Monday, October 21, 2013

Vol. 3 No. 62 St. Ignatius College Prep HS Cross Country Gets Ignited by a Past Team Member

Recently Tom Coyne who wrote a previous entry for us about the Chicago running scene in the 1950s and 60s , contacted us about an event worthy to mention in our blog.  It talks about Ray Mayer a 1951graduate of  St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School from where Tom O'Hara graduated before moving on to fame as one of America's great milers at Loyola University.  Mayer came to the support of his school's cross country program in a unique and wonderful way, sponsoring the team's trip to compete in Bethesda,MD.    The following article appears in the St. Ignatius alumni magazine  and correspondence comes from Tom Coyne.  File the name Dan Santino for future reference.  Dan is a sophomore leading this year's varsity team.

Dear George:

Back in February, Ray Mayer, my former teammate and co-captain of the cross country team at St. Ignatius High School in Chicago made it possible for the current St. Ignatius track team to participate in a track meet in Bethesda, Maryland.

Another teammate, Paul O'Shea wrote up the meet for the Cross Country Journal and the St. Ignatius Alumni Magazine.

This is the article.  There is a photo that goes with it.  If you think the article would be of interest, I can try to get the photo sent to you.

Take care,


   The St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School

Is there a future Tom O'Hara in this pack?

A Trip From the Past
By Paul O’Shea
When you give back, others go forward.
In the l950s Ray Mayer’51 was a leading miler in the Midwest and student at one of Chicago’s prestigious high schools, St. Ignatius.  Later, he went on to distinguished service in the military, serving as a Green Beret in Vietnam, and to a successful career in real estate.

Mayer never forgot the education he received from St. Ignatius High School and the opportunity it gave him to explore his athletic potential.   To help his school’s current athletes, his generosity recently funded a trip to Washington, D.C. for the St. Ignatius Wolfpack track team. By giving back he’s helping kids three generations behind him create their own legacies. 

The initiative began last fall when Mayer was impressed with the performances of the distance runners at St. Ignatius (now St. Ignatius College Prep High School), particularly Jack Keelan ‘13.  In 2012 Keelan won the Illinois state 3-A division cross country title, was 26th at Nike Cross Nationals and ran a 4:09 mile.  When Mayer competed he was a 4:35 miler, running about 20 miles a week, common then for top distance runners.

Mayer asked St. Ignatius head coach Ed Ernst to find an opportunity to showcase Jack and the rest of the team in a high-profile competition that would also provide an educational experience.  Answer: the Jesuit Invitational Track and Field Meet at Georgetown Prep High School in Bethesda, Maryland. Mayer offered to provide the financial support to St. Ignatius for it to fund the 21 runners, jumpers and throwers competing against other top Jesuit schools in the East.

“My high school years were considerably enriched by participation in the school’s championship cross country and track programs,” Mayer remembers.  “Because today’s Ignatians have many more opportunities to develop their God given talents, I contacted Ed Ernst, the boys’ coach to find out what I could do to help the team.  He responded that he would love to enter the Georgetown Prep meet in D.C., not far from where I live in Fairfax, Virginia.  From that moment it was written in the stars that the team could enter—and win.  For me, this was a partial payback for what I received by going to St. Ignatius.”

Mayer’s St. Ignatius co-captain and running partner, Tom Coyne ‘51, also backed the Washington venture and attended the February meet.  He understood its value after serving as vice president for student services at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where he now lives.  Coyne believes the trip helped the students prepare for the pressures of juggling academics and athletics at the university level. 

“By participating in an East Coast meet the St. Ignatius students jump started their potential roles as college athletes,” Coyne said.  “Traveling by air to quality away meets is what the big guys do.  However, in the way they competed with respect for their opponents, their mature, enthusiastic behavior and individual, all-out performances, the lads demonstrated they have the qualities good universities want in their students.”

What did the opportunity mean to Keelan as a student and athlete? 

“Just the act of getting on the plane to compete set the tone for our team
and season, saying, ‘we are serious about what we do and we mean
business.’  So taking home the trophy was more like the cherry on top.”

For Coach Ernst, “the Washington trip was a reward for the hard work of these particular boys.  We hope we will be able to do something like this for other athletes in the future, as an incentive for hard work.  As far as what it means for the team in the future, I believe the older boys set the example and tone for the younger boys.  They teach each other year after year how to work hard—and how to succeed.”

In a storybook ending, St. Ignatius took the Jesuit Invitational team championship by four-and-a-half points, scoring in the final event, the triple jump.  Keelan won both the 1600 and 3200 yard races in record times and in the fall, joins the perennial distance powerhouse at Stanford University.

   In the center holding the trophy is Ray Mayer '51.   The older guys across the front row are  Paul O'Shea in grey sweater,   Tom Coyne '51 in brown jacket,  and extreme right  Coach Ed Ernst
                                                        To enlarge photo, click on it

Not long after the announcement that the team had won, one of the St. Ignatius athletes asked a semi-serious question: “Will they let us take the trophy on the plane?”   At the airport, TSA got on board.  And so did the trophy.


Publisher’s Note:  A former high school cross country coach, Paul O’Shea writes about the sport from his home in northern Virginia.  From l949 to l951 he was a teammate of Ray Mayer and Tom Coyne at St. Ignatius.  O’Shea’s e-mail address is Poshea 17 at

From Coach Ed Ernst came these comments and video youtube links

With the help of a generous gift from Ray Mayer of the Class of 1951, the boys and girls cross country teams travelled to Washington, DC, on Saturday, October 12 to compete at the Georgetown Prep Classic.  Mayer was in attendance to watch the varsity boys finish first out of 13 teams in the seeded varsity race.  Sophomore Dan Santino was third overall, first for Ignatius, running 16 minutes and 14 seconds on the 5,0000-meter course on the Georgetown Prep campus.  The Wolfpack placed three more runners in the top ten, and six overall in the top 20:  Senior co-captain Chris Korabik 8th, senior co-captain Taylor Dugas 9th, junior Andy Weber 10th, senior Patrick Manglano 14th, junior Kallin Khan 16th, and junior Brian Santino 44thThe girls varsity team finished second out of 13 teams in the “seeded varsity” race, beaten only by Centennial High School of Ellicott City, MD.  Junior Olivia Meyer was the top Wolfpack finisher in sixth, running 19 minutes and 28 seconds.   Junior Alexis Jakubowski was eighth in 19:30, junior  Jill Poretta tenth in 19:52,  sophomore Anastasia Bouchelion 21st in 20:23, senior Kirstyn Ruiz  25th in 20:33.  Junior Maggie Connolly and senior Cara Zadeik rounded out the Varsity race by finishing 27th and 33rd.  The Wolfpack won medals and trophy plaques in the meets other races, as well:  Twenty of the 24 members of the girls’ team, in fact, won top-20 finisher medals in their races.  The girls junior varsity team won easily over 12 DC-area teams. The freshmen team also won, as all six runners finished in the top-12 of the race. On the boys side, a team of juniors and seniors finished second in one junior varsity race, and a team of sophomores was third in another.   
The meet itself is as much a cross country running festival as it is a race.   Later in the day Ignatius senior  co-captain Dugas won a dance contest in the New Balance cross country store tent.  Two announcers manned a booth near the finish line, where they did some race play by play, as well as post-race interviews with the winners. When they heard that the Ignatius team had come to the race from Chicago–and had won the boys seeded team race–they invited the team on stage.   Sitting in front of the stage during the interview, benefactor Mayer accepted public thank you-s from the announcers, the crowd–and the Ignatius team.
There are also race videos available on Youtube:
Coach Ed Ernst also wrote about the trip on his blog: 


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