sprint to win Sunday.  She has the finishing speed off a slow pace needed to win at the championship level.  Plus the fact that doping allegations surround the clear favorite for gold, Genzebe Dibaba, could make it very interesting.  Will the Ethiopian even run in Rio?

Next on the possible medal list is steeplechaser Emma Coburn.  The Colorado grad has the American Record and has shown a willingness to mix it up with the East Africans.  Coburn will need a little luck to land on the podium.  She doesn't have the finishing speed of the Kenyans or the Ethiopians but she makes up for it with amazing strength.

The event once considered the strongest for the U.S.A. was the women's 800.  But the demolition derby last week took two medal contenders, Alisa Montanyo and Brenda Martinez off the team.  Ajee Wilson has shown the ability to race with the world's best but this season something seems to be missing from her form.  And you might as well hand the gold medal to South Africa's Caster Semenya.  She's no longer forced to take estrogen which means the playing field will be uneven.

The men's team has a handful of medal contenders as well.  In the 800, Boris Berian has the kind of aggressive speed that's needed to compete in a race that's sure to be blistering.  Trials champion Clayton Murphy could contend if the pace is slow.

The U.S. has almost no hope for medals in either the 5000 or 10000.  Galen Rupp lacks the sprint finish he had four years ago to compete in the 10K.  Bernard Lagat, who shocked the world at age 41 by winning the 5000, could be a medal contender off of a slow pace.  I doubt the Africans will let the pace dawdle enough to let Lagat use his ferocious finish.

Evan Jager has already staked his claim as the greatest steeplechaser in American history.  A medal in Rio would only cement his place in the event.  His ability to finish off a torrid pace will be the only question mark entering the competition.

Then there's the glory race of middle distance running, the 1500 meters.  Matt Centrowitz, Jr. took down the trials record held by the great Steve Scott with his victory on Sunday.  His finish showed that he has the turnover needed to compete against the world's best.  Kenya's Asbel Kiprop looks unbeatable but Centrowitz should be able to grab a bronze or a silver.

Out of the ten middle distance to distance events on the track gives the U.S.A. a chance for as many as seven medals in Rio.  Anything less than five would be a major disappointment.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Destination Eugene

40 years ago I had an idea.  Pull together as many Kansas radio stations as I possibly could, get credentials from the powers running the 1976 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials and make enough money to pay for a trip to Eugene, Oregon.  For 5 dollars a day the stations would get the lowdown on how all the athletes from the various universities in the state of Kansas did in this top flight competition.  Today it dawned on me all this happened more than 40 years ago.

It's hard to imagine that the University of Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State had some two dozen athletes competing at the Trials.  K.U. had a sensational number of great athletes at that meet.  In fact, three Jayhawks ended up making the team.

Somehow my 20-year-old self managed to pull together a hand full of stations and got credentials for myself and a friend to the meet.  I also figured out I could save a ton of dough by staying in one of the dormitories on the University of Oregon campus.  So on or about June 15th a 15-year-old who I loved dearly, Jon Blubaugh and I piled into my mothers Ford Galaxie 500 and started an amazing cross country drive to Eugene.

As bad it is driving across Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado nothing compares to the horrors of Eastern Oregon.  Of course, we hit that section of the trip as night fell so we couldn't really admire the desolate isolation.  Then there were the bugs.  So thick that we had to stop twice to wipe down the windshield and headlights so we could find our way in the night.

Landing in Eugene was like landing in track and field heaven.  Jon and I were in awe, seeing athletic stars from across the sporting spectrum like Wilt Chamberlain and O.J. Simpson.  But the meet itself was simply amazing.  Bruce Jenner joking and smiling his way to the decathlon title.  Edwin Moses introducing himself to the world in the 400 meter hurdles.  Heptathlete Jane Fredickson was as beautiful as she was talented.

Jon and I had to keep pinching ourselves.  We had press credentials that put us in the thick of the action.  I stood less than 20 feet away as the great Marty Liquori stepped off the track, injured and crushed that he wouldn't be going to the Olympics.  He stood crying in the arms of his wife. 

I watched an arrogant Dave Roberts break the world record in the pole vault on a pole that he had borrowed from the great Earl Bell.  Roberts had the nerve to bitch to me in a post record interview that Earl's pole was too soft.  What a jerk.  I watched as a chiropractor put K.U.'s Sam Colson's injured back, back together so he could get off one magnificent throw to win the javelin and make the team.

I interviewed the late great Houston McTear.  He was a raw, rural kid from Florida, he spoke his mind and warned the world that the rest of the competitors would have to settle for second in Montreal at the Olympic Games.  And then there was the flowing hair of 1500 meter runner Tom Byers, storming away from the field from the gun, trying to steal the race, a run which went to the great Tom Wohlhuter.

We hustled Kansas 400 meter runner Kent Benson into buying us beer which we snuck back into our dorm room.  As Jon and I enjoyed our suds two high school coaches barged into our room and we somehow managed to stash the illegal brews without them spotting it.  Unfortunately Jon's beer somehow tipped over soaking his mattress.

There were other K.U. athletes we met and hung with.  Sprinter Mark Lutz, who made the team, introduced his to his then wife and fellow Olympian, Francie Larrieu.  I watched in agony as my old training partner Kent McDonald, plagued by injuries, suffered through the 3000 steeplechase heats, just one year after having finished 2nd in the nation.  I was heartbroken for him, but happy to see another Jayhawk, Bill Lundgren, make it into the finals were he ran a respectable race. 

I had two favorite moments from the meet.  It's hard to choose between the two.  I loved Gerry
Bjorklund's brave run in the 10000 meters, much of the last half of it in only one shoe.  He was more than 50 meters down with 800 to go but somehow managed to reel in the great Bill Rodgers to gain the third spot on the team.

The other moment that stands out was meeting high school phenom Bill McChesney, who would later break the American record at 5000 meters.  Jon and I chatted Bill up.  He invited to run a 4 mile race held on the Trials off day which climbed a steep butte near downtown Eugene.  Jon ran great.  I ran like a college junior who liked beer too much.

It was ten days of track and field pleasure.  We rubbed shoulders with America's track and field royalty.  I fell in love with Eugene and have returned more than a half dozen times since.  It is truly a running paradise and is rightfully Track Town U.S.A. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Russian Olympic Ban Solves Nothing

The IAAF, track and field's world governing body, said Russia should be barred from the 2016 Rio Olympics.  A new report from WADA, the world's doping organization, showed that systematic doping is ingrained across the board in sports in Russia.  So now the ball, so to speak, is in the hands of the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC can decide to ignore the indiscriminate cheating and allow Russian track and field athletes to compete in Rio.  I think that's the right move.  Doping is a worldwide problem.  It's just as out of control in Kenya as it is in Russia and yet it appears Kenya will be allowed to compete in Rio.  I suspect doping is supported in other countries like Turkey, Ethiopia and Jamaica.

What separates Russia from a lot of countries where doping is prevalent is that it appears the government had a hand in supporting efforts to gain the edge that performance enhancing drugs give athletes.  But if the IAAF is alone in a ban on Russian athletes, why should weightlifters, wrestlers and swimmers be allowed to compete?  Those respective governing bodies have remained silent on Russian doping and probably for good reason.
By punishing an entire country you punish the clean athletes competing under its flag.  This leaves me uneasy because it falls into the realm of politics and that has no place in the Olympics.  The boycotts of Moscow and Los Angeles could have derailed the Olympic movement.

The Olympics will implode on its own without the help of the various sporting bodies that rule the individual sports.  The corruption inside the IOC will be its undoing.  It's no longer economically feasible for countries to host the Olympic Games.  Rio has found this out the hard way and I won't be surprised if these games aren't an unmitigated disaster.

It takes a wealthy, economically strong country to host the Olympics.  Even Tokyo, which is hosting the 2020 games, is finding out that the costs may not be worth it anymore.  It's money, not drugs, that will be the undoing of the Olympic ideals.

Friday, June 10, 2016

50 years ago

A promising miler made history 50 years ago.  Jim Ryun ran a world record in the 880 on June 10, 1966 in Terre Haute, Indiana.  The world of track and field was anxiously waiting on Ryun to break the world record in the mile, but sometimes things don't happen the way you would expect.

Ryun traveled with his University of Kansas team to compete at the now defunct USTFF outdoor championships.  Only some grainy 8 mm film exists of the record run.  It shows the college sophomore destroying the field winning by more than 30 yards.  Ryun didn't expect the record, 1:44.9.

Coach Bob Timmons said he had no idea what his 19-year-old prodigy was capable of doing at the distance.  In a conversation with the great coach two decades ago he told me the race in Terre Haute came with a lot of criticism.  Reporters were questioning Timmons why he was running Ryun in the 880 when it was obvious his runner's destiny was in the mile.  Timmie told me he just wanted to see what Jim could do.

The mile world record would come a little more than a month later in Berkley, California.  Ryun would break Michael Jazy's record running 3:51.3, a mark he would lower by two-tenths of a second the following year.

Those who keep track of records gave Ryun the World Junior Record in the 800, grading the 1:44.9 for the longer 880 yards as equivalent to 1:44.3.  The math was sound as Peter Snell had clocked a then world record for 800 meters in 1:44.3 in route to a 1:45.1 for 880 yards. 

Tonight, on this 50th anniversary in ideal conditions in Eugene, Oregon another 19-year-old finally took the last of the standing records held by the great Jayhawk miler.  Texas A&M freshman Donovan Brazier ran an astounding 1:43.55 at historic Hayward Field to take down the ancient mark.  Needless to say, Brazier's potential is amazing.  In this age of instant reaction Ryun quickly congratulated Brazier over Twitter.

Ryun cast his shadow in the record book for 50 years.  He still stands as the greatest miler in American history with two world records in the mile, one at 1500 meters along with an Olympic silver medal at that distance.   Needless to say, he still holds the school records at the University of Kansas in the 800, 1500, mile, 5000 as well as a couple of relays.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Girls Run Wild

I love high school distance running.  If you follow the sport at all you're well aware that this has been an exceptional year across the United States for fast times.  Two boys have already broken 4 minutes in the mile, Drew Hunter and Michael Slagowski have both dipped under the magical barrier and another Austin Tamango is just a tick above that mark.

But that's not the point of this bit of writing, I want to revisit a subject I touched on about a year ago.  Southwest Florida remains a red hot when it comes to girl's distance running.  The cast of suspects didn't change much from 2015 to 2016 and the competition remains fierce.

The Oliveira sisters continue to make headlines for Evangelical Christian.  Twins Sierra and Moriah will only be in the 9th grade when the 2017 season rolls around.  The two finally laid claim to their first individual state titles this spring, Sierra in the 800 and Moriah in the 400.  But if you think of Moriah as just a sprinter think again because she runs the 800 just as well.

Sierra runs in the 2:15 range with Moriah just a tick or two slower.  My guess is their futures lie in the 1500/mile.  They've both got wonderful speed but neither is dazzling fast.  Their potential is mind blowing.

Estero's Megan Giovanniello carried on the tradition of stellar distance runners that continually rise from this program.  The shocking death of Coach Jeff Sommer last year hit the Wildcats hard.  Ben Pignatone stepped up ably to fill Sommer's considerable shoes and I'm sure he'll have Giovanniello ready to take on cross county rivals Kayla Easterly and Krissy Gear when cross country rolls around in three short months.

Easterly from North Fort Myers was the emerging star over the last year.  She backed up a strong cross country season by handing Gear a rare defeat at the county track and field championships over 3200 meters.  Another year of mileage could put Kayla in the sub-11 minute club along with Gear.

Fort Myers High senior to be Krissy Gear remains the class of the county.  She extended her range to the 3200 where she followed up her 1600 meter state title by running for gold over the longer distance in 10:50.55.  The fact that Gear can also run 2:15 for the 800 tells me that next spring could be a history making one.  If she stays healthy a 4:45 1600 and 10:30 3200 are not out of the question.
That would put her among the national elite.

Should it all come together, the Oliveira's, Gear and Giovanniello could all be sub 2:15 in the 800 next year.  Gear, Easterly and Giovanniello could all be sub-5 in the 1600 and sub-11 in the 3200.  Remember, most state's don't produce girls capable of running these kinds of times much less five girls from one county doing it.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Olympic Nightmare

Get ready for an Olympic disaster.  I hope I'm wrong.  But all signs point to Rio being a complete abomination.  Yes, the same things were written before the Beijing Games of 2012.  But there's a big difference between China and Brazil.  Brazil is broke.

I must admit, I was shocked that the World Cup went off a lot better than I ever thought it would in Brazil.  But the fallout is still being felt.  Massive stadiums were built and the country can't economically support many of them.

I'm not even going to play the Zika card.  I think the bigger problem is all of the water reliant Olympic sports, sailing, rowing, kayaking, all of those athletes will be competing in unbelievably polluted waters.  I wouldn't want to be a triathlete competing in any swim in that country right now.  But athletes who dream of Olympic glory will risk almost anything.

Now the biggest scandal is the drug scandal that has enveloped the sport.  Kenya's drug testing program can't pass muster.  Russia is still on suspension.  My guts tell me if WADA had the guts to take a hard look Ethiopia, Jamaica or Turkey I'm guessing the list would grow. 

The worst of it is the International Olympic Committee seems intent on ignoring it all.  Zika, not a problem.  They know banning Russia weakens banner sports like gymnastics and track and field.  Kicking out the Kenyans while cause for celebration for Ethiopia, will have repercussions across the 3rd world.

Then there's the 141 pound 800 meter runner in the room.  Caster Semenya is going to make a mockery of women's track and field.  Biologically, she is a man.  The IAAF and IOC refused to deal with this festering issue head on when it first surfaced in 800 when Semenya burst on the world scene running like no other woman in the world.

Last year the Court of Sports Arbitration ruled that Semenya no longer had to take estrogen to level the playing field with women.  Last month Semenya swept through South Africa's championships winning the 400, 800 and 1500 with ease.  The drug testing and gender fiasco threatens to make the track and field competition in Rio a joke.

The fuse has been lit and doing a slow burn to August when the Rio Games take center stage.  Mark my words, Rio could mark the end of the Olympic movement as we know it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

No Country For Old Marathoners

I watched as much of the Boston Marathon on Monday as I could.  It stirred something deep within me.  I thought to myself, I could do that.  I could run a Boston qualifier.  It's not impossible.

Just the Friday before, Richard Olitsky stopped by the store looking for words of encouragement before leaving town for what would be his 8th run at Boston.  He looked at me and asked, "When are you going to run another marathon?"

I chuckled at the question and responded, "I don't think that's going to happen."  I look back at what was and wonder why I would want to put myself through the hell that is marathon training.  Plus, what's the incentive of running a 3:55 marathon.  Actually it would probably have to be under 3:50 to get into the race.

I've run 20 marathons.  Of those 20 well more than half were under the Boston standard.  Yet, I've only run Boston once, back in 1994, before the field swelled to its now ridiculous size.

When I ran my first marathon in 1975 in 3:14:15.  I told myself then that if I ever ran a marathon slower than that I would quit running them.  That finally happened in marathon number 19 when I ran 3:16:13 in 2002.  I was finished.

Then something came up.  My friend and old training partner Craig Davidson was running his 150th marathon in 2010 at St. George.  I had run St. George in 1997 when Craig ran his 100th marathon, so I broke my promise to myself.

The training was half-hearted.  I think I had one long run of more than 16 miles.  I thought I had done enough to run a Boston qualifier but I had been fooling myself.  St. George was a hot death march and I ran 3:56:47.  I thought that stopping at number 20 was fitting.

Still, the urge remains.  Fort Myers is a horrible place to train for a marathon.  You need hills to build the core strength to run a decent marathon and all we have are a couple of bridges.  Then there's the weather.  The great training weather starts in November and ends in April.  The good qualifying races are in December and January.  That means starting your hardcore training in August when the weather is absolutely miserable.

I don't know how Richard Olitsky does it.  He forces himself out the door at 5 a.m. to beat the heat.  He's nine years older than me and he can hammer workouts that I can't even imagine attempting.  Yet despite all the hard work, Richard was sitting in my store before his big race full of self doubt and as it turned out, for good reason.

Richard was in shape for a 4:10 effort on a flat Florida course with good weather.  Unfortunately he was facing the hills of Boston, warm weather, and a strong headwind.  Richard finished in 4:31 meaning he's got to run a qualifier sometime in the next six months if he wants to run Boston number 9.

Fort Myers isn't a great place for older runners striving to run a Boston qualifier.  To all of my friends over the age of 50 who do it.  My congratulations, it's an amazing feat.  I just can't imagine it.  I don't think I can do it.  But the temptation remains, tugging gently at my competitive spirit that's buried somewhere within me.

Monday, April 11, 2016


I first met him in January 1978.  I was beginning my internship at KMBC TV in Kansas City.  Corrice Collins was one of just a handful of African Americans who were working in television in KC at the time.  He took me under his wing and tried to teach me what he knew about working in TV news and more so, about dealing with life in TV news.  I had other great mentors in that newsroom, Jim Overbay, Gerry Roberts, Jerry Plantz, Larry Moore, Ridge Shannon and Pam Freund.  Each and every one of them contributed to my career.

Yet Corrice was my first newsroom buddy.  He was working as a night side reporter at the time.  Corrice had a massive smile and an infectious laugh.  I think he enjoyed egging on the young dummy from K.U.  

I can remember the first time I went out with him with a photographer in a live van to do some nonsense story at a nightclub.  I remember how foreign I felt roaming the unfamiliar streets of Kansas City and Corrice's frustration at doing a story that really deserve coverage.  Corrice had a very strong bullshit detector.

By the late spring I had actually been hired by KMBC and I remember spending countless summer night's after working with Corrice bending an elbow at The Prospect in Westport.  We enjoyed baiting each other.  The put downs could be incendiary.  

One of my favorite moments came when Corrice was getting to a chance to anchor weekends.  The station was going through musical chairs on the weekend sports desk after John Sanders escaped to Pittsburgh.  Bill McAtee, of CBS Sports fame, was his replacement.  But as Billy Bob (as we called him) promised, he was off to the big time in less than six months.  The parade of fill-in replacements followed until the station finally hired Craig Sager.  Maybe you've heard of him too.

Anyway, Corrice was getting his big chance to fill-in on the anchor desk one weekend, when one of the "replacements" was in to do sports.  I don't even remember the guy's name and evidently neither did Corrice.  As the cross pitch to sports started a dumbfounded Corrice looked over to the dude and said, "Jesus, I forgot your name!"  I was sitting in the control room running chyron and about lost it.  Corrice immediately realized his sin.

After the show poor Corrice was truly panicked.  He expected phone calls and a full dress down on Monday from news director Ridge Shannon.  As I recall the newsroom phones never rang and I'm not even sure Ridge was ever aware of the faux pax.

My other strong memory is sitting with Corrice on the front porch of a house in Lawrence renewing our friendship.  I had just gotten back from a month long stint of job hunting in Eugene, Oregon.  I had purchased a couple of Oregon Duck track t-shirts.  These were special.  The shirt featured an African-American duck with a huge fro clearing a high hurdle.  I gave one to Corrice.  His smile told it all.

I left for a job in Minneapolis three months later.  By the time I made it back to Kansas City to work at WDAF about two years later, Corrice had moved on.  I had no idea where he landed until several years later when I found out he was working in Mississippi at a station in Jackson.  I can only imagine all of the young journalists he mentored there.

I'm sad because today I learned that Corrice died after a battle with cancer.  He was a pioneer for Black journalists.  It never even crossed my mind when I worked with him the barriers he had overcome to achieve his success.  He was just so full of life and gave compassion to those who had the joy of working with him.

His passing reminds me of all the newsrooms I've worked in and all of the friends I left behind through the years.  Some of them too have passed.  I didn't do a very good job of staying connected with those friends until Facebook came along.  My prayers go out to Corrice's family and colleagues.