Sunday, February 17, 2019

It Is Time To Sign Up For The 2019 Penn State Track And Field Alumni Reunion And The Coach Groves Golf Tourney

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

We Just Lost A Former Middle Distance Star

Teammate Mark Haywood brings us the news of the passing of Bruce McLanahan in Camp Hill. Bruce was a middle distance star for Coach Groves in his early years.

"Bruce became a good friend of mine over the years. He lived two blocks away from me and we would often share walks around the neighborhood and talk about track, XC, and all things Penn State. He was one of Coach Groves’ runners too although he pre-dated us. Served as mayor of Camp Hill for a while and was very active in the community. Anyone who knew Bruce knew how quick he was with a smile, a laugh, or an amusing anecdote. He made your day better just being in it. This is a very sad time and a great loss for Camp Hill but I am grateful to have known Bruce as a good friend..."

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Pioneer Has Passed

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Patricia Nell Warren earlier in the week.  Patricia was a pioneer in many different ways, and her absence will be profound in many circles.

"How did you pick Penn State as the school (where) the protagonist coached
at before leaving under mysterious reasons?" 

"At the time (1972-1974), to be a track coach at Penn State put you at the top of
the heap.  Penn State was a big power in track, and had been for some
time.  Harlan Brown had to have that kind of positioning and prestige
and experience to think about pointing a protege runner at the
Olympics."  - Patricia Nell Warren.

Patricia was among the first women to brave the stereotype of women being too fragile to run the marathon.  She was in those early Boston Marathons when those in charge were trying to stop her in 1969.

She soon wrote a groundbreaking novel involving running and same-sex relationships, The Front Runner, which became a NYT best seller, and slowly ushered in an era of inclusion in the staid running world.  The large running community called The Frontrunners continues to grow. Her protagonist was the head track coach at Penn State until false allegations of sexual misconduct got him fired.

I was introduced to the book by a high school English teacher who noticed my "running career" had taken off and asked me, "Are you a Front Runner?"  I don't remember my answer, but I do remember the full-throated laughter afterward!  In those days, it was not "a quick google" away to find answers, but I dug in to find out about the book.  I didn't actually read it until my brother checked it out for me from Patee Library. There was no way Dover Area High School would have had the book in those days.

Reading the book opened my eyes to a world I had never even thought about.  And it connected me with a group of people who I seemingly had nothing in common with.  It helped cement a better world view my rural upbringing could not have established on its own.

In recent years, I befriended Patricia on Facebook and had the opportunity to ask her many questions.  I found her to be a delightful, thoughtful and patient friend.  RIP

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Penn State Women: Tops Then And Tops Now

Yesterday's Women's Wannamaker Mile at the Millrose Games had as loaded a field as I have seen in an indoor event in quite a while.  Penn State's phenom Danae Rivers toed the line with all the best and came out with a PR, Penn State Record and NCAA leading time in the event.  And she was eighth at the finish!   4:29.47

Photo by Doreen Startare McCoubrie.
And former teammate Donnie Skerpon, father of Danae's current teammate Elyse Skerpon, posted this pic on the world wide web thingie yesterday.  It shows some Penn State Women Distance runners before the NCAA took over!  Fill in all the names and year in the comments or on our Facebook page and you could win a Platinum Membership Perk!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Worthy Causes

The city of Lancaster is hoping to honor Penn State's Olympic Gold Medalist Barney Ewell by renaming the Square the Ewell Olympic Plaza.  Add your name to the petition!

 Coach Gondak has also started a drive to support upgrades to the Locker Rooms and more:

Penn State Cross Country/Track and Field Alumni:
First and foremost – THANK YOU as always for your support of the program.  It was a lot of fun this past weekend at the National Open seeing all of the alumni in the stands supporting our program.  As you can see from the performances at the meet – your support matters!  Our team is a product of what you started when you were in the Blue and White – so again, thank you.
We had an alumni gathering on Saturday night and it was brought to my attention that with this years football/parking ticket renewal process there was not a clear way for your seat/parking donation to be directed back to the program.  Looking at the invoiced I received myself as well as when I paid  for my seats on-line, I did not see a way to make this happen either.
I spoke with Kirk Diehl – the director of Varsity S – and he said you are still able to have the seat donation fee go directly into the Track and Field OUD Account, which is our fundraising account that I have direct access to help enhance the program (100% of any donation/gift you make to the program goes into the OUD account).

There are two ways you can do this, either call/email Kirk and ask him to make sure your seat donation fee is directed toward the Men’s or Women’s Track Program after you pay on-line.  Or, if you mail in your payment with a check, include a note to indicate you want your seat donation to go toward the program.
Kirk’s information is located below.  This is a great way to support     the program and is only offered to alumni of the program so thank you for this! 
I also mentioned on Saturday night that I am going to start a campaign to raise funds to improve our locker room that was kick-started by a generous gift of $50,000 this past weekend.  I will have more details about our locker room campaign shortly.
Let me know if you have any questions.  Thank you again for your support of the program!
John Gondak
Kirk Diehl – 814-867-2202

Monday, February 4, 2019

A Jack Of All Trades

First up, we hear from another friend of mine I have never met.  Mike Pfaff is another track alum who hasn't made it to a golf outing yet.  The biggest benefit of trying to herd the cats to make it to one of our reunions is that I meet people I would never have otherwise.  Even if its via the Intertubes so far, Mike has intrigued me from our first digital communications.

Mike encouraged me to dip my toe into the world of movie making.  He may change his mind when he sees the first three seconds of my acting career in the movie The Dark Net in June!

Now he has gone and astounded me even more by writing a book about his teaching experiences that will benefit many.

Best of all is his dedication to Coach Groves and even members of our group!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Very Cold Throwback Thursday

Ice Station LaCrosse: Crossing The Mississippi

I have run in 115 degree weather, and I have run in -23 degree weather.  This is the story about the -23 degree episode in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  I bring you this tale after being reminded of it by of our great Throws Coach Patrick Ebel, who spent quite a bit more time there than I did.

The year was 1985 and I was getting in my clinical experience in podiatric medicine prior to graduation that year.  I had signed up for a month at a top-notch facility, the Gundersen Clinic.  Think of it like the Mayo Clinic without all the fat, hassles and calories.  I had learned how good a program it was for aspiring Residents of Podiatry.  But I hadn't figured about the time of year I would be there, and I ended up with January.  In Wisconsin!  Oh well, I'm sure I could handle that...

Unlike nowadays, booking tickets to get there was an over-the-phone affair, unless you went to a travel agent.  I got a great deal on a 2-flight combo from Philadelphia to LaCrosse on a major airline and thought nothing more of it.

December 31, 1984 came and I grabbed my things and took off on my 1 month-long adventure of learning.  The first flight took me to Minneapolis in big plane luxury.  Well, what I thought of as luxury anyway.  I had an hour to spare and went to sit at the gate for the connecting flight to LaCrosse.  I was plenty early and no one else was there, so I casually took a nap.

I was awakened by a gentleman in a pilot uniform who asked if I was headed to LaCrosse.  I answered in the affirmative and he helped me grab my stuff and we headed for the door.  It opened to the tarmac where we trudged across the macadam to a very little commercial plane.  We stuffed my bags into the open hatch and hopped onto the plane.  There was still no one else around.  I thought I was being treated special and figured others would be along any minute.  It was a nineteen-seater.  I was further startled when the gentleman closed the door, fired the beast up and we began taxiing toward the runway!

Turns out he was the pilot and I was the only passenger for the flight.  I then figured that there had to be a stewardess hiding somewhere I couldn't see, but none ever came.

Once the surprise almost left me, I napped a little bit more.  Why waste any time to rest prior to a month as an unpaid intern?  I was again awakened by a gentleman in a pilot's uniform.  MY PILOT was sitting next to me starting a conversation with me!  And I was in the back of the plane.  I sneaked a glance up front and must have looked panicked as the pilot exclaimed "Don't worry, it's on autopilot." as if I had ever been on a plane without a pilot and should relax like everyone else on the planet would!

We talked briefly and he resumed the controls, telling me "This will be bumpy, but it always is because of the terrain of Southwestern Wisconsin".  True to his word, the flight became quite like a little roller coaster you rode as a kid at a church carnival.   Still, it was really scary to someone like me, who hadn't flown much at all prior to that.

Once we landed, I was thinking about kissing the ground, but was dissuaded from it because it was REALLY COLD!  The thermometer prominently displayed at the airport read -23 degrees.  I suppose the locals have some sort of pride about it.  And I was the only person I ran into wearing a hat.  This was before the when every damn hipster in the world wears a knit-cap 24/7.  I figured my bizarre start to the month was over, but I was wrong!

I hailed a cab for the short trip to the rather large complex of the Gundersen Clinic and my temporary apartment among the medical students.  I was looking forward to a little down time prior to checking in with my mentors.

But the cab stopped dead on the two-lane road with a line of stopped cars ahead of it stretching into the distance.  Up ahead were several cop cars with lights flashing.  More cops sped by us in the opposite lane, all converging at the same spot ahead.  It was just an open field covered by the snow, like everywhere else I looked? It was over an hour until the flashing lights ceased, and the cars started to leave.  And then....   Nothing.  We just completed our journey with nothing at all to see, and that was that?

It was only the next morning when I read the paper that I learned what had held us up.  It happened to be "just a burning body without a head or hands left burning beside the road"Welcome to Wisconsin!

And since I always try to link the blog to running, golf, or physics, I will tell you that I don't think it ever got above 0 degrees during the whole month.  And I took a run across the Mississippi River, and I never saw any moving water. Ever.

The highlight of my runs there were the beer crystals hanging in the frozen air from the Heileman Brewery along the river (brewing that great Old Style lager as seen in the Blues Brothers movies).  You could actually taste the beer instead of merely smelling it!  At -23 degrees, every run was a beer tasting.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Centre County Legend

Steve Gentry

Steve Gentry was recently inducted into the Centre County Sports Hall of Fame. Gentry won two PIAA cross country championships and in track he was a champion and a runner-up in the mile, was second in the half-mile and anchored the winning 4x800 relay team for State College. He was second at the National Indoor Championship mile.

At Penn State he earned three letters in cross country and three in track.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Walls Speak

Our intrepid Chief Laundry and Morale Officer posted this to our Facebook Page following the Penn State National in response to my wife's photo of a mutual friend's plaque on the wall of the Horace Ashenfelter Complex.

Lest we forget...

Our sport is an ongoing mix of things new and historic, young and old. While a group of alumni watched the current crop of Nittany Lions ply their trade quite aptly last weekend, those of us in the stands traded stories of workouts and races past - we're all faster by the way. We also spoke of teammates and friends who are still with us and those who have left us to remember them fondly. One of those Lions we remembered was Charlie Maguire who left us all too soon a number of years ago. Here is a photo of a young Charlie, who in 1969, had a world of opportunities ahead of him. I'm glad his likeness adorns the walls on both the east and west sides of the Horace Ashenfelter Indoor T&F facility at Penn State.  -Larry Mangan.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A School Record, A World Record, A Visit With Coach And a Very Good Meal

First up, the unbelievable Danae Rivers bettered her own 800M School Record at the Penn State National yesterday with the NCAA leading time for 2019, 2:02.94.  She also leads the nation in the 1000M with the Collegiate Record .

But up in NYC at the same time, Brannon Kidder turned in the fastest split on the Brooks Beasts team in the 4 x 1609M race (otherwise known as the 4 x Mile).  His third leg of approximately 3:56.8 (via Flotrack) set the team up to demolish the existing indoor world record!

Before the whole afternoon of invitational events at the Horace Ashenfelter Track. several Nittany Lion greats visited Coach Groves at his room to calm him down from the recent horrible events right outside his residence.  Mark Hawkins brought word of his 5:32 Mile at the track on Friday night AT THE AGE OF MUMBLE MUMBLE..

Greg Fredericks, Mark Hawkins and Larry Mangan with Coach Groves.
And to cap off my whirlwind and unexpected trip to State College for the meet, I had dinner with the wonderful Fredericks family. It just doesn't get any better than this! 

Greg, Jeffrey and Anne Fredericks. Many lobsters were harmed in the prelude to this photo!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Half Marathons Are Everywhere Now

Back in the day, the horrible, horrible Reading Pagoda Half-Marathon was the only one I ever heard about.  It was a dreadful run, all uphill the first half and all downhill the second half.  I never really ran well there, but "Noisy" Jim Clelland did win the event one year in a very good 1:07 time.

Naples, FL was the scene of a half this past weekend that attracted a couple of Nittany Lion greats.

Tyler McCandless won the Mens race  and Stephanie Pezullo placed second for the Women.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Set The Date Aside!

Several inquiries have been received at Blog Central as to the dates for this year's Alumni Reunion and Golf Tourney.  So it is certainly time to alert the troops and get them to set the date aside.

May 17,18

Again, the headquarters will be downtown at the Days Inn.

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