20th Annual Penn State Track and Field/XC Reunion

And SAVE THE DATE! The Executive Committee meeting of the Officers of the Group convened and chose the dates for the 2022 Reunion and Coach Groves Golf Tournament. This will be the 20th anniversary of the formulation of this whole shebang, and you better SAVE THE DATE!! So set aside May 13th and 14th, 2022. (Each year will alternate between May and August) We will be going all out for this event and you won't want to miss it. Adult beverages, camaraderie with old and new friends, mediocre golf, AND LIVE MUSIC FROM PROFESSIONALS! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Way Back Wednesday

The poor people of Texas are suffering through some tough times with Hurricane Harvey and the flooding aftermath.  Prayers go out to all of them.

I only have a smattering of experience with Hurricanes and flooding going back to 1972's Agnes.

The Best Week of My Life

1972 was a great year. Nixon was at his peak, the Vietnam War was about to be ended and Americans had been on the Moon 5 or 6 times. My sport was basketball, and I needed to get much better at it to compete with the likes of teammate Curt Clawson (who later became the greatest shooter Coach Keady of Purdue ever saw, including Michael Jordan!) I opted for the prestigious Pocono Mountain Basketball Camp run by Coaches Bill Foster and Harry Litwack. I headed off with spirits high and with ridiculous sneakers not really suitable for basketball.

My joy turned to ecstasy when I found out that David Thompson was going to be my Coach for the week. After his sophomore year at NC State, he wasn't yet a household word, but he was certainly one of the premier young players in college ball. His teammates Monty Towe and Phil Spence were with him. Tom Burleson had gone to another camp.

The first day was spent getting to know the camp layout and the set up for the coming week of intense drills, practices and games. Then, the rain began. Hurricane Agnes had hit Florida and meandered up the East Coast, delivering torrential rains which was only was made worse when it stalled over land. Worst hit happened to be where we were in the Poconos. All roads were washed out and we were marooned at our camp. Only the two indoor courts were usable by the hundreds of kids there, many counselors staying elsewhere weren't available, and we were on our own mostly. Lord of the Flies type stuff, may I add?

When the bridge over the little stream leading to the indoor courts washed out when it became a raging river, we improvised by swinging across the stream on a rope hanging from a tree. Those little kids that invariably fell in were retrieved downstream with the help of a dam we fashioned out of canoes left over from the camp's previous life. We never lost a single camper! Each day became worse with the rain and the inability of anyone to reach us from the outside. The menu deteriorated noticeably each day, with meals becoming a mish mash of whatever was available. The nightly movie reel (the World War II flick, Triple Cross) was repeated each night, and all of us learned the entire dialog by the end of the week. We were able to shout the words to the entire movie before the actor would, which somehow never got old. I remember the joy on David Thompson's face with this each night, pure innocent joy. I find it hard to believe that he later ended his basketball career in the throes of substance abuse.

Days were spent watching the college guys play pick-up basketball. Only one court at a time was available, as they tore down rim after rim with spectacular alley-oops and jams (Monty Towe and David Thompson invented the alley-oop!) none of us could believe. Those handy with tools would remake the backboards and rims on the one court as the players switched to the other.

Players were true amateurs in those days, and none of them was receiving any money outright, just room and board (eating the same crap the rest of us were!). We supplemented David by putting quarters on top of the backboards. Any quarter he jumped up and retrieved was his by default. And he pocketed a lot of change that week. I've been challenged on this many times, but I saw him do it hundreds of times. His vertical leap was unbelievable, even with just one step. He had a kid follow him just to hold all of his quarters. And I would have volunteered for the duty if someone else hadn't gotten there first!

It was a simply magical week, and I didn't mind eating Cream of Wheat for three straight meals by the end of the week. When the rain finally stopped and my parents picked me up, I was amazed to see all of Pennsylvania flooded. We didn't have a TV and no one bothered listening to the radio, we were there to watch basketball and there was none better than what was on the court live.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

5-Time King Of The Sand

I missed any Penn State Track Alums at the Sea Isle City Beach Run this year, but elsewhere on the sands of the Garden State, others were working hard.

Michael Syrnick won his 5th 2-Mile Beach Run at the Dutch Hoffman Memorial Lifeguard Championships in Wildwood. 

Mike Syrnick, a 13-year Wildwood lifeguard, edged Upper Township’s Jake Davis by two seconds to win the beach run. It was Syrnick’s second straight win in the race and fifth of his career. He won three straight times from 2007 through 2009.
“As you get older, you think maybe you’ve lost a step or that you can’t keep up with the younger guys, so it’s nice that I’ve been able to win this the last two years,” said Syrnick, a former Penn State University distance runner.

Monday, August 28, 2017

PSU Is 800U: Why Does The 800M Hurt So Much?

"Light yourself on fire and then roll in broken glass to put out the fire!" -from Isaiah Harris's Twitter Feed, explaining how to replicate the feeling after an 800M race.

"If you run an even-paced 800 [both laps the same], you're under-performing. The guy who slows down the least is usually the winner."  -Physiologist Ross Tucker.

Many agree that the 800M, when run all-out, hurts more than other events.  Some disagree about the "most" part, but anyone who has run a fast 800M (880Y for me!) knows the truth about the hurting part.  I personally think the 400M all-out might be worse, but I only ran it once!

Here, an exercise physiologist tries to explain this phenomenon.  Go ahead and disagree if you must, but there is no doubt it does hurt.

 And this M45 Master Runner became the first to run under 1:50.00 for the 800M!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Best Distance Medley Relay Squad In The NCAA?

And they are on the coaching staff!

That's Alex Shisler, Owen Dawson, Casimir Loxsom and Robbie Creese. Many NCAA teams will be hard pressed to compete with these guys.

I would use Robbie on the 1200M leg, Alex on the 400M leg, Casimir on the 800M leg and Owen on the 1600M leg.  But I would love arguments from everyone on that! (including them!)

Friday, August 25, 2017

More Old Timey Goodness

Our Chief Laundry and Morale Officer sent along 2 separate Collegian articles highlighting some of the same names as yesterday's post celebrating Curt Stone's contributions to our heritage.

This time, additional Olympic achievements were introduced.  Herm Goffberg is submitted as a 1948 Olympian in the 10,000M.  Those who are in the know realize that Herm returned to PSU in his later years and became one of Coach Groves' favorite people in the world, serving as a grad assistant.  When he passed away,  Coach Groves was involved in making sure his remains were placed at a prominent place next to the track, (between the track and the runway where the women stretch before their workout).

Former Penn State Olympians reminisce about 'old days'

Although the Nittany Lion football players performed like champions this past weekend, the fans were graced with the presence of an even greater group of heroes.
Curtis Stone, Herman Goffberg, Horace Ashenfelter, Bill Ashenfelter and Greg Fredericks, all former Penn State track and field stars and Olympic Games participants, met after Saturday's game for a tailgate celebration of Penn State tradition and pride.
Sporting a royal blue "Nittany Lions Track" windbreaker, Goffberg, a runner in the 1948 Olympics, is the oldest living Penn State Olympian. He lived in England for 35 years after the Olympics, but fittingly decided to retire in the same place where his athletic career excelled — State College.
Goffberg then took a position with the University as the Graduate Team Manager for the Track team. Looking back on the bad shoes, track conditions and outdoor weather conditions, Goffberg laughs when hearing his college runners call the past "the good old days."
"Good old days?" said Goffberg. "They were the bad old days!"
Horace Ashenfelter, winner of the 1952 Olympic gold medal in the steeplechase, shared similar memories of his Penn State track experiences. In his days at Penn State, runners practiced outside during the winter on the original outdoor track. After a heavy blizzard, the men were still expected to run.
"The coach said, 'first you've got to shovel the track, guys,' " Horace Ashenfelter said.
Despite the technology-based inconveniences of Penn State's early track years, the gentlemen expressed pride and contentment with their time spent at Penn State.
Bill Ashenfelter, distance runner in the 1952 Olympics and brother of Horace Ashenfelter, enjoyed his Penn State years.
"We've had a lot of fun here," Ashenfelter said.
Virginia Ashenfelter (senior-marketing/international business) is the great-niece of Horace Ashenfelter and also a current triathlon participant at Penn State.
"The family's built on endurance," Virginia Ashenfelter said. "They're also very humble."
Showing this typical humility, Horace Ashenfelter spoke of his own running talent.
"I was just a fair runner, better than average, I guess," he said.
Indeed this runner was better than average, elevating himself to cross-country All-American status in 1949, 1950 and 1951.
One of only two American distance runners to make the Olympics three consecutive times (1948, 1952 and 1956), Curtis Stone spoke of his experiences running against the Russians. Amidst the anxiety of the Cold War, Stone focused solely on winning a medal.
"They were tension-filled times," fellow-Olympian Greg Fredericks said. "They never thought he would place, and he did."
Stone placed sixth in the 1948 Olympic 5,000-meter race, due to a weather problem. He would have been a medal contender if the rain had held off for five minutes, he said.

"The race was run in a terrible rainstorm," Stone said. "The cloud burst as we began."
Goffberg expressed sympathy for Stone's situation.
"The runner in front of him kicked mud up on his glasses, and he couldn't see," Goffberg said.
Greg Fredericks, representing a younger generation of Penn State runners, made the Olympic team in 1980 only to find out that he would not be able to run because of former president Jimmy Carter's Olympic boycott.
"It was an event in your life. Like Joe Paterno says, 'there are certain things you just can't control, and you can't worry about them.' "
Still, Fredericks remains a dominant figure in Penn State track and field, holding the record for the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter race at the university.
The Olympians present at the tailgate expressed an optimistic opinion for the future of Penn State track and Olympic hopefuls.
"Penn State is a major school," said Horace Ashenfelter. "They should do well."

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Father Of Penn State Distance Running

Curt Stone practically assembled the early Penn State teams that won championships and paved the way for the rest of us all by himself.  He personally recruited Horace Ashenfelter and his brothers. Gary Cohen interviewed the reclusive Olympian a few years ago and posted it on his great web site, garycohenrunning.com

Curt Stone — September, 2015
Curt Stone was a member of the 1948, 1952 and 1956 United States Olympic teams and the first U.S. distance runner to compete in three Olympic Games. His Olympic racing included 5,000 meters in London, England (1948), 5,000 and 10,000 meters in Helsinki, Finland (1952) and 5,000 meters in Melbourne, Australia (1956). At the inaugural Pan American Games in 1951, Curt won gold medals in the 10,000 meters and the 3,000 meter steeplechase. He won the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Trials 5,000 meters, while finishing second in 1956. Stone also won the 1952 Olympic Trials 10,000 meters. Curt won a total of 14 Olympic Trials and AAU Championships at 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and in the 3,000 meter steeplechase. He is a 1948 graduate of Penn State University where he was runner-up at the 1946 NCAA Cross-Country championships and a member of the 1942 and 1947 championship teams. Curt was 1947 Penn Relays two-mile champion and a member of the winning four-mile relay team that same year. During World War II Stone served in the 8th Army Air Force with the 95th Bombardment Group out of Horham, England. His personal best times include: 5,000 meters – 14:39.4 and 10,000 meters – 30:33.4. Curt was inducted into the RRCA Hall of Fame in 1976. He earned a Doctoral degree and retired after 22 years as a professor at Kent State. He lives in Brooklyn, PA, has been married for 63 years to his wife, Margaret, and they a daughter, Sarah. The 92 year old is hard of hearing which prevented a telephone interview, but he was kind enough to type and e-mail his recollections in September and October, 2015.
GCR:You represented the United States at the 1948 Olympics in London in the 5,000 meters. Since it was the first Olympics in 12 years due to World War II, what was the feeling for you and others to run for our country in the land of one of our staunchest allies and where you had served during World War II?
CSThree years had passed since wartime service in Britain, so it was gratifying to find progress being made within the city of London. It seemed quite fitting that they were hosting the games, that there was an Olympic Village using a famous military camp, and that the people were optimistic and welcoming.
GCR:You placed third in your Olympic qualifying heat in 14:58.6 less than a second behind Evert Nyberg of Sweden and Vaino Koskela of Finland. After this effort how did you feel about your chances to compete with the best in the world for medals in the final?
CSI had been on a European track and field tour in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Scotland in 1947, and I was aware that Europeans were good competitors, especially in distance running. The qualifying rounds were rather slow times and easy running, so I was optimistic for the final.
GCR:In the final you raced to a sixth place finish. What are some of your memories as to how the race developed, your tactics and whether the bad rainstorm before the race and muddy track kept you from possibly finishing closer to or in the medals?
CSI have a picture of the start of the race and it was a dark day, the cloud burst came after the race began and I was running blind because my glasses were coated with the sticky clay. Then I was greatly embarrassed when a sheet of water cleared my glasses and I could see four or five runners had broken away. I elbowed out of the 2nd group and led the chase. The times were slow because of the rain, but still a new Olympic Record for 1st. Sixth place does merit a large diploma, so some compensation.
GCR:What else of the Olympic experience stands out including the Opening Ceremonies, other track and field competition or other events you may have attended?
CSI could usually avoid standing for the hours during the Opening Ceremonies. I finally went to the 1956 Ceremonies. To me, the competitions are the attractions. For 1948, the opportunity to watch swimming and diving was unusual as the venue was near and the athletes were allowed to enter with their identity cards. I recall going to both basketball games and boxing matches in 1956 by walking in with the U.S. Team, which I believe is no longer possible.
GCR:At the 1948 Olympic Trials you set a meet record in the 5,000 meter final in beating Jerry Thompson by half a second to make the U.S. Olympic team. How did you feel your chances were before the race and was it more exciting to make the team or to win the race?
CSThe extremely hot temperatures were a problem in 1948. I dropped out of the 10K because of the heat. I decided it was not worth it and I was O.K. for the 5K. I don’t recall being especially elated to win the race; I was more likely to be saddened by friends who didn’t make the team. I think that excessive rejoicing is rather disrespectable for the other competitors.
GCR:The Olympics were the solitary international competition until in 1951 when the inaugural Pan American Games were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. How exciting was it to have another big meet where you could represent your country and also to win gold medals in the 3,000 meter steeplechase and the 10,000 meter run?
CSBy 1951 I had already been on several European tours and three to Brazil. The Pan Am Games were in early months as I recall, during winter times, so I was impressed to find a number of good athletes such as Whitfield, Fuchs, etc. on the team. Also there were only four or five distance runners on the team. As it turns out, the Pan Am medals and ‘diplomas’ have a special significance now. The diplomas were signed by Eva Peron among others.
GCR:At the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1952 at the Los Angeles Coliseum you finished first in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters. Was it exciting to again make the team or were you more focused on earning an Olympic medal?
CSI really enjoyed the 1952 Trials as I had been having bouts of Exercised Induced Asthma. No doctor seemed to know any cure, and I was completely immune in California in both San Francisco and L.A.
GCR:In the 5,000 meters Wes Santee kicked with a little over half a lap to go, but then you regained the lead and hammered out a decisive win by five seconds. How important was it to kick strong and to win the race?
CSWhen I saw Wes Santee at the 50 year reunion in 2002, he remarked, ‘Oh, you are the guy who beat me in the 5,000.’ The coaches had an opinion poll before the race, and my coach, Chick Werner, told me he was about the only one voting for me to win. Wes Santee was really a miler and almost became the first to turn the trick of the four minute mile. That was a good season in 1952, as I had two American Records in both the 10K and 5K.
GCR:Winning both the 5k and 10k is a feat that was unmatched from when you did it until Galen Rupp of Oregon duplicated it in 2012. In retrospect, how does your effort and achievement stand the test of time?
CSI was surprised to find in 2012 that the double had been that difficult. The problem has been that amateur athletes just don’t have the time to train. Horace Ashenfelter remarked to me recently that he still wonders how he found about an hour and a half a day to train during those years, and he wonders now how his wife put up with that much. Also we were not conditioned to run more than one or two races in a week’s time.
GCR:Medical issues kept you from running your best at both the 1952 and 1956 Olympics with asthma bothering you in Helsinki and appendicitis disrupting you in Melbourne. How disappointing was it to not be able to race to your potential in those final two Olympics?
CSThe medical issues in 1952 and 1956 caused great disappointment but I managed to put that aside. I recall in the 5k trials in 1952 that five runners managed to break from the group and Zatopek looked back and waved five fingers at me to indicate that I should stay with them, but I was only able to use about 75-80% of my energies because of the breathing difficulties. Bob Richards used to write a column and he mentioned this event one time, but I had never advised him of my difficulties.
GCR:These days the top runners are professional athletes and running is their career. How was it for you balancing your jobs with the training it took to be a world class distance runner?
CSDuring my senior year I decided to keep 11:00 a.m. and lunch time free, and I started taking an easy 3 mile run each day. I found that helpful, so in my first job after graduation in 1947, I managed to continue the practice. I continued with a workout that lasted from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. or so. One of my friends from Penn State retired there and helped coach, and he told me that athletes now worked out more in a week than we used to do in 3-4 weeks. As I recall in our day an athlete had to name his work place in order to remain an eligible amateur. After I started teaching I would get up about 6:00 a.m., take a short work out and also workout with students in the p.m.
GCR:You won over ten national titles from three miles to 10,000 meters and in the steeplechase. Runners’ careers are noted for Olympic performances, fast times and championships. What does it say that you were able to win so many U.S. titles and for such a lengthy period of time over a decade?
CSMy record on a Penn State information sheet says I have 14 AAU Championships, four IC4A, six 2nd places at AAU, etc. I think one of the AAU Championships is a Canadian championship. I think the reason I lasted so long is that most of my workouts were fairly easy, and I only ran to win by a couple yards. I liked the Swedish fartlek style and trained most often on a golf course. I very rarely took off any vacation from workouts. After 1952 I added weight lifting in the a.m. and began the repetitive 200 or 400 meters.
GCR:In college at Penn State you finished in second place at the NCAA cross country meet and were a member of Penn State’s NCAA Champion team. How much fun was the comraderie of cross country and succeeding with your teammates?
CSActually I believe I had one 1st place team in 1942, a 2nd place team in 1941, and possibly a 3rd place team in 1946. I also have 7 AAU team firsts plus a 2nd place. I will send you my medal records. However, after college and a year or so at Penn State in graduate school, I usually trained alone, but missed the comradeship of team workouts.
GCR:Some of your top teammates on the 1942 NCAA Cross Country Champion team were Norman Gordon who finished fifth, Gerry Karver in ninth and McClain Smith in 13th while you were seventh overall. Have you kept in contact with your teammates over the years?
CSThree of the top five runners rom that team have established Athletic Scholarships at PSU. Horace and his wife put about a million in the new indoor track and Howie Horn and I both have scholarships I would guess of over 100 thousand. I did keep in contact over the years with my Penn State teammates, and three members of our first NCAA championship are still living: Karver, Horn and myself. Four of the top runners were Lieutenants in WWII and I was a lowly corporal.
GCR:Like many others you took a break from collegiate studies and served in World War II. Were you able to stay in good physical condition during those years and did you compete in any inter-service track meets?
CSI tried to stay in shape. After basic training and some other assignments, I ended up on a B17 Bomber Group in England. I wrote my mother for sweat clothes, shoes and a time-watch. I usually trained on paths near the bomb group, and in 1944 won the mile in the 8th ‘A.F. championships at a meet o the 1/3 mile track at Cambridge Univ. I ran in meets whenever I could get free, but some of the other members of the Finance Office were older guys who kind of resented it. I was also the 3rd Air Division 2 mile champion in 1945. The Captain who ran the 8th A.F. meet was a famous Penn State boxer, football, baseball, etc. who boxed Schmeling twice and won once, the name slips by me. After the war ended in May 1945, the services held a lot of meets in London, and I ran in a couple at White City Stadium.
GCR:You returned to the NCAA Cross Country meet in 1946 and finished a close second overall just a second behind Quentin Brelsford of Ohio Wesleyan. What were some of the highlights of that race and what was the deciding factor that led to him nipping you for the win?
CSActually, team camaraderie cost me that NCAA championship in x-country in 1946. Ashenfelter raced ahead through inexperience and missed the first turn, so Karver and I stood for a few seconds calling him back, then I had lost some 50 or so places at least and spent a lot of energy catching the leaders. Just as I caught the leaders I looked at my right and Ashenfelter was there with a glazed look, and I knew the team championship was probably lost. The deciding factor for me as an individual was probably that the last mile included a long stretch on a macadam road and I was not able to run well with my spikes. It was stupid of me that I apparently didn’t go over the course prior to the race as I might have worn flats. So the winner by less than a second as I recall was a half-miler who ironically was a fraternity brother.
GCR:Organized high school track and field was very low-key in Pennsylvania in the late 1930s and early 1940s. What were some of the highlights of your relatively few high school track meets?
CSI ran six races in high school in three years in county and district meets, and then in senior year, the 6th place at State was my 7th race. The longest race in my district was the half mile, and I ran third in my heat, but on time I was given 6th place at the state meet.
GCR:Did you do much training in high school or were you mainly running from your general physical fitness from a variety of sports?
CSIn high school we ran on the paved road beside the school. The Principal gave me a book of training from the great Indiana Coach. I think it had pictures of runners from Indiana. Each day we would run our race as I recall. Most of my training was delivering newspapers, as I would deliver both sides of the street one way and then sprint as much as 440 yards in return. Of course we played a variety of sports.
GCR:What were the main ingredients to your success that were contributed by your high school coach, Charles Berilla, who was also your school’s principal?
CSThe High School Principal instituted a strong sports emphasis when he came in 1933, with baseball in the fall with the schools in the county, and track and field for both girls and boys in the spring. There were really no winter sports other than ice skating, skiing, and sledding. There was no gymnasium for the school which was built in 1923. Somewhere the principal found a training pamphlet from the Indiana Coach which he gave to me.
GCR:What did your college coaches, Chick Werner and Bob Greaves, add to your training program that took you to the next level?
CSPenn State had a good athletic program for all male sports, I was influenced to go to Penn State because of such athletes as Norwood ‘Barney’ Ewell. I don’t think there were scholarships for athletes, except perhaps help in getting a job waiting tables, etc., All the coaches were fairly recently appointed because of the national sports scandal revealed by a study in late 1920’s done by some rich fellow perhaps Carnegie? Werner and Greaves were both college athletes from Illinois and they were starting from scratch with the athletes who tried out for the sports. I think Barney Ewell was sponsored by some wealthy individuals from his home town which is hard to believe now. What is also difficult to believe now is the number of IC4A and NCAA champions produced in those years. Remember that the war started in 1939, and U.S. athletes had little contact with European coaches or athletes. The training was pretty basic. As I recall the typical workout schedule was over distance on Monday, under distance on Tuesday, your chosen distance as a time trial on Wednesday, some quarters (about four) on Thursday, a warm up on Friday, and the track meet on Saturday.
GCR:At the 1947 Penn Relays you won the two-mile and teamed with Bill Shuman, Horace Ashenfelter and Gerry Karver to win the Four by One Mile Relay. Do you have any fond recollections of those races and do you still have your champion’s watches?
CSThe Penn Relays always started the spring season. I had two watches, one still works, but who wants to wind a watch now? I gave one Penn Relay watch to an old fraternity brother actually from Cornell. I have no idea where it is. I still have a couple Hamilton Watches from the Chicago Relays.
GCR:After graduating from Penn State and getting ready for the 1948 Olympics, did you add any new training sessions to your training regimen?
CSI mentioned earlier that I started a ‘two workouts a day’ routine on the psychological theory of more frequent workouts.
GCR:When you were working full-time continuously from the late 1940s through the 1956 Olympics, did you get to train much with your New York Athletic Club teammates or were you primarily a racing team?
CSI spent a year working in New York, mostly as a need to establish residence there, so I trained with the team members in Central Park or in NYU’s outdoor wood track in the winter. I think the NYAC is the oldest sports organization in the world and they have always sponsored a good coaching system.
GCR:What was your typical training mileage after you were out of college and what were some of your key workouts for stamina and speed?
CSBecause I often worked out alone I used the Swedish fartlek system and most often trained on a golf course. I kept a diary and I usually tried to run at least 8-9 miles each day. If I sprinted it was at the up-hill section of the golf course. I gradually added speed work and repetitive quarters or 220 yards. I liked 220 yards and might do 15 or so in a workout on a track mostly because it was on a straightaway.
GCR:There were so many big races you won, from IC4As in college through national championships. What type of tactics did you use most often to help you to race your best?
CSAs I recall I never had a pre-race plan, but would use the sound of the starter’s pistol and the initial reaction of the competition to decide on tactics or strategy. Most often I would try to save as much energy as possible for the first half of a race, and then try to equal or lower the time for the last half. I liked to get the lead a lap or two before the finish, hold off challenges, etc. and start a long sprint of 300-400 yards for the end. In Europe at first I simply tried to keep up with the leaders.
GCR:Your Penn State and NYAC teammate, Horace Ashenfelter, had an amazing performance in winning the 1952 Olympic 3,000 meter steeplechase Gold Medal in a World Record time. How was Horace as a teammate and competitor?
CSI discovered Horace while he was training to try out for the baseball team at Penn State in early 1946. There were three of us working outdoors: a POW who never regained form after being in a camp in Germany, Horace, a pilot who had served pulling targets for fighter pilots to attack, and me a finance clerk on a B17 base in England. I could see Horace’s potential, advised Chick Werner of it, and tried to get him interested in running. So we were friends and competitors from 1946 on. The first objective we had was to get his wife’s interest in the athletes and the sport itself.
GCR:You also had the good fortune to get to know the legendary Czech runner, Emil Zatopek, who won Olympic Gold medals at 5k, 10k and the marathon in 1952 along with other Olympic medals. What are some of your fond memories of Emil Zatopek?
CSEmil and I had lockers together in 1948 in London, and he complained to me in broken English of his blisters. I recently found a picture of Emil and his wife taken in 1952 in Helsinki. I will try to get some copies made on my computer. I did ask him about the Russians once when they first began international competition, and he said they were ‘primitive.’ We met for the last time in Melbourne in 1956. I did not correspond with Emil but kept hearing about him from others like Fred Wilt who did exchange letters. As I recall his repetitive running of 400 meters came originally from the training done by Emil Von Elling of NYU, which was passed on and increased by German runners. It was ultimately adopted by Emil. I would hear over the years that Emil was in Cuba, N. Vietnam, etc. After the Czech revolt in 1968 I would hear he was sweeping the streets and the worst was working in Uranium mines and being kept there for weeks at a time. I suppose the mine work was the basic cause of his early death.
GCR:You have been named to several Halls of Fame. How special is this recognition for your athletic exploits?
CSI never made the ultimate Halls of Fame, perhaps because they started long after my competitive days. I do note that it can be an expensive honor because you need to bring your family and friends. But of course it can be a nice honor. Actually I now have the problem of getting medals and trophies with some organizations that can give them a proper display.
GCR:Away from the track, you received Master’s and Doctoral degrees from Penn State and became a professor of education for 22 years at Kent State University in Ohio. How did the discipline of training and racing help you in the rigors of your studies and then helping to mold your students?
CSAs I understand it, the ability to study and train for long hours is in itself a psychological reward. There is some self-satisfaction and gratification in having both mental and physical stamina. I don’t recall trying to instill this trait in others, but instead I would regard the trait as a reward in itself.
GCR:What is your current fitness regimen and what do you do to stay as healthy as possible as you have passed the ninety year mark?
CSActually, I jogged and bicycled as long as I could and hated to give it up. I believe that having good mental health is at least equal to physical health in importance.
GCR:Is there any advice you would give to children and adults who wish to succeed in running or other sports?
CSI think both children and adults should recognize that it is important to be able to enjoy pastimes, games, and sports as participants and spectators because this give us means to control time and space. Time and space are the two concepts which make us humans, and are also the two most important concepts in our brains.
GCR:How did growing up in Pennsylvania during the Depression and World War II, the discipline of running and adversity you have faced shape your life?
CSI have been giving my daughter some of my recollections, and it is interesting to recall now some major incidents concerning the past almost 93 years of my life. A short summary of my life, the adversities, the triumphs, and the insights that I might pass on to others would be quite a long task. It appears that the major episodes in my life were usually separate from my experiences in sports, but probably I took some problems more philosophically because I had learned to accept failures in running.
GCR:Track and Field changed so much with professionalism and the tremendous influx of money into sport. With the perspective of many decades as a competitor and fan, what comments can you make about the changes?
CSThe major change in athletic competition came shortly after I retired about 1960. This was when the sport added professional characteristics. During the amateur stage which began with the IC4A (Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America) about 1871, there were numerous track and field meets throughout the country, especially with indoor meets. There are now few indoor meets during the winter months, and this means that the average competitor no longer has the opportunity to compete. Athletics is a sport that thrives on a new group of athletes coming to age every year. The media has also lost interest in athletes. Athletes are those who ‘run, jump and throw,’ so that other sports also fail to get a new influx of sportsmen from them. Now only schools and colleges continue to encourage the amateur spirit. I met an older sports promoter a few years ago who told me the main difference now is that ‘you old guys had fun.’

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Running Has A Bacon Factor

One thing I have discovered blogging the last 10 years is that nearly all in the running community are interconnected much more than we ever realize.  Some of you may remember Daughter the Elder's Cross Country exploits while at Penn State Mont Alto before she made the leap to the Main Campus last year.  She had the privilege to run for Coach Bill Preston, who had previously coached a few outstanding high school runners who made their way into the ranks we all hold dear at Penn State.  I discovered that Coach Preston also worked with another friend, Tim Kelly,  in his previous capacity at Stockton College in New Jersey.

Now word has come from Hugh Hamill (all the way from Korea!) that 2 of his Father Judge High School teammates are now coaches at Penn State Abington.  This comes 2 days after my Daughter the Younger related she may desire to start at a Penn State branch campus like her sister did before her.  She was looking at campuses that had both dorms AND a cross country team.  Abington appealed to her, as it was close to Philly AND the beach, where she learned to surf earlier this summer...

Jim McClernand has been hired by Penn State Abington as their head cross country coach for the men and women.  Also, Kevin Carroll is the new Assistant Coach.  I have invited Jim to join our group as an honorary member.  We will see what my daughter decides, as she has many options and is waaaaaaay smarter than I am...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I Forgot To Post This Earlier

Our Golden Putter Attendant and Coach Groves Right-Hand Man Greg Fredericks sent along this article 2 weeks ago, but my mind isn't what it used to be...

I only remembered after I saw the results for the 1977 Falmouth Road Race...  To think this occurred as I was packing for my Freshman year at PSU.  Looking at my log, I ran 15 that day.

1. Bill Rodgers Melrose, MA 32:23 CR
2. Alberto Salazar Oregon 32:40
3. Greg Fredericks Penn (State) 33:12
4. Mike Roche New Jersey 33:19
5. Frank Shorter Colorado 33:24
6. Hillary Tuwei Kenya 33:42
7. Steve Flanagan Michigan 33:42
8. Charles McGuire Penn (State) 34:08
9. Dick Mahoney GBTC 34:15
10. Mike Buckley Lawrence, MA 34:20

Monday, August 21, 2017

School Just Started Today, But Isaiah Harris Already Got His Grades

I'm sure Isaiah Harris is smiling a lot these days as he returns to Happy Valley for his third Cross Country season.  Every time I have seen him during Cross Country season he has been in a golf cart and smiling from ear to ear.

The "experts" at the website LetsRun have given grades to all middle distance and distance runners at the recent World Championships.  Isaiah Harris garnered an "A-" Back in my day, A's were A's and B's were B's, so that makes it an "A" in my book for Isaiah.

A- Isaiah Harris (Penn State, 4th in semifinal heat, 1:46.66)
We’re giving Isaiah Harris a higher grade than Drew Windle even though they both went out in the same round and even though Harris was 2nd at USAs and Windle 3rd. Why? Because Harris is just 20 and two years ago had a pb of 1:49.

And the merchandise has arrived for everyone purchasing in our last group sale.  I must say that the 2 jackets I ordered are really great.  Daughter the Younger likes the t-shirt I ordered for her also!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Time And Distance In The Days Of Yore

Everyone who pays attention to the blog at all, knows I cling to the past way more than prudent. An aversion to new things is built into my psyche because of my being raised in the Germanic Central Pennsylvania area.  Those who move to the area are considered outsiders until about the 40th anniversary of their arrival.

This aversion to the "New" also manifests in the disdain and ridicule of whatever is new in the running world. Arm compression sleeves, "the best" running sunglasses, kinesio-tape, energy beans, run bells, five-fingers, and hypoxic masks come to mind as some things that warrant genuine derision.

But one modern device I would have loved back in the day would have been the new GPS running watches.  I can only imagine the obsessive-compulsive stats and graphs I could have created back when I was really running.

My current favorite is the Polar M600, which embodies the best of a GPS running watch and the added geekiness of a smartwatch with WiFi and bluetooth links to your cell phone and computer.

In my most productive high school running year (I only had my Senior year!) all my runs were timed using the clock above the refrigerator in the kitchen.  Today, kids actually don't know how to read a circular clock with hands.  I have seen this numerous times, along with the inability to read anything written in cursive.

Figuring out the distances I ran was also an obsession with me.  There were many various methods I used...

  • "Go by time" (highly innaccurate)  And there were chances to cheat...  Added distances when alone and less distance when running at PSU!!!  Thank you, Baden and Zeigler.
  • Use the car's odometer. (Highly innaccurate)  But I didn't drive...
  • Use a bike odometer. (Slightly less innaccurate)  But that meant doing the route twice!!!
  • A map and a measuring wheel. (More accurate)  But I had no money and it required tedious precise calibration... 

So that meant the method I ended up preferring was the map and tape model.  Using a USGS contour map for accuracy, and a strip of clear tape folded upon itself with a scale drawn right from the map on it.  I would follow the route of the run along the course with a fine tipped pen, turning the tape to follow all the roads or trails, turning the tape completely around when I reached the end.  This was pretty accurate and only ever was slightly innaccurate because of changes in elevation.  (One side of a triangle is always shorter than the other two sides added together!)  I suppose the Physicists among us would be able to provide a formula to add the extra mileage run according to the changes in elevation.  I always just took the hit in distance as a price we all must pay!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The "Other" Reunion Was Also A Success

The Womens teams from the 70s have been getting together for longer than our group started by Clark Haley in 2002.  They have a triennial get-together and just staged their 9th one on this past weekend in Happy Valley.  I promised no math on the blog, so I won't try to figure out when that started! I am acquainted with many of them.  Some of them have also attended our events, and all of them should know how much we would like to see them at our future events.  Remember, the golf is optional, but highly recommended!  The only requirement is mirth!

Front row L to R
Liz Berry Larsen, Janet Norem, Mary Rawe Rapp, Peggy Cleary McKay

Back row
Sandy Miller, Sue Hawkins DeHart, Maria Lonnett Burgess, Tina Leatherman Jones, Sandy Alexander, Penny Fales Kramer, Carolyn Ihrig, Magda Kubasiewicz, Kris Bankes Jacoby, Donna Gardner Rowland
(Missing from photo- Liz Cunningham Kisenwether

Meeting with Coach Gondak.

A Berkey Creamery stop.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Some Updates on Running Before Cross Country Season Begins

It has been tough getting posts up lately because of the constraints of a "real" job.  But I have been getting submissions from some of my lay interns and I have accumulated a few that update some previously expounded-upon topics concerning running.

Turns out that the plaques that build up in arteries of endurance athletes differ from those that build up in non-athletes.  And these differences may mean we don't need to worry as much.

Rats provide the subjects here.  Running wheels significantly altered neurogenesis and memory for the better.  I have always kept mice as pets, and they run more than I do.  Sometimes all night.

And while he makes a few valid points on mankind's evolutionary propensity for running, I still fart in his general direction.  (Thanks to George McWilliams for this one.)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Looking For Nittany Lions

Ron Bile' Ferguson, Bill Kehner and Tim Elmo Kelly
I'm here in Sea Isle City NJ for Spouse the Better's 24th in a row 10 Mile Beach Patrol Run.   In the past, Tyler McCandless and Kyle Dawson have won here, but I haven't crossed paths with any Lions so far.

Friend Bill Kehner will be finishing his 40th in a row. How's that for consistency? He has dozens of first place age group prizes.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Coach Groves Had A Good Arts Festival Week

Coach Groves had many visitors and activities during the week of the Arts Festival in State College.  I fondly remember the early days of the event even though the 10-Miler (Matt Grove says the 10-Miler is back!) and fiddle contest no longer exist.  sigh...

From KKOB, an intrepid intern with apparently more time on his hands than I!!!!
"The Arts Festival Races are the oldest races in Central Pennsylvania. First run in 1975 as a 10 mile race, the Arts Festival race was shortened to a 10K race in 1986. In 2005, race organizers added a 5K and created a new course that combines the best of Penn State’s East and West Campuses. The 10 mile race was reinstituted in 2013 giving participants the chance to experience “Arts Festival weather” for a full ten miles."
But the fiddle contest is no longer part of the festivities.  A double blind contest of fiddle skills always provided some neat entertainment.

Greg and Coach out for a walk.

Coach always gathers a crowd.

Steve Brown with Coach and Greg.

Coach dunked 2 aides at his residence.

2 Clowns.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Nittany Lions Finish Their World Championship Performances

There were at least 5 Nittany Lions associated athletes in the IAAF World Championships.  They have all concluded their events after day 3.

  • Eddie Lovett is an Assistant Coach and hurdler who represented The Virgin Islands.  He finished 5th in his Semi-Final heat in 13.67.  He ran 13.41 in his Qualifying heat to make the Semi-Finals.  That makes him the 18th best hurdler in the World.
  • Isaiah Harris ran his 35th race of the year in the Semi-Finals of the 800M.  The early pace was slow and he roughly ran even splits for each 400M.  He finished 4th in his heat with a 1:46.66.  He had Auto-Qualified with a 1:45.82 second place finish in his heat. He finished officially in 17th position in the World.
  • Former Assistant Coach Ryan Whiting returned to International action following last year's surgery and made the final eight in the Shot Put.  He finished in 7th with a toss of 21.09M or 69' 2 1/4".
  • Darrell Hill backed up last year's Olympic appearance with an 11th place finish in the Shot Put with a heave of 20.79M or 68' 2 1/2".
  • Despite a final toss that could have been the winner, Joe Kovacs again had a minor touch of the top of the board and had to settle for 2nd in the Shot Put. 71' 3/4" Congrats, Joe!
Silver Medalist Joe Kovacs!
Darrell Hill
Isaiah Harris

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Honorary Track Alumni Golfer Dave Wottle Tuning Up For His 1972 Gold Medal

With the recent post detailing a neat episode in Jim Ryun's life from his son, I had opportunity to ask Greg Fredericks whether he ever raced Jim Ryun.  At the time, I never figured he had jumped into the middle distance territory of America's greatest miler and the (future) 800M Olympic Gold Medalist Dave Wottle.

But he did, and we have exquisite video proof if you can tolerate the first 2:43 of 10 guys shaking their legs in the damp April chill.  You can almost see Coach Groves standing at the wall under the clock. Greg even led 2/3 of the race enroute to one of his many 4:01.x and 4:00.x efforts in the lead up to his eventual sub-4 mile in 1978 (3:59.7)!

The 1972 Dream Mile

And here's a nice write up about Greg unearthed from the way-back machine.

 Greg Fredericks by Peter Gambaccini

Greg Fredericks was second in the 10,000 meters at the 1980 U.S. Olympic Trials, making the Olympic team that, alas, boycotted the Moscow Games. Fredericks had won a U.S. championship in the 10,000 in 1972, setting an American record of 28:08.0, and was the 1975 U.S. cross-country champion. The Penn State graduate had career bests of 13:34 for 5000 and 28:03 for 10,000. He now works in computer support at the Applied Research Lab on the Penn State campus.

Runner's World Daily: Take us back to your first U.S. title, the 10,000 in 1972.
Greg Fredericks: That was the race where I beat Frank Shorter, Jack Bacheler, and Tom Laris and broke Billy Mills's American record. Based on that, people think I made the Olympic team that year.

RWD: What did happen at the '72 Trials?
GF: What it really comes down to is Frank Shorter took everybody out and just dropped us all. It was one of those extremely unusual periods in Eugene where it was like 95 degrees. They were hosing the track down. A bunch of runners, like Jeff Galloway, were training in the heat and humidity of Florida. But it didn't really matter. Shorter set a fast pace and the rest of us died off of it.

RWD: What kept you from winning any NCAA titles while at Penn State?
GF: Steve Prefontaine. I got second to him all the time. Although in my senior year, 1972, we had a great 5000 race. He ran the second-fastest American time. I ran the fourth fastest.

RWD: For the 1980 Trials, were you back in the 10,000 because you were getting older and the 10-K didn't require the leg speed of the 5-K?
GF: I never viewed it that way. I always thought my better chance was in the 10-K because I had more speed than most 10-K guys. I had actually broken 4:00 for the mile [a 3:59.7] in 1978; I was always around it for most of my career, but had never taken a really good shot at it.

RWD: Having made the team, what was your mindset about the Americans not being allowed to go to Moscow?
GF: I couldn't fathom that the U.S. would not enter a team. I just went out with the idea that we were definitely going to find a way. It wasn't until we warmed down, took our drug test, and got further instructions from our specific event coach and he handed us a schedule. There was no Olympic Games on it.

RWD: How long after that did you keep running at the elite level?
GF: I went through the Olympic Trials in '84 in LA. I stepped off the track and haven't competed since. The way I recall it, I was the first nonqualifier for the final. A dubious distinction.

RWD: What's your involvement with the sport now?
GF: From about '85 to '95 I was involved in our Centre County Special Olympics, coaching the track-and-field athletes. And we've decided to get youth cross-country going in our county, starting this fall for kids 14 and under. A lot of kids grow up liking to run, but there's nothing for them in the cross-country vein in this area.

RWD: Did you ever get involved in masters racing?
GF: No. My body just doesn't hold to the rigors it requires to take care of business. I run about 30 miles a week now. About a year ago, I started going down to the track every Thursday. It's tough, the hamstrings in particular. I was never that flexible to begin with. The first thing we did on the track was a quarter. My brain was attuned to doing them in 60, 61. We went out and ran one and I heard "something-seven." I thought, "67? It sure felt faster than 67." It was a 77, and I was hurting pretty bad. It's taken me about a year now to where I feel comfortable running low 70s.

RWD: Does Haile Gebrselassie astonish you?
GF: Oh yeah. We'll look at his results and say, "Do you know what that is per quarter?" It's just phenomenal. We're starting to really visualize the fact that somebody's going to be running 60 seconds per lap for 10-K. That's just astounding. We'll see it. I'm pretty confident we will.

Penn State Records

5000 Meters 13:34.0 Greg Fredericks 1972
10,000 Meters 28:08.0 Greg Fredericks 1972

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