Wednesday, January 28, 2015

v. 5 n. 7 Steve Price, Ohio Track Coaches Hall of Fame

                                Steve Price
Not Your Ordinary Track Coach

Steve Price pickin' a few Bluegrass gospel  licks
near Middletown, Ohio


This Friday January 30, 2015 my two best friends in Track and Field and in life will be involved in a ceremony honoring one of them.   Steve Price will be inducted into the Ohio Track and Field Coaches Hall of Fame.   Bill Schnier, already a member, will be making the presenting speech for Steve.
Bill Schnier

Steve is an Ohio boy, born and bred.  Because his family was somewhat itinerant in his formative years, Steve attended a lot of public schools growing up.  He was in four or five schools in the fifth grade and had to fight to defend his four sisters' honor in every one of those schools.  He finally ended up graduating from Lemon Monroe High School half way between Cincinnati and Dayton.  From there he went on to college at 'the cradle of coaches'  Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where he was a 'modest' talent on the cross country team. But watching all those good runners from behind he obviously picked up a lot of ideas about running.  Soon after graduation he began teaching in Kettering Public Schools and got very involved in road racing in the early 1960's competing around the Midwest and running a 2 hour 57 minute marathon at Boston in 1964.  Hitchhiking to races was common place for young runners in those days.  He told me once about hitching from Oxford to the Around the Bay Race in Hamilton, Ontario with his roommate, who was from Hamilton.   After the race his roommate decided that he was not returning to Miami, because of a girlfriend problem in Hamilton.  So Steve had the thrill of hitching alone back to Ohio in the winter.

In the late 60's Steve became one of  the co-founders of the Ohio River Road Runners' Club (ORRRC) and began organizing marathons, 24 hour relays,  and shorter races in the Southwest Ohio area.  He was race director of the first Monroe Marathon which  rolled past his mother's house and tragically resulted in one of the participants passing away on his mother's living room floor after collapsing near her house.

While teaching physical education at Southdale Elementary School in Kettering,  Steve founded the Kettering Striders Track Club. For several years he had been holding 'field days' at the school to introduce Track and Field to the kids.   Initially it was an opportunity for elementary school girls to participate in Track and Field and later boys were also invited to participate.  Many of the Kettering Striders girls moved on to run track in their high schools once those programs were open to girls, and many of them had already won national age group titles before starting their high school careers.   The ones who were at the top of the pyramid went on to college.   Brenda Webb was one of the Striders' first  national class runners, then came Terri Siepel , Cindy Brown, Laura Kirkham, Susan Ruiz, Kathy Welch and many others.   On the men's side Joey Greene became an Olympic medalist twice  in the long jump at Atlanta and Barcelona.  Phil Scott was a national champion in the indoor pentathlon and outdoor JUCO decathlon champion one year.  There were a number of people who helped coach the Striders during that time, but Steve was the driving force behind that successful club. They also hosted the women's national cross country championships in 1974.  Because of the Striders' success, Steve was named to several national coaching staffs including a world race walking championships in Dusseldorf 1977 and to the US team for  the 1974 Russian dual meet in Moscow.  Twice he was on the coaching staff at the US Sports Festival.

The club started to wain once high schools began incorporating Track and Field into their extra curricular programs for girls.  This left Steve out of a coaching job, but not for long.   He went on to work for the United States Sports Academy and was posted to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf where he served as head distance coach under Vic Godfrey who was in charge of that program.  He traveled throughout the Middle East during that year and a half going to international meets with his runners.   Then he returned to the States and back to his job teaching in Kettering.  He soon took up the reins of the University of Dayton Flyers  in 1983 when that school started men's cross country.  He operated for several years on a minimalist budget (including a $500 salary), getting a bus that he drove, a few uniforms and a bunch of walk ons and started the program that is still going today.  However  today's team is no longer allowed to take a few cases of beer along on in their vehicle.

During those years Steve developed a friendship with Bill Schnier who later  became the head coach at U. of Cincinnati, and I got to meet Steve about 1973 when I brought a Canadian runner down to Ohio during spring break to do some warm weather training. We've been friends ever since.  Steve and Bill reportedly bonded  during a night of heavy partying when the two of them decided to start their own highway beautification project, choosing as a target, the 6 miles of Rte. 73 running east out of Oxford, Ohio.  With a two-man cross cut saw they removed all of the unsightly billboards along that stretch of  road.  Later when they were both employees of the state of Ohio, that story was told only in strictest confidence.  Now it seems possible that it can be openly mentioned once more.  By the way, within a few weeks all the billboards were put back up with steel support posts.  After this was posted , it has been brought to my attention that this action of eco terrorism was not alcohol fueled but a cold blooded, pre-meditated act.  As I recall the signs were definitely not replaced very soon but came back little by little over a year or so.  After 4-5-6 years they had matal supports.  However, our work did last for some time.  Bill
According to Steve:  "Unlike friend George's recollection, those signs were not replaced for months...and sometimes never as I remember."  These boys never let a stone go unturned or a misstatement go uncorrected.  George

In 1989 Steve became the women's  coach at Bowling Green State University.  He had some tremendous women's cross country teams and won the All Ohio cross country meet one year with a near minimal 22 points, against the likes of Cincinnati, Ohio State, Ohio U., Toledo, Miami, Akron, and Kent State.  His teams  became a spoiler in the tough Midwest Cross Country Regional as well, once qualifying as a team for the Nationals.   That team consisted of girls who were not stars on their high school teams, but middle of the roaders who really developed under Steve's tutelage.   To be on Steve's teams was more than just training and racing.  Steve enjoyed the 'good life', and he wanted his teams to do so as well, if they stayed within their budget.  A trip to New York City was a must every year as well as a lunch at the Stage Deli.  He once arranged a triangular cross country meet with Yale, North Carolina, and Bowling Green at New Haven.   You never ate in a fast food restaurant if it could be avoided.  You went where there was a wait staff,  and no one began eating until the last person was served and grace was said. Those were house rules growing up in Steve's family and they were team rules.  If there was a piano in the restaurant, Steve would be at the keyboard  entertaining the kids with his blues and boogie woogie repertoire.

Shortly after Steve went to Bowling Green in 1989 he contracted a malignant cancer in his throat and underwent a lot of heavy duty radiation and surgery which damaged his esophagus, his salivary glands , and vocal chords making it very difficult for him to talk, but he never lost his zest for coaching or living.  Just before he got ill he married Christine Jacomet , and she has been an incredible support to him all these years.

I remember once visiting Steve in the hospital when he  had a portion of his tongue removed due to the cancer spreading.  He had to miss the Miami Invitational Cross Country meet.   In one of the nicest acts of a rival,  Rich Ceronie, the head coach at Miami,  got on the phone to Steve at the start of the meet and gave him a running account of the race as it progressed.   I think Rich thought Miami would prevail, but Steve's team ran a great race that day and Bowling Green dominated.   Rich, to his credit, never hung up the phone and announced to  Steve that Bowling Green had won the meet.

Steve was on a feeding tube for awhile, and we would go out to parties or to clubs to hear music.  His will to enjoy life often led to his pouring a few shots of liquor into his feeding tube to get in the right mood to listen to some hard driving blues or bluegrass of which he is also fond.  Steve made it to retirement age and eventually left Bowling Green.   He  and Chris moved back to her home town of Piqua, Ohio a few years ago, but he couldn't leave the coaching game.  Marc Arce, who coaches at the University of Findlay,  not far from Bowling Green, contacted Steve about coaching up there, and Steve jumped on it.  He would commute the ninety miles each way three times a week to coach and attend meets on weekends.   With his musical talent he would keep a regular schedule  playing the piano in nursing homes on the the way up I-75 to Findlay.  While at Findlay, where he is still coaching,  he developed hurdler Kirby Blakley into the NCAA DII Women's Athlete of the year in 2005.

I recently asked Phil Scott who was coached by Steve for several years , why he thought Steve was such a successful coach.  Phil answered, that "Steve was the kind of person that inspired, was knowledgeable, caring , and whom you always wanted to do well for."  It's as simple as that.

Ultimately the problems with his throat and losing the ability to swallow, put him back on a feeding tube for the past 5 years.  His weight has gone down to 115 pounds at one time, but recently it is back up to 135, and he is feeling well at last report and ready to go get his award this Friday as the latest member of the Ohio Track and Field Coaches Hall of Fame.    Best wishes, Steve , from all of us down at the OUTV offices.    Steve,  Keep it warm and wrapped up, and don't put your saddle on the wrong horse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was at Miami from the fall of '62 to the spring of '66, so we were teammates. Great guy back then. What a career. I had no idea.

Jack Bacheler