Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Guest Post From One Group Officer About Another

Our Chief Laundry and Morale Officer forwarded this from a wayward intern about our Director of Youth Development.  Both are Yinzers, but maybe the rest of us can follow along...

“One of the new interns, currently working on top-secret, autonomous Cross Country van project deep in the bowels of CMU’s Robotics, Propulsion and Isaly’s Klondike Lab, found this hidden jewel in the recesses of the internet.  Finally a story about something good happening in Cleveland!”

The Days of Our Lives

PITTSBURGH, PA - Sometimes I wish I could go back on a rollercoaster ride, when life's just a game. One of Queen's lesser-known songs, "These Are The Days of Our Lives" is the perfect tune by which to remember those times we have left behind us. Everyone of us, at various points in our lives, takes those fateful trips down memory lane. Some of us look back with a smile, and some look back with a sigh of regret. Yet look back we all do, and it is about this that I write today. While hopping about the internet the other day, I happened upon the official Shady Side Academy Cross Country Page, and the memories came flooding back. Reading the tales of the accomplishments of the past year's cross country team, as well as some of the history of the team at Shady Side, I was reminded of how old I had gotten, and how long it had been sonce I ran along those rolling hills of Fox Chapel. How many years it had been since I had taken the long bus ride to Mercersburg, PA, with a dozen or so of us rocking along with Freddy Mercury and Queen in the back. When the last time was that I gathered with my teammates for a pre-race trip to the sacred Pizza Hut. Needless to say, I was quite thrilled to have found this tiny corner of the cyber-world, for it has inspired me to recall the lasting legacy of a man I feel was the greatest runner ever to don a Shady Side uniform - Arthur Scott Gilkes.
It is not the easiest thing to enter high school, a highly regarded cross country runner, the year after a state championship. Having graduated a majority of the major players from the 1988 State Championship team, Shady Side Academy was in a rebuilding year, which still left the team quite competitive by league standards. Artie Gilkes was immediately thrust into a leadership role on the team, surging into a top five position from the onset. The graduation of still more seniors that year thrust the spotlight on Gilkes and his sophomore teammates in the 1990 season. After a strong showing in the state meet that year, where Gilkes finished fourth, the team, which placed three sophomores in the top four slots on the team, appeared destined for something great.
Gilkes' junior year featured more of the same, as Gilkes was rapidly becoming a household name in cross country circles in Western Pennsylvania. As he raced to numerous titles in local invitationals, the team nonetheless found itself in the all-too-familiar role of bridesmaid in the league and state meets. The core of the team, now comprised of three juniors - Gilkes, co-captain Bruce Jacobs, and myself - and a freshman - Andy May - could not get over the huge hurdles in its path, and Gilkes was forced to settle once again for individual achievement. He was victorious in the league championship meet, and he placed second at the state invitational. Would his senior year hold more of the same heartache? Or would his team finally rally around their defiant leader?
Magic Johnson is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, not only for the skills he possessed on the court, but for his ability to make those around him better. Artie Gilkes discovered in himself that same desire and that same will. He would not let his team lose, doing everything in his power to propel his team to victory. He only lost one race during his senior year, a state-wide invitational in early September of 1992, but it was his dedication to the team that made him a lasting legend at Shady Side.
Never having known the joys of a team victory at the Interstate Prep School League championships, Gilkes was faced with the unenviable task of weighing certain personal glory against potential team gain. Victory was almost assuredly his, if he so desired it. Yet if he went out and demolished the competition, the team might again find itself in second place. The chief competition, Western Reserve Academy, had two top runners - Hastings and Masiella - who would most likely find themselves in second and third place if Gilkes ran away early. I had never beaten these two runners in three years of head-to-head competition, and as the team's second-best runner, my ability to stay with these two was crucial. Working two-against-one however, the W.R.A. runners had a significant edge, and passing me at the end was a likely outcome. Assistant Coach Tom Graham explained to Gilkes that he would have to risk defeat if he wanted the team to have a chance to win: he would have to hold back, running in a pack of four, only to sprint at the end and take me with him down the victory chute. The decision was not even a decision at all.
Encouraged by my teammate's presence against the two W.R.A. giants, I was able to stay in the lead pack for almost two and a half miles. The four of us had rapidly distanced ourselves from the rest of the field, and it was becoming apparent that Hastings and Masielle were gaining confidence at having kept up with Gilkes. With a half mile to go, Coach Graham signaled for Gilkes to make his move, and motioning for me to come with him, Gilkes took off across the barren Ohio fields. I am not sure to this day why I went with him at the moment, or how I had the strength to do so, but I did, and he pulled me right along with him to the finish. Gilkes had run the race perfectly, and he and Coach Graham had known precisely when to make the final kick. That willingness to sacrifice on the part of Artie Gilkes earned us the league championship.
Artie Gilkes went on to win the state championship as well that year, even though the team finished a close third in the most competitive field in the tournament's history. He went on to star with Penn State University, running track and cross country in the Big Ten. People look back on high school with a variety of memories, from the prom to past girlfriends to pre-college anxiety. I look back on high school and see one race, run late in October, in chilly conditions, just outside of Cleveland, OH. I remember crossing the finish line, profoundly aware that the league title was ours, knowing that the man fifty yards in front of me was responsible. I raced my entire career with Artie Gilkes, always one step behind, and I never met a better runner, or a better leader. Even while just jogging around my Virginia neighborhood, I can still see his face, nodding to me that it was time to go. Run, then, Artie. Run to your place in history. I will be right behind you.
Submitted 7/30/98.

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