Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Thursday, March 4, 2021

V 11 N. 13 Bob Parks and Paul McMullen Two Eastern Michigan Legends R.I.P.


Two Eastern Michigan legends passed away on consecutive days,  Bob Parks and Paul McMullen.   McMullen's death in a ski accident is yet to be confirmed.

Tony Paul wrote the following story on Parks which appeared in the March 4, Detroit News.    The story on McMullen is from Wikipedia.

Bob Parks, the most successful coach in Eastern Michigan coach, in any sports, who guided the men's track-and-field and cross-country programs to six national championships and 31 Mid-American Conference titles and was named MAC coach of the year 22 times, has died.

Parks died Wednesday. He was 90.

He ran at Eastern Michigan from 1951-55, and returned to coach the teams in 1967. He retired in 2001.

Bob Parks was Eastern Michigan's longtime track and field and cross country coach.

"We are saddened by the loss of our father," said Sue Parks, of Parks' four children. "He touched countless lives and was a father figure and an inspiration to so many. He was as competitive as anyone but more importantly, he always wanted to ensure that his athletes were ready for the challenges of life when they left his program. He will long be remembered for his positive impact and the way that he treated people"We will all carry his passion, strength and fighting spirit with us."

Parks won six NAIA and NCAA team championships, and coached 286 individual conference champions and 31 NAIA and NCAA national champions. He coached more than 110 All-Americans, and was national coach of the year once and regional coach of the year nine times.

He also coached at least one athlete who compete in every Olympics from 1968 through 2012, including 1976 gold-medalist Hasely Crawford (100 meters), 2000 silver-medalists Clement Chukwu and Nduka Awazie (4x400) and 1984 bronze-medalist Earl Jones (800m).

Parks is a member of the Eastern Michigan Athletics Hall of Fame — the school's indoor and outdoor tracks are named after him — as well as the Drake Relays Hall of Fame. He was enshrined in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2000, and the MAC Hall of Fame in 2015. Parks was on the ballot for the 2021 Michigan Sports Hall of Fame class.

Eastern Michigan won the 1970 NAIA and NCAA Division II national championships, then moved to the MAC and Division I in 1972. In Division 1, Parks led Eastern Michigan to the NCAAs seven times, with a sixth-place finish in 1974.

In track, his dual-meet record was 162-14-1; in cross country, it was 132-24-1.

"The entire Eastern Michigan athletics family is heartbroken by the news of Bob's passing," athletic director Scott Wetherbee said. "It is impossible to summarize the legacy of Coach Parks and the impact that he has made on our institution in just one statement. Bob Parks is one of the finest examples of a champion that this university has ever seen, not only in his field of competition, where he built our cross-country and track-and-field programs into two of the very best in all of intercollegiate athletics, but outside of his sports, as well. Thousands of student-athletes, coaches, staff members, and individuals in the Ypsilanti community were positively impacted by his dedication to Eastern Michigan.

"Many individuals leave a mark on the places they go — few fundamentally change them for the better. Bob Parks is one of those few, and Eastern Michigan University will never fail to recognize him for his achievements and contributions to our department."

Parks was born in Pittsburgh, but was raised in Howell. He played football, basketball, baseball and ran track at Howell High School, winning a state championship in the 440. At Eastern Michigan, which then was Michigan Normal College, he was a conference champion in the 880 and mile  relay team.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the "Bob Parks Track Dedication Fund."

Paul McMullen (Wikipedia)    

Paul McMullen 1998 USA Indoor Championships    link

Paul McMullen (born February 19, 1972 in Cadillac, Michigan) was an American middle-distance runner who specialized in the 1500 meters. Paul was known by some as "the pride of Cadillac" after qualifying and competing in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.

McMullen finished tenth at the 1995 World Championships in Athletics in Gothenburg, Sweden and the 2001 World Championships in Athletics in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He won the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials 1500 m and was a semi-finalist Atlanta Summer Olympics the same year. He won National Championships in 1995 (1500 m), 1996 (1500 M) and 1998 (Indoor Mile). His personal best 1500 m time is 3:33.89 minutes, achieved in July 2001 in Monte Carlo Monaco. In 2001, Track and Field News ranked him at number one in the US.

In 1997, McMullen lost parts of two toes when his foot slipped under a lawnmower he was operating. He returned to the sport in December 1998, and as the results above indicate, was able to run even faster than before the accident; Runner's World referred to him, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as "the world's fastest eight-toed miler."

Paul McMullen attended Eastern Michigan University and graduated in accounting. After graduation, he ran three seasons for Asics Shoes and four seasons Saucony Shoes before enlisting in the United States Coast Guard at age 29 and served four years as a surface swimmer and Federal Boarding Officer on the Great Lakes. McMullen still holds the Coast Guard's Cape May New Jersey Training Center 1.5-mile run record of 7:09 which he ran on week 6 of basic training in December 2002. McMullen last broke the four-minute mile at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon at the age of 32 then later retired from running after failing to make the 2004 Olympic Team while representing the US Coast Guard.

Hall of Fame inductions: He was inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame in 2000 and Eastern Michigan's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.

Before his death, he worked as a Life Safety Consultant for EPS Security and competed in masters road cycling events during the summer. McMullen was married to his high school girl-friend Nuria De Soto Queralto of Spain. He has two children from his first marriage, Olivia, 13 and David, 8. His wife Nuria of three years gave birth to their first child Catalina on July 5, 2014. Paul is also brother to Phil McMullen (a fireman paramedic in the East Bay Area of San Francisco, California and former world class decathlete).

Eastern Michigan All Time List


A few follow-up items to your posting:

Bob Parks was the Assistant to Coach George Dales of Western Michigan University when the Broncos won consecutive NCAA cross-country title in 1964 (at four miles) and 1965 (at six miles).   He then went on to his stellar career at Eastern Michigan University.  Parks and Dales had a great rivalry over the ensuing years in the MAC.

Paul McMullen's first wife was Jill Stamison, an outstanding runner for WMU who set a PR of 2:00.51 at the 1997 World Championships.

Paul was a strong, powerful looking runner.

Phil McMullen, Paul's brother, was a decathlete at WMU, who finished fourth, as I remember, in the U S Trials, in his only bid at the Olympics in 2004. 

Take care,

Tom Coyne

That's really a shame for this coach/athlete.  Bob Parks had to be the most successful T&F coach in MAC history.  His results were incredible.  I always wondered how he did it because his results were greater than even a standout coach could produce although I knew that EMU had in-state tuition for Ohio residents.  Finally I discovered that EMU also gave full academic scholarships to those HS kids with more than a 3.4, another real boost.  Even though armed with those big advantages, Bob continued to attract amazing people in every event, then coach them up in almost every instance.  We should look up the EMU men's records to fully appreciate Bob's work.

   Jeff Dils from Trotwood ran for Bob and eventually made the EMU Hall of Fame.  I was so impressed with the work Bob had done with Jeff that I made a contribution to their track team fundraiser, even though I was either at IU or UC at the time.  Bob was really amazing.
   Paul was a football player who opted for T&F and I believe became an Olympian at 1,500 m.  What a story that was!
   Bill Schnier

"So sad to hear about Paul. I have this note in his "birthday" bio.

After making the U.S. Olympic team in 1996, he returned as a hometown hero to Cadillac, Michigan, and 
            did a workout on the 4th of July as hundreds(thousands?) of  local residents formed a one-lane tunnel 
                 all around the track! "   Walt Murphy

Saturday, February 27, 2021

V 11 N. 12 Our regular contributor Paul O'Shea makes the Washington Post

 Paul O'Shea who has contributed many book reviews and journalistic pieces to our little blog has this past week had an opinion published in the Washington Post.  Remember when track and field used to have regular coverage in most daily newspapers?

Here it is.

Keep up with a local runner

American track and field athletes set three indoor world records and there were 11 national marks set at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Feb. 13 in New York. Unfortunately, the news didn’t crack The Post’s sports section in this Olympic Games year. In addition to these noteworthy performances, missing was coverage of Noah Lyles, who won the 200 meters at the meet. Lyles, the world champion in the event, won national acclaim at T.C. Williams High School and is highly favored to win a gold medal at the Tokyo Games. The failure of The Post to provide results about the New Balance meet, in an Olympic year, with a locally raised athlete, is deeply disappointing. Going forward, Post readers would be well served by extensive coverage of the world’s leading track and field team, the United States and Lyles.


Paul can chide the major papers all he wants, but it will be to no avail.

the reason the newspapers and media do  not cover track and field anymore is because we left the general public behind when we adopted the stupid  metric system. I was Jimmy Carne‘s assistant head coach at Florida when he and Olan engineered the switch over from yards, feet and inches to those Mysterious meters, centimeters and micro grams.

Nixon had vowed to take the whole nation metric and we were the only institution fool enuf to do so when we converted all our tracks to 400 meters.

I would challenge most hard track coaches to instantly convert a 7 meter long jump into something any of the two fans in the stands could understand.

We left behind the 60’ shot put, the 4:00 mile, the 16’ pole vault, the 9 sec 100 yd dash.  Those were iconic figures every American could relate to.  

Now, if the whole country had gone metric (Detroit said, “Are you out of your minds.” Etc), maybe by now we could appreciate what our athletes and the rest of the world’s T&F community was accomplishing.
Olan and Jimmy bought into the myth because they wanted the TAC (remember that sorry organization) to have our performances comparable the European ones and the rest of the metric countries.  

Well, wonderful.   But what the hell is a 3:59 time for the stupid 1500m?

Roy “Geezer” Benson

Ps. Why the hell do we run road races over everything from 5k and up and offer splits at the mile marks?  What’s wrong with a 3 mile race?

I agree with Roy Benson that metrics hurt T&F coverage in the US, but not especially the running events - only the field events.  A 400 can be appreciated just as much as a 440 but a 2.14 HJ is not as interesting as a 7' high jump.  For American meets I suggest we keep the races in metrics which really means using the same minutes and seconds which is basically no change, but reporting the field events in feet and inches.  After all we are still in the US, an imperial country.  However, if there is a significant worldwide field event mark, for goodness sake also measure it metrically so the person can get international credit.  Incidentally, the imperial measurements allow for more precision than the metric ones since a centimeter is approximately 1/2" and many of the field events are measured in 1/4".
   However, that is not the reason T&F has diminished in coverage in the US.  With ESPN every game of every pro sport is on TV, creating almost no time for anything else.  In addition, college football and basketball is the same way with about 30 games on TV every Saturday.  So many sports have gone by the wayside, most notably horse racing, boxing, and T&F.  What was sold as allowing all sports to be televised has turned into just a few being emphasized.  In addition there is no team concept promoted anymore in our sport so it is primarily Nike sponsored athletes, all wearing the same uniform, most being suspected of drug use, devoid of college or hometown affiliation, performing in front of mostly their coaches and teammates, with little importance in their efforts other than to qualify individually for a future meet.  We can't change all of that but we can change some of it.
Great item George and others-lest we forget! 
I just read a telling article in our Globe and Mail ( Canada) about our athletes attempting to qualify for the –shall we say putative Tokyo Olympics.  All athletes are undergoing stringent restrictions in trying to reach the standards but it must be especially difficult when you have a border that is firmly closed with The United States.  Featured is our veteran 800m runner Melissa Bishop who was a big recipient of negative results from the Semenya et al turmoil.  She was 4th in the Olympics behind three athletes who benefitted from the rules ( I will not say unfairly because that is not clear).  Recently married and a mother at 32 she is in her twilight years and somehow has to generate  a sun 2 min 800 while trying to find competition and then facing a full 2 week quarantine if she has to go abroad to find it ( likely).  I know she is not alone but in Canada we have few world class athletes .  On top of that is news that former HJ Champ Drouin is attempting to qualify and De Grasse and our strong 4 x 100m relay may have trouble making it-we will be woefully short if the games actually take place,.
Much as I love and revere the Olympic Games for what it has achieved for many sports I seriously question whether it should go ahead.  It would be interesting to hear from your stable of experienced International athletes as to how they feel about this.
On a totally different subject my best school friend from UK emigrated to the USA a few months before I came to Canada in 1959.  I visited him first in Berkeley before he went on to a career as a Geog. Prof at Maryland.  I visited him a few times in Washington DC and benefitted greatly from his knowledge and love of the  city.   The final visit was in 1997 after going to Toronto to see my first grandson.   Regrettably he died a few months later.   He had a noted career and I wonder if any of your correspondents would have known of him- Prof. Paul A. Groves.  Not likely I know but   worth a try.
Best wishes.
Hope all is well.
Also noted in another unrelated piece was the passing of Tony Trabert, former tennis great who was in the original professional tennis tours sponsored by Jack Kramer.  Few will remember that Trabert also played basketball at the University of Cincinnati.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

V 11N. 11 Noting the passing of Larry Cuzzort former Western Kentucky Standout

 Duane Gaston just passed on this info via facebook.  Larry Cuzzort, age 62 passed recently from Covid.  Larry was a member of that incredible bunch of runners at Western Kentucky in the mid to late 1970's that included Nick Rose, Tony Staynings, and Swag Hartel, and Chris Ridler.  Larry had some great performances including at 13:39 5000 and a 1 hr. 3 min. half marathon.  Although many of those guys were part of the British invasion,  Larry was a local boy from across the river in Evansville, IN.  We remember those guys as running hard and partying hard.

Western Kentucky Hilltopper Memories

Here is a link to those former times.   The video is a lot of stills of those guys in action.  None are identified, but the montage is full of nostalgia for anyone involved in those days.  

Here is a list of some of Larry's  running accomplishments from the Association of Road Racing Statisticians (AARS).

Personal bests

RD10 km28:31Bowling Green KY/USA13 Nov 1982
RDHalf Mara1:02:11aLas Vegas NV/USA11 Dec 1981
OT5 km13:39.73Knoxville TN/USA14 Apr 1979
OT10 km29:02.34Indianapolis IN/USA18 Jun 1983
IT3 km8:13.1Ottawa ON/CAN14 Jan 1983
IT2 mi8:38.1Inglewood CA/USA04 Feb 1983


Date FinishedTimeFlagsTypeDistanceSiteRacePrize moneyActions
10 Dec 19832023:09RD8 kmNewport Beach CA/USASub 4 Back Bay
26 Nov 19832930:34XC10 kmState College PA/USATAC Crosscountry Championships
15 Oct 1983929:57xRD10 kmAtlanta GA/USADr Scholl's Pro Comfort
09 Oct 1983128:50RD10 kmLouisville KY/USAIroquois Hill Climb
04 Jul 19831729:46aRD10 kmAtlanta GA/USAPeachtree Road Race
18 Jun 19831129:02.34OT10 kmIndianapolis IN/USATAC/Mobil Championships
20 May 1983429:02.83OT10 kmKnoxville TN/USATom Black Classic
04 Feb 198398:38.1IT2 miInglewood CA/USALos Angeles Times
14 Jan 198358:13.1IT3 kmOttawa ON/CANOttawa International Games
05 Dec 1982422:32RD8 kmNewport Beach CA/USANewport Beach
28 Nov 1982429:09XC10 kmEast Brunswick NJ/USATAC Crosscountry Championships
13 Nov 1982228:31RD10 kmBowling Green KY/USAWendy's
04 Jul 19821129:20aRD10 kmAtlanta GA/USAPeachtree Road Race
03 Apr 1982227:20xRD10 kmLong Beach CA/USANike Grand Prix
20 Mar 1982429:53RD10 kmDublin GA/USALeprechaun
11 Dec 198121:02:11aRDHalf MaraLas Vegas NV/USALas Vegas Sun
06 Dec 1981328:10xRD10 kmAnaheim CA/USASub-4 Invitational
04 Oct 1981129:09RD10 kmLouisville KY/USAIroquois Hill Climb
27 Jul 1981313:49.5OT5 kmSyracuse NY/USAUS Sports Festival
04 Jul 19811428:59aRD10 kmAtlanta GA/USAPeachtree
24 May 1981729:33RD10 kmCleveland OH/USARevCo
02 May 1981114:15.0OT5 kmMurray KY/USAOhio Valley Conference Championships
22 Mar 1980131:07RD9.61 kmAvalon CA/USACatalina
14 Oct 197921:03:43RDHalf MaraDayton OH/USARiver Corridor Classic
29 Jul 1979314:33.1OT5 kmBoulder CO/USANational Sports Festival
14 Apr 1979313:39.73OT5 kmKnoxville TN/USADogwood Relays
25 Nov 1978630:05XC10 kmSeattle WA/USAAAU Men's Crosscountry Championships
15 Oct 197871:04:50RDHalf MaraDayton OH/USARiver Corridor Classic
02 Sep 1978230:16XC10 kmLexington KY/USAJoe Binks Crosscountry

V 11 N. 13 Bob Parks and Paul McMullen Two Eastern Michigan Legends R.I.P.

  Two Eastern Michigan legends passed away on consecutive days,  Bob Parks and Paul McMullen.   McMullen's death in a ski accident is ye...