Monday, September 23, 2019


Winning is what makes headlines.  But sometimes you have to look deeper in the results to pull out a gem, a story that brings with it an underlying achievement that might otherwise go unnoticed.  I didn't have to look too deep in the results from the North Port Invitational.  It stuck out like a sore thumb in the girl's elite race right there in second place.  Fort Myers High Senior Stephy Ormsby ran 17:56.77.

You can count on one hand in the last decade the number of girls from Lee County under 18 minutes for 5000 meters in cross country.  Estero's Bona Jones and Katy Solis along with Emily Edwards and Sara Spann from Fort Myers.  Not even Fort Myers distance ace Krissy Gear broke 18 minutes in high school.  In case you were wondering the only Southwest Florida area runner to break 17 minutes is Kathryn Fluehr from Community School of Naples.

Stephy's come a long way from when I first met her as a fresh faced freshman intermediate hurdler for the Green Wave.  Then head coach Rob Strong said to keep an eye on her because he believed she could be turned into a distance runner. Slowly but surely Ormsby has transitioned her body from the square, stocky gymnast that she used to be to a hard body, running machine that has steadily improved  through her sophomore and junior years. 

Ormsby has shaved more than two minutes off her cross country personal best.  What makes her achievement even more surprising is she has spent most of her running career as a middle distance specialist, running the 800 and 1600.  The progress Stephy Ormsby has made since last fall shows what a summer of consistent training can bring when cross country rolls around. With the guidance of coach Yancey Palmer, Ormsby has done the work to put herself in a position to be a contender at the Class 3A State Cross Country Championships.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Why Support Cross Country

I own a run specialty shop.  It's a misnomer because I probably sell more shoes to walker or people looking for a shoe that is comfortable to stand in work in than I do to actual runners.  I'm happy to serve those customer because they deserve the best in footwear.  Buying a pair of leather upper New Balance shoes to walk in or a cheap pair of Nike's is just an insult to your feet.

But that's not the point of this blog.  The point is to talk about why I do as much as I can to support high school cross country and track.  It's not because that's where the money is.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.  Most kids and parents will shop for the cheapest shoes they can find on line and forsake their locally owned retailers to save ten dollars here and there.  I can live with that.

In white left to right, Glenn Lemesany, Dave Rousch, John Rinkenbaugh, Tom Schittendort, Clay Kappleman, Barney McCoy and Jack Moorhead, Lawrence High XC 1972, winners of this meet, the Seaman Invitational, where I finished 8th.
I support high school cross country and track because the sport gave me a life long passion for running.  I was blessed to have a high school coach who's mission in life was to create a love for running that would carry to a point in life where I could physically run no more.  I'm about to hit my 50th year as a runner.

I was lucky to meet athletes and coaches who fueled my passion.  Men like, Steve Sublett, Tom Dowling, Fred Moore, Kent McDonald, Steve Riley, Mike Bloemker and Chris Ronan and the posse of men I trained with at Health Plus in Kansas City only deepened my love and respect for runners of all abilities.  They motivated me to hit goals in my running life that I am proud to have achieved.

So my support of young runners is one that I hope that I inspire the same life long passion that I have enjoyed.  I did it as a high school coach, a career that produced a fair share of state champions.  I do that through Run Florida On McGregor.

We stepped up our commitment this year by sponsoring the first three major cross country meets in Southwest Florida of the season, the Lehigh Acres Invitational, DDD Invitational and Fort Myers Invitational.  I loss money doing it and I doubt that the vast majority of parents or runners realize the commitment of time and money that the store puts forth to support their sport.

I am tooting my own horn.  I look around at the leading run specialty stops and asked why am I alone in doing this?  Besides the financial investment I make in these meets I offer discounts to student athletes to make it easier for them to afford the best in footwear.  I look around and ask myself why am I alone in doing this?

Cross country is an incredible team support.  You see 100 plus athletes line up in difficult conditions racing for 5,000 meters.  It is colorful, crazy, and competitive in ways you can't imagine.  There's even team strategy in the sport if you take the time to study it.  You can do that by joining me Friday night at the Kelly Road soccer fields for what may well be the first night cross country meet in Southwest Florida history.

The 40th annual Fort Myers Invitational brought to you by Run Florida On McGregor and Saucony will feature the top local teams.  You will see the greatest 800 meter runner in Southwest Florida history trying to make her mark at the longer distances.  You will see the three Southwest Florida cross country powers, Estero, Naples and Fort Myers laying it on the line, trying to show which squad is top dog in the area.  Oh... and the ladies at upstart Bishop Verot are doing their best to join the party.

The best part of it is the camaraderie and respect that these young athletes have for one another.  They run hard and then have the grace and humility to shake hands, congratulate each other and really mean it.  Best of all, it's free. All it will cost you is a small slice of your Friday night.  I'll see you there!