Monday, October 20, 2014

Finally, A Marathon Plan For The Common Man

"I thought I hit the wall, but I just dug deep."

"I just never gave up hope..."  

"I feel like I'm born again."

-Bill Murray, training for the NYC Marathon.

He's mastered golf already, and he's a Heck of a good running coach.  So I believe!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Co-Blogger Becomes a Very Sweet Professional

Apparently, ex-PSU-800M man Matt Groves has successfully made the transition to the half-marathon.  He won the Hershey Half-Marathon with a negative split! And he not only won cash, he won chocolate too.  And that's just in time to beat the coming rise in chocolate prices due to the West African Ebola crisis.  Congrats Matt!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Still More Drones, On My Birthday!! (With a Metaphysical Encounter Confirming My Convictions, Which You Don't Need To Read)

I attended the Hood College Open where I added Community College and Junior College to my Divisions of the World's Greatest Sport I have seen so far this year.  Daughter the Elder ran in her Penn State (Mont Alto) uniform and chopped a minute (and a half! ed.) off her time from last week in the 6K at The Blue/White Course.  Already a good start to my birthday.

Next up was the meeting of the drone operator that has me and George Brose in a tizzy with the ramifications of its use in our sport.  (Think how cool it would be to have drone video of the 1975 NCAA Finals at PSU or the Salazar/Rono duel a few years later.) An even better birthday.

Turns out that Bob P., the drone operator is from my hometown of York, PA and has just begun to dabble in aerial video with his son's xc race in September.  He relates the package he has costs in the vicinity of $1300 out of the box and runs on his iPhone.  Decent packages like it may run under $1000, which can do a very good job.  He may have some good shots of the start of my daughter's race.

This intrigues me immensely, and if I was State College based, I would have aerial footage of all the races at PSU.  Please send me lottery scratch tickets in my quest for the adequate funding for my adventure!  (Just kidding)  But what a birthday present that would be!

And here's where the metaphysical part begins.  Please stop reading this post if you are someone of no Faith or a person indifferent or antagonistic to me in any way.  This will just make you angry or worse. And I honestly don't want that.

I was one with little Faith for my first 36 years, until a very profound encounter which changed my life.  I'll not bore you here, but I'll gladly tell you about it when we next meet if you so desire.  Now, I have a good bit of Faith and try to live my life with that in mind.  I'm not very good at it yet, but I honestly try to become a little better every day with it. Some would say I have failed, but then again, I'm not nearly finished yet.

When I have praised others on these pages, it is often with this Faith in mind.  When Coach Groves guides me to those he feels are "good" people, I tend to listen.  When the person at the top of his list happens to be someone I idolized as a high school kid, I really tend to listen more.

When Coach fell and was injured significantly, while also being quite ill, there were 2 people who stepped up and provided him the help he needed.  They're still at it, in many more ways than most of you realize.  Without them, Coach would be in a world of hurt.  I can't emphasize how much they have done.

When my convictions are questioned on this praise of others, I certainly listen, analyze, and form an opinion on the matter according to the scientific background PSU taught me, flavored with the Spirit that new-found Faith has provided. And I still feel the same way.

When I went to my favorite fast-food establishment in the world (yeah, Roy Rogers in Thurmont MD!) after the XC meet today, who was standing next to me in line but Greg Fredericks.  It hit me like a revelation, and I take it as firm confirmation that I was correct all along.  Greg happened to be returning from Arlington National Cemetery where a friend in his church was laid to rest with full military honors.  He said it was really impressive.  I could have taken his pic just to confirm all of this with everyone, but I figure you all need to have Faith that this was something beyond ordinary.

I doubt that I'll ever catch up to Greg on his journey of Faith, I'm so far behind, just like on the track.  But I have seen his footprints and I will continue to follow them.  I could do a lot worse...

Friday, October 17, 2014

Let Our New "Director of Drones" School You Some More On The State Of The Art In Cross Country Videos

While I aspire to real reportage on events and things of import in our sport, George Brose actually does it.  He followed up on my off-the-cuff linkage to the drone footage of a XC race where I will be tomorrow for the Hood College Invitational.  He found an actual aerial drone cameraman who did a quite professional job of it.

Check out the post on his blog, Once Upon a Time In The Vest.

I'll try to find a drone operator tomorrow at the meet and report back.

Alumni Singlets and T-Shirts Are In Process!

I get way too much credit for bringing the Alumni Singlets, (and now the T-Shirts), to PSU Track and Field Alumni (Golfers).  Mark Hawkins, Le faucon d'orange (The Orange Hawk), does all the buying and arranging screening for them.  

Those who are among the largest order yet may be contacted by him to make sure of details etc.  Don't be alarmed.  The cost will be about $45 dollars, not counting possible shipping costs when he has the final product.  You will be contacted about the fees beforehand, as Mark has been stuck with several after people change their mind.  I have promised Mark to reimburse him for any such product, which we can try to entice someone else with.

As always, patience is a virtue. No matter when we do a sale and no matter how fast we fulfill it, there is always the desire to have them quicker.  And we all have day jobs.

Those who haven't ordered theirs yet, we'll do it again probably before next year's reunion and golf tourney.  Even for those of us waaaaaay past their athletic careers, the t-shirt is a very distinctive piece of apparel that generates tons of great comments when it is seen at races and other events.  Order one next time to help spread the word and make PSU Track/XC the go-to program in the nation.

Beth and Steve Shisler display their Alumni Singlets!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Streaking In College Should Be a Basic Human Right

 “I didn’t drink. I was never a big party girl, but I streaked. I don’t know why. … I just was in a naked frame of mind. I don’t think I was the only streaker, but I might have been the leader of the streakers. And we just all streaked, all summer.”

There have actually been students kicked out of school and even arrested and jailed for running around without clothes on.  Although I have never actually done it myself, I know so many of you that did!  This was often the first glimpse of a naked opposite sex person (or same sex NTTAWWT!) by many a College Freshman.

So it isn't a surprise that even TV/Movie Stars have joined in.  I'm just sorry there isn't pics or video! Except for her appearance on Conan O'Brien.  It seemed to me O'Brien rings some sort of bell when it comes to Streaking...  See link for that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Big Ten Athlete of the Week

Via GoPSUSports

"ROSEMOUNT, Ill. - Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) has been named the Big Ten Men's Cross Country Athlete of the Week, as announced by the conference office Tuesday (Oct.14).

Last Saturday, Kidder tallied a third-place finish with his time of 26 minutes, 46 seconds to lead the Nittany Lion men to a team title at the Penn State National. Kidder's time of 26:46 is a season-best for him at the 5.2-mile Blue-White Golf Course......."

 Pre-Nationals  and the chance to garner some at-large points in 3 days.

Drones Invade Cross Country!

The Penn State team will be traveling to the biggest cross country race so far this year at the Pre-National Meet in Terre Haute, Indiana on Saturday.  Finally, we will be able to see what the team can do as a whole.  Good luck!

I'll be traveling to the Catoctin area of Maryland for the Hood College Invitational at Utica Park, just off Rt. 15 near Thurmont MD (and Camp David!)

In browsing the vast internet, I came across this great video of a race at Utica Park earlier this season which provides an aerial view of the course FILMED BY A DRONE!

I suppose we're going to need a Director of Drones soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Brother Went To Ireland For The Penn State Game And All I Got Was This Photo*

My father and brother went to Ireland for the initial Nittany Lion football game.  This was their annual away game and one of the few PSU has won in their long streak of such games.  Previously, all were bus trips, some of which were very long trips indeed.  At least with this one, they could fly.

After the late night/early morning flight, they arrived in Dublin at 10:00AM and were immediately taken to the Guinness brewery.  Priorities, priorities...  Despite both being teetotalers, they each had a few sips, remarking that the product was "nasty".

*  I was Home Sick yesterday and had difficulty coming up with a suitable post today.  This will have to do for now. Despite being present at the epicenter of SARS in Guangzhou China prior to the government's acknowledgement of the disease, I'm pretty sure it's just a bad cold.  And its not Ebola either, despite some people's wishes out there!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Three First Meetings of Coach Groves

I have told this story once before, but here it is again...

First:  Me
When I finally decided that I wasn't going to the Division III route following several college visits after my State 2-Mile victory (Kutztown, Millersville among them) I was tasked with trying to walk on at PSU.  Every one in my family went there and I was quite familiar with everything about the school, ...except maybe Coach Groves. My only advice in this regard was "be careful" from a high school coach who had met him.

 When a friend was making a trip to State College, I hitched a ride (I didn't even have a license at the time!) and found my way to his office in Rec Hall.  He greeted me in his usual style (still til this day) and at least knew who I was.  When I finally asked if I could walk on, he asked "How much are you running right now?"  When I confidently answered "70 to 80 miles/week" (I can back that up BTW), he answered back  "that may not be enough".  He insinuated that I could join the team, but had a lot of work ahead of me.  I did do quite a bit of running from that day in June 1977 until I showed up at his office again in August.  It scared me straight and I credit that with becoming the 7th man for my first 2 meets as a Freshman (Bob Snyder was hurt!).  All in all, not a bad first meeting of Coach!
Second:  Gunny

I had the opportunity to speak with Roger "Gunny" Roll during the Womens race this past weekend.  I figured it was about time I thanked him for his service to the Nation AND his service to Coach Groves over the years. 
I also had the opportunity to ask him how they first met. Gunny was coaching the Quantico Marine team and ran into Coach at a meet in the mid-70's. Coach had once started and coached an Army team before heading to William and Mary and PSU.  Gunny's parting words following that first meeting were prophetic and were something to the effect of "I think we'll be seeing each other again."
And a short time later he was given his orders to travel to Happy Valley to head the PSU ROTC program.  The friendship between Coach and him has only gotten stronger every day since.  Any of us who ran with Gunny back in the day knows what a tough and honorable man he is.
Third:  Greg Fredericks

Greg was actually recruited by Coach John Lucas when Coach Groves took over the program in 1968.  I don't think Greg had ever met him and probably knew less about him than I did when we first met.  Coach actually has said he would not have recruited Greg.  Because he was way too slow!
 Greg arrived in University Park with a single suitcase on a Saturday evening and plopped his things down in the middle of his dorm room and waited for his roommate to arrive.  Greg is the kind of man who would wait to let his roommate pick his bed first!  There aren't many of them left in the word, to say the least.  I told him that today, the first into the dorm room probably takes both beds and tells the tardy roommate that he must sleep on the floor.  But I digress...
Seeing as it was late on Saturday, the two of them had their first dorm meal and called it a night.  They awoke early Sunday and attended church together, and used the rest of the day to look around campus and try not to get scared, I suppose.
Early Monday morning, both of them made their way to Rec Hall to check in and meet Coach for the first time.  In typical Coach Groves fashion, he bawled them out for not checking in on Saturday night or Sunday morning.   Greg isn't quite sure, but relates that 4-letter words were probably used.
Any other first meeting stories out there?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Friend In Need, Is a Friend Indeed: or My Day in Happy Valley

It was a whirlwind of 24 hours from start to finish, and I was admittedly at less than my best.  And my best isn't usually that good!  But I'll attempt to bring you the highlights of my travels through the Alumni World of PSU Cross Country.

First up, we must discuss the herculean efforts that are being made by members of our group in helping Coach Groves rehabilitate from his pneumonia and broken ribs.  I can't fathom better friends than Roger "Gunny" Roll*  and Greg Fredericks, who have spent endless hours with Coach and helped him with all his daily tasks AND MORE.  Each an every one of us owe them a thank you for what they continue to do.  These efforts show the very best of Track Alumni Golfers and humanity itself.  I can't say enough in praise of them.

Roger "Gunny" Roll manned the finish line at the PSU National.

My family visited Coach for a 1/2 hour and we enjoyed a spirited talk about many topics.  I think he would appreciate a visit from all his athletes.  They apparently boost his efforts at rehab.  Those who have broken a rib know the pain involved.  Throw pneumonia on top of that and you can understand the poor hand he was dealt.  Gunny and Greg are there constantly motivating him to get better, much as he did with each and every one of us.

Second, I got to talk with many alums before and during the Penn State National Cross Country Meet.  Despite the early rain, the day turned out to be quite nice.  I spoke with several friends while at the meet, always a highlight of the day.

I got to congratulate Coach Gondak on his new duties.

The Skerpons, Robbin and Don, stopped by to see my daughter run! They haven't changed in 30 years.

John McGraw took time away from Field Hockey to watch the meet!
Former foursome teammate Coach Fritz Spence.
The meet itself was anti-climatic, as both the men and women held out top runners for next week's Pre-National Invitational in Terre Haute, Indiana.  With the reduced number of runners the Division I race was merged with the PSUAC Championships (The Penn State University Branch Campus Conference).  The Alumni team, defending champs, cobbled together a team at the last minute with Brian Fuller leading them with a 5th place finish.

The Alumni Team gets ready.

Brian Fuller places fifth overall for the Alumni team.
The PSUAC Championships were for the PSU Branch Campuses across the state.  Penn State Scranton won both team titles.  The newest team from Mont Alto managed 2 first team All-Conference runners and one second team All-Conference runner.  Martha Baskwill placed 7th in the 6K earning a trip to the USCAA Nationals in Syracuse in November.  Joining her for the trip will be the mens 4th place finisher in the 5.2 mile run, Joe Fletcher.  In addition, boxer and MMA fighter James McKeithen placed 13th.  James had no prior competitive running experience prior to last year.  The 27 year old does have a history of 2 tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, though.  One tough runner who has improved with every run of the year.

Joe Fletcher, PSU Mont Alto, 4th.

James McKeithen, right.  don't pick a fight with this runner!

Martha Baskwill, aka Daughter the Elder, conquers the White Course hill to finish 7th.
*People have pointed out that the Label for Gunny has 3 "l's" at the end, which was an error in the initial typing.  I have decided to not go back and change each and every example of it.  The third "l" now stands for "Loyal".  Thanks Gunny, for your service to Coach and to the Nation.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Penn State National Cross Country Meet Is Here!

 Here's a great Collegian article* from 1984 about Penn State's Cross Country course praising Coach Groves' course-making abilities (pointed out to me by our Director of Fun).  I'll be reporting on the happenings at the 2014 Penn State National Meet and the Branch Campus (PSUAC) Championships.  I also hope to see other Alums, including the Alumni Team defending their championship from last year.  Be sure to look for me and say "hi"!

Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 1984 12:00 am
Penn State's course: a cross country tradition The list of All-American runners who have raced on the Penn State cross country course is impressive.
Runners like Horace Ashenfelter, Marty Liquori, Frank Shorter, Eamon O'Reilly and Alberto Salazar have all competed on the 5-mile and 10,000-meter tracks on the Blue Golf Course.
This year, Penn State cross country fans will again have a chance to see the best collegiate runners in the country when the Lions host the 46th Annual National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Cross Country Championships on Nov. 19.
The meet, known simply as "the nationals," is being run on Penn State's 10,000-meter course for the fifth time. The last time they were held here was 1975, when many of the NCAA rules that govern cross country were initiated by Penn State Head Coach Harry Groves.
For instance, Groves was the first to use an alley of two lines for the runners. Before 1975, runners would sometimes lose their way on courses that were marked only with a single line.
"Up until 1975, things were very haphazard," Groves said. "People were disqualified for running off courses and sometimes people were pushed into marking stakes that were too low."
Groves even went as far as to measure enough room for each of the seven runners on each team at the starting line. Before, there was only enough room for five runners on each team to stand on the starting line.
Other innovations from 1975 are the specifications for the width of the alleys in the finishing chute and an elaborate timing system at the finish line which includes a 16-millimeter camera, two video-cassete recorders, an Accutrack machine, a digital timer and a chromonex timer.
"In 1975, the nationals 10,000-meter course was heralded by the athletes as the best course that anybody had ever seen," Groves said.
"It's a real runner's course," he added, "because when I laid it out, I kept going along and saying to myself, 'What is the best way to go here if I'm a runner?' "
What Groves came up with was a 10,000-meter course that has a little bit of everything, including a route that winds through golf course rough, fairways, woods, fields and some hills that can be very deceiving.
Craig Virgin, the winner of the 1975 nationals at Penn State and holder of the second best time on the 10,000-meter course, had nothing but praise for the course when contacted recently at his Illinois business, Frontrunner Inc.
"There are plenty of good hills there and lots of good grass to run on," he said. "I felt that it was a very challenging course and when you ran it, you knew that you had gotten on a wild horse."
In recalling his championship performance of that year, Virgin said it was an "eyeball-to-eyeball, elbow-to-elbow" type of race when Nick Rose, from England and running for Western Kentucky, started to pull away from the pack at the two-mile mark, but Virgin stuck with him.
"It was one of the most physically demanding races I've ever been in," Virgin said.
Rose and Virgin, who was undefeated at that time, collided several times as both runners tried to outdistance each other. In the end, though, it was a long hill near the end of the course that did in Rose, who ironically had complained to Groves before the race that the course was not hilly enough.
In one of the great races that was run on the course, that same hill was the downfall of a future Boston Marathon competitor, Greg Meyer. In a race in 1976, Penn State All-Americans George Malley and Paul Stemmer decided, much to the dismay of Groves, that the only way to beat Meyer was to use the long hill at the end of the course. Malley and Stemmer sprinted up the hill and when they reached the top, they took off on a 100-yard dash and Meyer never caught up.
Another great runner, Marty Liquori, shaped the future of the Penn State course in his own unique way. When he raced here, Groves said, he had a tendency to pull the branches of the trees lining the course into the faces of the runners behind him. Since then, Groves has tried to steer the course away from any trees.
Groves does not expect any drastic changes this year for the 184 men and 136 women who will compete in the nationals at Penn State. He said most of the runners should be very pleased with the layout.
"Most people, after they run the course, say that it's tougher than they thought it was going to be but nobody moans because they think it's a very fair course," Groves said.
Virgin, who competed in the 1984 Olympics and is shooting for the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea, said it is a good course as far as golf course routes go.
"I would reccommend the course to any cross country runner for a race because sometimes you find golf course routes that really are more like a track race or a road race," he said, "but that course is set up so that it makes you feel like you were on a real cross country course."

* The story is no longer edited. I'm still a jerk, but happy to have the additional info and permission to not have to edit such things in the future. Rules still apply, even to me. Although from reliable sources, Coach does enjoy the blog. The hill surge story is priceless. Except maybe to Meyer. Thanks for the story.
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