Saturday, November 18, 2017

PSU Is 880U: The Roaring 20s Addition **

This is a cross-post with our wonderful friend and spouse of a Nittany Lion, Mike Fanelli.  Mike owns the finest Track and Field Museum in the world.  It is meticulously kept in the garage of his Northern California home.  Recently, the wildfires (some of them purposely set!) threatened the garage and his whole neighborhood.  He was able to stuff most of the more recent stuff into his trunk, and with little else, drive off with no knowledge of what he would find when he returned.  And this happened more than once.

Somehow, his home was spared and Mike has returned to systematically documenting the history of our sport in his very own dynamic style.  As I have said before, the Fanelli family is one of the most interesting I could imagine and I would love to create a television series about them once I am finished with being a Movie Producer (a sequel to my first film is under discussion!)

He offered me his latest find with the caveat that I hold off on posting until he was done.  Of course, I accepted. And what a doozy it is!  It includes:
  • The only loss in Paavo Nurmi's triumphant American tour in 1925 was his loss to Nittany Lion 2-lapper Alan Hellfrich in the 880Y. (That made him 54/55 for the 5-month duration tour.)
  • Pics from the 1923 World Record 4 x 880Y Relay from the Nittany Lions
From Mike Fanelli:

NURMI 1925, the greatest ever Flying Finn, Paavo Nurmi, embarked on a North American tour in which he ran 55 races in a 5 month period. He had been undefeated in 5 full years and held the longest ever win streak in track and field history at 121 straight (a certain American intermediate hurdler has since surpassed said streak with his 122 victories)
On the very final competition of his marathon racing tour, the bionic Finn, who by then had already collected 8 Olympic gold medals, would contest 880 yards before 20,000 spectators on the three cornered "track" within Yankee Stadium.*
Alas, his farewell footrace was foiled by Alan Helffrich, the Penn State speedster pictured here (while anchoring the Nittany Lions to a 7:48.8 world record two mile relay at Penn in 1923).
The Nittany Lion absolutely buried Nurmi in the final 75 yards and won going away. Known for his ferocious finishing speed, Helffich, the 'under the radar' spoiler, (and nearby Yonkers native) actually sported some fairly respectable credentials of his own.
By virtue of his fifth place finish in the 400 at the 1920 Trials, Helffrich became a USA Olympic relay alternate in the summer just after high school graduation...and then ran second leg on the world record setting 4 x 400 meter relay at the 1924 Games. He was a two time NCAA half mile champ (1922 and 1923) and the AAU first placer circa 1921, 1922, and 1925. As well, at one time Alan Helffrich held the world indoor records at 500 meters, 600 meters, 800 meters, plus the 880 yards.
So, I guess it's really no wonder that this 'unknown' Penn Stater proficiently pummeled Paavo circa 1925.
And that, my track nerd brethren, is your history lesson for the day ;)

Penn State 1923 World Record 4 x 880Y (7:48.8)

Alan Helffrich.
*The newly built Yankee Stadium dates to April, 1923.
 ** I have taken some abuse for the use of the word "Addition" instead of "Edition" in the title.  But rather than the normal error of fact inherent in the blog with it all, it was a play on words!  The Interns will be accepting (not excepting!) apologies all week.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Happy Veterans Day

Greg Fredericks sends along this pic of Coach Groves, honored with a red Carnation at Juniper Village for Veterans Day.  So, even though it is a few days late, Happy Veterans Day to everyone in our Universe who served.

The only Penn Relays Coach missed was the one during his first year in the Army. He started a track team for the second year just so he could go!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Exclusive Pics From The NCAA Regionals

Thanks to Frit Cooper, we have these pics from the NCAA Regional XC Meet.  The Womens team won for the 3rd straight year (with 2 of their top runners scratched for the season!) and the Men placed 2 in the top 10, sending Timothy McGowan and Colin Abert to Nationals in addition to the 7 women.

Penn State Women
Penn State
Penn State Men
Andrew Sell
Penn State

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Call To Arms

I am sending the word out that we need some volunteers to lend their Alumni Singlets to 2 alums without them for competition this Indoor Season.

Robby Creese and Darrell Hill have both expressed their desire for an Alumni Singlet and we can't possibly get them made in time. Robbie wears a size Large, while Darrell will certainly need a larger size than that. (There are a few out there, I know.)

Please help spread the word and email me if you can help. (dfbaskwill at cs dot com)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Possibly The Greatest Photo Ever On The Blog!

I am spending the weekend immersed in a Podiatric Conference in King of Prussia. While not the most enjoyable way to spend one's time, at least I get to reunite with fellow Penn State T&F Alumni Golfer, All-American (and walk-on!) John Ziegler. I was rewarded with possibly the greatest picture ever posted on the blog with it all, rivaling the selfie from the bonobo monkey featured before.

This pic was taken by Rochester native and All-American Bruce Baden. It features a youthful duo of John Ziegler and Coach Groves wearing matching 1977 or 1978 plaid "disco-era" pants!  They were boarding a plane near TMI soon after the near meltdown heading to the Dogwood Relays in Tennessee.

John tells me that coach is wearing the newest company New Balance shoes which were sized by supplying a tracing of your foot and sending them in!  Ziggy is wearing original Nike Waffles.

Also, a pic of last night's Kung Pao at the PF Changs in Plymouth Meeting, scene of a previous group Outreach. They have changed the recipe slightly in the past year, but it is still an excellent version of the world's finest dish.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Coach Of The Year

Ryan Foster has been named 2017 Mid-Atlantic Region Division II Womens XC Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA. He guided the Fighting Scots of Edinboro to the PSAC title while wearing a kilt (not really!)

And a bonus pic of PSU T&F Alumni Golfers John Ziegler and Ron "Bile" Ferguson (Honorary member). 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

We Are Closer Than Ever!

Our intrepid Chief Laundry and Morale Officer has received the latest update on the status of our push to fully fund the Coach Groves Scholarship.  We are only $14,000 short of our goal of a fully endowed Full Tuition Scholarship for a worthy athlete!

Included on the recent letter from the Varsity "S" Club is signed by 15 honored and special donors who have matched those donations from the rest of us.  But be assured, each donation no mater how large or small, makes a big impact for the future of the Program.

If you have wavered in the past, now is the time to knuckle under and give.  There may even be a thank you from Coach Groves himself at the next Reunion and Golf Outing?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I Like This F-Troop Success Story Even More Now With The Mention Of Physics!

"I guess initially I applied to Penn State because my physics professor is an alumnus and the application was easy."
-Andrew Sell

Got a little bit of a response from the previous post about the significant contributions to PSU Track and Field/XC that walk-ons have made over the years.  I have told my story briefly before, but may expand upon it for a future post.  But what I'm looking for is stories from everyone else about their walk-on experiences with Coach Groves! Every interaction with Coach is memorable.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional XC

This year's Mid-Atlantic Regional XC meet is at the Lehigh Course in the Saucon Valley of Bethlehem.  (Next year's will be back at PSU!)

I have had inquiries as to the best place to watch the race and possibly get pics.  As I haven't been there since Henry Rono and Alberto Salazar duked it out in 1979 (and PSU finished 3rd!), I figured I would get this out there hoping someone could chime in!

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Long-Delayed Post

This was the longest stretch between posts on the blog with it all.  I have been very busy lately with a myriad of things and haven't had a vacation since January.  It's starting to take a toll...

But I did come across some PSU Track Alumni (Golfers) in action over the weekend in a couple of races.

Tyler McCandless placed 10th in the Pittsburgh 10-Miler with a PR over the distance of 47:56. Welcome back east, and I hope you didn't bring Winter with you!

Tyler McCandless.
And numerous alums braved the uphill/downhill Cooper Norcross Run The Bridge 10K in Philly.

  • Emily Giannotti    15th
  • Rick McGarry     39th
  • Doreen McCoubrie   52nd
Doreen McCoubrie.

Rick McGarry.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Celebrating Walk-Ons Is A Penn State Tradition

In the years prior to my matriculation, they were known as the F-Troop.  But in reality PSU has a long history of walk-ons making a big splash for the team.  Maybe some of you can give our Interns some stories about walk-on successes.

No coach could have been more accepting of walk-ons than Coach Groves himself.  He literally was willing to coach anyone willing to put in the work, regardless of ability.  Probably half of our membership are in this class, and it does nothing but make our Group and the Program better.

With the advent of Title IX restrictions, monetary constraints, legal constraints etc., there are fewer and fewer walk-ons and F-Troop members on the rolls.  The Club Program at PSU is also very strong and filled to the brim with talent.

And I was alerted to this in a comment on the last post...

PSU's third finisher Andrew Sell was unfamiliar to me. I checked the PSU XC roster and he is not listed. A web search indicates that he was a member of PSU's club XC team. Pretty impressive to step up from the club team to the varsity and finish third for the team and 39th overall. I'm surprised that Andrew's performance hasn't received any coverage. Perhaps someone from the PSU XC staff would like to comment.

I tip my PSU XC cap (given to me by our esteemed Golden Putter Attendant!) to Andrew and hope to learn more about this in the coming weeks.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Weekend Without Football

My observation that the Nittany Lions always play better when I don't watch them was given a setback of sorts this weekend.  I spent the day in a practically empty State College with theam away in Columbus.  Almost no one had awakened by 11:00am as I arrived on campus.

My superstition against watching, (I didn't even listen!) so as to promote a win ALMOST worked for the 11th time in a row.  I find it amusing that although the Lions dropped 5 places in the polls, they rose in the Sagarin Computer Rankings to 3rd from 6th or 7th.  They now reside less than 1 point below Ohio State, which seems to me to be an accurate reflection of reality.

My jaunt around campus was rewarded with a plate of Kung Pao at the HUB Panda Express!

I think that's Hanna Humprey's dad on the mural fishing.

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