Sunday, November 23, 2014

Some Real Photos For Once! From The Wings Of A Gator (or something)

Mark Hawkins made it to the NCAA Regional Meet at PSU last week and brings us many, many photos to peruse on his Facebook site.  I've selected a few to highlight on the blog with it all.

Here's the aforementioned Gator.  Notice all the smiling blokes (are Aussies blokes too?).  They are smiling because they will alll be inside the Gator's warm cocoon while Mark sits in the back working his shutter!

Here's a smattering of Nittany Lions captured by the CMOS (or is it CCD?) of Mark's behemoth.

Ean Disilvio.

Matt Fischer.

Wade Endress.

Austin Pondel and Tony Russel.

Glen Burkhardt.
All photos by Mark Hawkins.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How Did This Slip Through the Cracks?

Kara Foster used the Big Sur Half-Marathon last Sunday in Monterey Bay, CA to obtain an Olympic Trials marathon qualifying mark with her time of 1:14:29. The time was good for second place and a $500 cash prize in what I imagine was perfect conditions compared to the sub-freezing temps and high winds back home.

Full write up from RunningUSA.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

RIP Dr. Litrenta

He was a doctor in my hometown before moving on to bigger things in the medical field.  I ran against his son, Daniel back in the day.  At the time, photography was his hobby of choice.  But he had many of those.  Numismatics, travel, wine just to name a few.  But he always kept things in perspective.  Family, Friends, God and Country always came first. He was a friend and a mentor even if he never knew about the last part.

When he first became a patient of mine, I was thrilled.  Back in my early days, a thing called professional courtesy was common.  That's not true anymore.  In fact, it can get you into a lot of trouble today.  But then again I could never charge him for my services like I did for everyone else.  He decided on his own to rely on the barter system.  This usually entailed something involving his many hobbies.  I have been paid in Roman coins from Herod's era, comical coins and  bills about President Clinton and lately bottles of wine.  There's a merlot on my desk right now from several years ago called "Running With Scissors". He always thought of my assistants and brought 3 bottles.  The "best" was reserved for me and the other two were given out based on a numbers guessing game by everyone else.  I'm sure he way overpaid me every time for my services, but I enjoyed every single visit I ever had with him.  Without trying, I always learned something new, and the proper way to behave in this increasingly crazy world was drilled into this thick skull of mine.

Dr. David Litrenta passed away on Monday from cardiomyopathy.  That's literally a heart that's too big, for those who don't know.  My condolences to all his family and friends will be delivered at his viewing in just a few hours, after a little run on my treadmill.  Dr. Litrenta knows I'll never be late though.  He knows that being late bothers me more than it does the patients.  RIP

One of his last actions was accumulating some photos of me he took at a dual meet on May 3, 1977 between my high school (Dover) and York Catholic.  His family delivered them to me at my office on Tuesday.  This is me with Daniel Litrenta before the mile that day.  These are the only photos of me that I know of in my high school uniform not of faded newspaper vintage.  It's a priceless gift for me even though I didn't get to see him one more time in the office to earn them.

Dan Litrenta and I after the mile. (4:27 that day)

Dan and I warm up before the race.
Notice the pom-pom socks I always wore.  I always left the balls on the back so they wouldn't slip.  Many people made fun of me before races because of them.  I beat every one of them that year.  But then I ripped the balls off when I arrived at PSU.  There's no way I could have backed them up then! My socks started slipping right away.

Addendum:  Dan points out that he beat me in our first 2 years but I turned the tables on him the second 2.  He reports he ran 4:35 in the race for 2nd.  And he has aged much better than I...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Matt Fischer Receives Accolades

Senior Matt Fischer's punishing kick left the competitors behind at the Mid-Atlantic NCAA Regionals last Friday at the Blue/White Course.  That propelled him to the first place finish and the Mid-Atlantic Athlete of the Year Award.  (And let's not forget Dan Mazzocco's similar performance in 2003 this time!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Coach's New Home

I held off in widely disseminating the info until I was sure everyone was OK with it.  So here it is!

With the approaching holidays, Gunny suggested we make sure the alums know that Coach's new permanent home is at Juniper At Brookline; here is the contact information:

Contact info:
Coach Harry Groves
1940 Cliffside Dr
Room 217 Pinecastle
State College, PA. 16801

Cell phone: 814 777-3000

Coach is doing well and has adapted to his safe new surrounding.  Thank you to all who stopped to see him after the cross country meet.

Hoping everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving.


A Possible Convert?

Despite running for Oklahoma back in the day, and now firmly ensconced in the Great White North where hockey and curling rule, our Drone Czar, er Fuhrer, may now trade in his honorary member status for the real thing.  Like I have always said, everyone is welcome in our Group.  Don't forget to check out his excellent track and field blog at

Sunday I ran an 8.7 KM club race here on Vancouver Island with my daughter. The course was along the Tsolum River, and at points reeked of rotten salmon carcasses which is normal up here this time of year.   On the way home we stopped at our favorite used clothing store Value Village and this Penn State jacket was on the rack.   
Being an 'honorary' member of the PSU track and alumni golf sqaud', I at least had to model it for you.  Note the slogan on the wall.
"Complete outfits for under $20".   Nothing too good for us Nittany Lions.  If one of you left this jacket on a park bench up here I'll have it boxed and shipped back.

George Brose
George Brose modeling his Thrift Shop find.
 My guess is that more than a 100 of us once had a jacket just like it.  And we paid more than $20 for it too.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Report From The NCAA Mid-Atlantic Prelims In Happy Valley

Thanks again to my support team for bringing actual news to the site for me.  I was pleased to note so many who missed me.  Wish I could have been there.  -skwilli

Fred Singleton '74 and Gary Gittings '74 visit with Coach Groves after the meet.

Word is already out about the exploits of the Women’s and Men’s XC squads from last Friday at the Mid-Atlantic NCAA Regional meet, so no trivia, stats or splits from me.  Congratulations to Matt Fischer and Jillian Hunsberger for qualifying individually for the big dance next week in Terre Haute.  I’ll need some help with fact checking, but I believe that Matt is the first Nittany Lion to win the Regional meet in school history.  I know Alan Scharsu was second twice to Solomon Chebor back in the day, but perhaps another Lion in the last 36 years snuck past my watchful, statistical eye and grabbed the top step?  If he isn’t the first to get first, there aren’t a lot of names on the list of those who have.  Impressive performance – more on that in the Gator section. I know, I lied about the trivia/stats thing.  Bite me doughboy.

As was the case in Hershey two weeks ago, State College was a veritable Hollywood red carpet extravaganza littered with celebrities.  Admittedly, the level of celebrity in Central PA was a tiny bit below the mega-wattage of those stars of stage and screen, but, as he’s gotten older, Tim Backenstose’s ass makes Kim Kardashian’s look like a Gluteus Minimus (there are rumors that Tim is in the process of tweeting his own backside photo and one of him astride a horse, shirtless – the Vlad of Coatesville).  I’m proud he’s our ass, not someone else’s!!!  Oh, it also differed from Hollywood in that it was frigging cold and windy, shocking for State College in November, and many were thankful they weren’t wearing Dolfin shorts which led to that painful malady popsicle… (rhymes with sock).

From the recent ranks of alums was Owen Dawson (who had 5 hours of car riding to hear about Tim’s Penn Relays win), who is under the tutelage of a former Volunteer of Tennessee and may have his sights on longer distances.  When someone mentioned he should consider the steeple, his facial expression gave the impression that wasn’t in his plans (or he had really bad gas).  Also in the ranks of greenhorn alums was Sam Masters, PhD candidate and driver supreme (again, more on that later – be patient or you’ll be asked to leave), Ryan Foster (ok, he has to be at all of these things – sad for the rest of us wretched refuse who have no such excuse), Emily Gianotti (2014 McCoy Memorial Award winner [google it, I don’t have all day for this kind of stuff] and 4 time District 9 3200 champ from Coudersport), and Greg Fredericks.  I don’t care that he graduated in 1972, he still looks like he could lace up his spikes and grind me into the dust in a 10x400 workout.

A flock of mid/late 80s and early 90s grads also gather from far and wide to see the race and attend the game against the Temple Owls.  I think Doug Walter, who came from Boulder, may have travelled the longest distance.  Again, someone else can fact check, I’m taking a Baskwillian stance and am not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.  In addition to Doug (one of the 1500 tribe, my personal favorite), also spotted were Brian Laird, Steve Brown (both from the great City of Pittsburgh and both XC All-America), Steve Balkey (another Steel City denizen back in the day and another 1500 tribesman and record holder), Bob Radzwich (who hosted a well-attended Friday night gathering at his home, which was followed by a late night prayer service that lasted until 2:45am [that’s the story he told his wife, I’m staying out of it]), Aidan O’Reilly (brother of the Villanova guy we ran into at Hershey 2 weeks ago), Steve and Beth Shisler (Penn Relays Wall of fame guy and his bride who produced a fine Nittany Lion sprinter of their own), Nick of Tesla and John McGraw (apparently not the former NY baseball Giants manager from the 1930s).  We spotted another fine PSU grad from my favorite city in Pennsylvania, the man, the myth, the legend, the pride of Shadyside Academy, Artie Gilkes.  And, making a repeat appearance at a chilly XC meet, were two of Camp Hill’s finest, Mark Haywood and Jeff Sanden.  Apologies to the guys whose names I missed (Hawk, Steve and Nick can add the necessary errata and addendums).

So on to the Gator, which after an annoying build up will most certainly be a letdown.  After stepping out of the team’s heated tent (Yes. Heated tent. After being in there for 10 minutes I felt ashamed.  Don’t tell Coach.), I bumped into Sam Masters who was chatting with Ryan Foster about making sure he knew the 6K course well enough to keep the runners on the white line for the duration.  The next thing you know, Sam asks if I want to jump in the Gator.  It had been 5 minutes in the cold and wind since I was in the heated tent, so I immediately said yes.  Imagine my glee when I found out the enclosed Gator had heat – the 8 track sucked, but it had heat!  It was a pretty cool experience watching the race unfold from the front and equally cool to aim the Gator at fans who strayed too close to the line (to ensure they gave the runners enough room, not to take any pleasure in their stricken, about-to-be-run-over looks).  In the women’s race it was a 4 person slugfest until the last mile or so when Georgetown’s Katrina Coogan, daughter of two Olympians (again, google it), powered up the final hill to put a 100 meter gap on the others in a most impressive fashion.  Two other things to note about the Gator:  1) the seats aren’t padded and 2) the back bed also isn’t padded and has no heat (or 8 track), so Mark Hawkins, the creator of the Baldwin HS logo and powerhouse master’s runner, deserves a medal for riding in it for 30 minutes taking photos of the men’s race.  For the first 4 miles, it was a walk in the park (ok, stroll through the White and Blue courses at a leisurely 5 minute pace).  Then the front group threw in a 4:35 mile and the lead pack thinned to 7 or 8 guys.  On the same last mile stretch the women’s winner staked her claim, Matt Fischer eased from 5th to the lead and simply ran away from the pack.  Chasing him to no avail was a Penn sub-4 miler and a 13:31 Villanova 5K guy.  It was impressive to watch and got the Nittany Lion faithful appropriately riled up along the finishing straight.  Best quote from Matt to Mark Hawkins – “I thought that was you in the back of the Gator” (that’s how you know the first 4 miles was a stroll).

Finally (huge sigh of relief to the folks who have read this far.  Also, you need to get lives.  And therapy.  Both.), two groups of alums visited with a happy and healthy Coach Groves at his new place of residence.   We also ran into Roger “Gunny” Roll and Coach Bill Whitaker.  We all owe a huge debt of thanks to Gunny and Greg Fredericks who have been steadfast in their support and care of Coach.  Coach has been really pleased to see so many of his runners and friends, and to receive so many cards and calls.  He has really improved over the last month, and it was a delight to see him looking so well.  He also has fully retained his sense of humor – we can rest assured that the windows in his room are closed!!!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Healthy Attendance By PSU Track Alumni Golfers

The road is still uphill for the Nittany Lion men to make the NCAA XC Finals via an at-large bid, but it was a great season none-the-less.  The team improved with every single race and the future is quite bright. Coach Gondak has to be very pleased.

I couldn't make it to the race, but was there in spirit.  In the mean time, plenty of our brethren were there in force to see the men finish third in the team competition, edging Princeton by 1 point!  A highlight was seeing Matt Fischer win the race overall. I think Matt already has an Alumni Singlet at the ready!

Tim Backenstose, Owen Dawson, Greg Fredericks, Coach Bill Whittaker, Coach Groves, Larry Mangan, Roger Roll and Mark Hawkins get ready for the meet. There are stories about the bear I need to hear!

Matt Fischer takes the win.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Hi In The Middle and Round On Both Ends"

Which is something teammate Tom Rapp once told me about his home state.

I can't imagine someone more qualified to have become a high school cross country coach than Tom.  Not just because he was a tremendous high school champion and All-American at Penn State.  More important to me was the character that the man obviously had from a very young age.  I think Tom would be quite pleased to know that I paid attention and still aspire to the ideal he set on a daily basis. And I still remember the sunrise Easter service we attended after a Ziggy "10-miler" at 5:00AM when we were Sophomores.

Tom coached the Division I Cross Country Team Champions (Mason High School)  this past week at the Ohio High School Championships.

Thanks to our Morale Officer (I left off the rest of his title just to tick him off!) for the alert.  Now the pressure is on for this weekend's reporting!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's Always Snowy In Syracuse

I spent a fair amount of time in Philadelphia.  Enough to know that it certainly isn't always sunny there.  But every time I have ever been to Syracuse, there has either been snow on the ground or it snowed while I was there.  I thought this past weekend was my chance to break the spell.  But alas, I was wrong.

The small college USCAA had its National Championships at a golf course outside of Syracuse on Friday.  All of the PSU branch campuses comprising the PSUAC belong to the Association that takes in all kinds of small colleges, trade schools and the like.  Quite an eclectic and cool group.  One of the powerhouses of the Association is the Dine College Warriors Dine College is a college of Native Americans in Arizona for the Navajo Tribe.  Their women won the team competition and the men came in second.  I also appreciate how they embrace their Warrior mascot without apology.  Good for them.  I found myself giving war whoops to their runners along with their large contingent of fans. And they were just as rabid in cheering for their last runner as they were the first.  Made my heart feel good.

Well, anyway, back to the weather...

As I got up at 5:00am in Philadelphia for the trip north with my Daughter the Younger to take pictures, the weather forecast was for 60% chance of rain.  but as we traveled north over the mountains, I could tell it was going to be worse than that.  Lo and behold, fog, rain, sleet, freezing rain greeted us as we arrived in Syracuse.  The small amount of snow came just as the mens race was about to start, generating a very cool greeting from all of the runners involved, led by the Dine College Warriors.  This was captured by Daughter the Younger while I fumbled with the camera I had, getting nothing.

Cross ountry is always better with mud and 1/2 inch spikes.

Daughter the Elder after a fall and blurred from the sleet.

The ice and snow started to accumulate!

Daughter the Elder before the fall!
Daughter the Elder - 47th place, 3rd from the PSUAC! With a 2 minute improvement in time from her PSU 6K performance.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I'm Back! But Kinda Sad I Might Not Have Been Missed

That was the longest blog hiatus since it was started in 2008.  Sorry about that.  Work items and a family medical emergency conspired against me even as items began to build up which are important and of interest.  I hope I can catch up sometime soon.  But I hope I was missed by at least a few of you?

Item 1:  The Mid-Atlantic NCAA Championships are this weekend AT PSU!  I can't make it, but I am looking for roaming corespondents to report on things like our Chief Laundry Officer did in this great post for the High School Championships.  Maybe Mark Haywood can give us some gibberish, grainy cell phone pics and anecdotes from the event?  Hint, hint.  Etc. Etc. Etc. Everyone is invited.

Item 2:  The Parkers attended an event at the All Sports Museum last weekend to celebrate the 50 years of Women's Sports at PSU.

I have told the story before of my very first run at PSU as I showed up for my Freshman Orientation week.  I checked in with Coach Groves right away, unlike Greg Fredericks, and he immediately told me to take a run with "these guys".  Luckily I was dressed for a run and just jumped in.  Believe it or not. I was by far the littlest and skinniest person there.  I was intimidated by the size of everyone there.  I think Campbell Lovett and Tim Backenstose were there, as well as Mark Parker.  None of these people would ever remember this, as I was so scared I never talked to anyone, and they didn't talk back.  We went for a "10-miler" to the Pine Barrens that took 1 1/2 hours at 6-minute pace.  This was merely an introduction to the PSU mileage measurement system I would come to know all so well.  But it was also my introduction to running "in the woods" which is one of my greatest memories of all my PSU years.  I would recommend running at PSU for anyone just because of the mountains and scenery of these routes.

But before Mark Parker became a running mate on my very first PSU run, I must say I saw his future wife even before that.  Early in the AM dark, I saw her streak across the road in front of us at the park across from Easterly Parkway on my way to the dorm with all my belongings in the Ford station wagon.  She was running very fast, but what was weird was the cast on her left foot she was running with.  Kathy Mills had just had surgery but didn't seem to miss a beat.  I have no idea how she did that, and would never recommend that to any of my patients.  As Coach Groves has said, "She is the toughest runner I ever saw."

Kathy (Mills) Parker with the Women's Team.

PSU Record Holders Kathy (MIlls) Parker (5000M) and Kara Foster (10000M).

The Women's Team meets Nike President Mark Parker and Kathy (Mills) Parker.

Two American Record holders, Kathy (Mills) Parker (5000M and WR!) and Greg Fredericks (10000M).

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bob Barker Loves PSU Cross Country

And there is video proof!

I never knew anything about this before encountering a mention of the 10 year anniversary of it.  An actual interaction between the 2004 Penn State Cross country team and the world's greatest game show host.  And everybody loves Bob Barker!  Well, maybe everybody except Adam Sandler... (mild content warning for the b-word for my family-oriented viewers)

Anyway, who knew that the PSU XC team actually traveled CROSS COUNTRY to have a running training camp?  I don't think we ever traveled further than Bear Meadows for ours.  But not only did they apparently travel across the fruited plain, but they then wound up at the studio for a filming of the Price is Right!  Everyone knows that the people that act the most outrageous are the ones chosen for inclusion in the gallery of price guessers.  I have not yet found out how outrageous our 2004 brethren were, but one did end up guessing prices (Joel Moceri).  And acquitted himself fairly well. 

 Here's what Joel Moceri has let me know so far:

We were out in Orange County, CA back in 2004 for a 10 day PSU XC training camp hosted by our teammate at the time Ryan McGarry. We went out with about 13 men from the team and ran every kind of terrain possible for some incredible workouts! Ryan's mom hooked us up with tickets to the Price is Right, and based on a short interview process, I was the lone PSU XC team member to be chosen for a spot up on stage! The video then speaks for itself!

          Anything else, just let me know!



I would love to know more about this trip, so anyone can add some enlightening comments.  Things I would like to know:
  1. Was it sanctioned by Coach Groves in any way?
  2. What outrageous things were done by the team to get a contestant selected?
  3. Was the prize ever cashed in?  Who was your guest, Joel?  Did the mower work?
  4. Who made the t-shirts?
  5. Was any training really, actually ever done at the "training camp"? hee hee hee
  6. Could Joel have taken Bob in a fight? Anyone can chime in.
Web Statistics