Wednesday, September 21, 2016

V 6 N. 6 8 Passing of Dave Martin

John Bork informed us recently on the passing of Dave Martin former University of Michigan runner,  3rd in NCAA steeplechase in 1961.   Martin according to several recent sources had been a multiple time Big 10 champion and moved west after graduation to train under Mihaly Igloi and the L.A. Track Club.  His running career came to a sudden end in 1961 or 1962 when he was hit by a discus thrown by Rink Babka shattering his lower leg.  

In Bob Schul's autobiography "The Long Run"  he describes that incident.   Bob had just been diagnosed with mononucleosis that same day and taken off the travelling squad that would go to Europe.  Martin was next in line and was told he would go in Schul's place.

The next morning I went to see Igloi.  He was not into a hard workout as many of the athletes had competed over the weekend.  I approached himk and when he saw me, he came to meet me.

    Well, what did the doctor say?
    
    Bad news, Coach.  I answered.  I have to report to the base hospital because I have what is called mononucleosis.   Several other athletes had gathered around by that time and listened as I spoke.

Igloi was as disappointed as I.  He now understood why my races had gone downhill all Spring.  As we talked he told me that Dave Martin would take my place on the squad for Europe.  

As I walked along the field I was in emotional misery.  Ever since Igloi had announded the trip to Europe,  I had been ecstatic.  Not only would it be a fun trip but I would have learned  so much.
I felt I'd been given a great present, only to have it snatched away.  As Dave approached to ask what the doctor had said , I told him the coach wanted to see him.

Dave went to Igloi and was told he'd be taking my place on the trip to Europe.  I watched him as he started to jog again after the news.   His step seemed lighter and he was a happy man.  He sincerely expressed his regrets to me, and being a good friend, I was glad he was next in line to go.  Dave went to the far side of the track to continue his workout.  In the next few moments though the most bizarre thing happened.  

He was doing 100 yard repeats along the far side of the football field as Rink Babka threw a discus in his direction.  Dave didn't know what hit him as the discus took one bounce and chopped into his legs.  Dave went down as if a bullet had slammed into him and his scream filled the air.  We all ran to him and fell silent when we saw the bottom part of his leg lying at an angle.  It was broken.

Someone ran to get  a car.  Dave had gone into shock as he sat holding his leg.  The car was driven as close to Dave as possible, and we very gently loaded him into it to get him to the hospital as quickly as possible.  I was indeed so bizarre that within minutes Igloi had lost two of his best runners.  I would return at a future date, but Dave would never run another race....

Martin went into high school coaching and eventually went on to coach the Wolverines from 1969-71 before moving on to other fields.

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