Saturday, February 22, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 11 The Passing of Another Legend Mike Ryan

Mike Ryan winning the NCAA meet at Van Cortlandt Park

Mike in his Wilcox HS uniform

Feb. 21, 2014
Today we just learned of the passing of Mike Ryan who once held the high school two mile record at 9:10 until Gerry Lindgren broke it two weeks later running 9:00.  Mike went on to Stanford and then transferred to the US Air Force Academy after his freshman year.   In three years '67, '68, '69  Mike finished  3rd, 1st, and 2nd at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.  His victory was at Van Cortlandt Park NYC in a collegiate record on that course of 29:16.      In '69 he was sandwiched between Lindgren and Prefontaine.  He had worked for many years as a district attorney in Bakersfield, CA.   Mike had been suffering from cardiac problems for several years.  His spirit and determination will long be remembered by those who knew him.   In the late 1970's while serving in the Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH, he trained with the Kettering Striders.  I remember going to the All Ohio meet, and he was there with the team.  His best days were long behind him, but he was still giving it everything he had.  A friend was out on the course near the 4 mile mark and we were both struggling up the hill when his friend, knowing Ryan's psyche and toughness, yelled at him going up that hill,  "Ryan, use your teeth!"

Below is some of the correspondence talking about his exploits from several of his friends and acquaintances.

While e-mail is amazing, it does have it’s downfalls…. I had tried to cc: you on a couple of other e-mails I received earlier today, but apparently failed because I hit the wrong button on my I-phone. Anyway, the unfortunate reason to bring this race up, is that last night Mike Ryan passed away, after a long struggle with cardiac problems. Jack Leydig at WVTC (West Valley Track Club)   in the bay area had informed me. 
I actually got to the academy a few weeks after Ryan graduated, with no plans to ever run after high school! Those legendary workouts of his were told to us by John Jones ,who also hailed from your area of Ohio. John was the class of 71, and has also passed away (An All- American with a 27:48 6 mile PR).
Take care-

 As a High schooler at Wilcox HS in Calif,Mike Ryan held the national two mile record for 20 days in December 63' at 9:09(broke Jim Ryun's record of 9:11), until Lindgren dropped it to 9:00 on 12/27/63; soon after that Lindgren put it out of reach, when running against Ron Clarke indoors(8:40)

>> Some very sad news....
>> I just received an e-mail from Katie Ryan (Mike's wife) who let me know that he passed away last night from cardiac arrest at a Bakersfield hospital.  He has not been well for some time and has been unable to attend our Old Farts reunions since he was unable to travel comfortably.
>> Mike finished second in the 1969(?) NCAA Cross-Country Championships to Gerry Lindgren by only a few seconds and broke 9 minutes for 2 miles while attending Wilcox High School in Santa Clara in the 60's.  He went to college at the Air Force Academy in Colorado and has been living in Bakersfield for many years.
>> Mike ran for West Valley TC briefly in the early 1970's, and participated in the National AAU X-C Championships as I recall.
>> Jack
Thanks for forwarding-while I only met Mike a few times, he was a god to the USAFA runners like me who followed, and were inspired by his fearless attitude.
> I remember running into him in the locker room after we both ran in the 72' AAU XC race at Washington Park in Chicago after I had transferred out of the academy, worried that he might snub me for not staying for all 4 yrs.
> He was very supportive, which made my day!
> Jack, I cc:Ed George for his blog.
> Rick

 Mike helped West Valley TC to a 4th place finish in the '72 AAU XC in Chicago, finishing an "out of shape" 50th.  We had finished 2nd to Florida TC the year before in San Diego with a much stronger team.  I'm not surprised that Mike supported your decision.  He had made a similar choice after transferring to the Air Force Academy from his freshman year at Stanford.  Mike and I were very close friends over the years, although we seldom saw each other.  Last time we met was about 15 years ago in San Mateo when he was in the area and we went on a hike together.  But we kept in touch consistently via e-mail or phone.  A great man who will be very much missed.

Jack  While looking for more information about Mike Ryan, we found this link in showing fotos of individual NCAA XC champions in the first 40 or so years of that annual race.  In a time of mourning, some things nostalgic can help.  George Brose

 George & Steve,
   Thanks for letting us all know about the passing of Mike Ryan.  I met him several times including a day at Fairmont East HS during a Kettering Striders practice.  He was working at WPAFB and running with the Striders.  Steve, you suggested that Mike and I do a workout together, not an easy task for me.  We decided to do 10 x 220 in 26 seconds with a 220 jog.  That was a very legitimate workout but was made much more diffiult by Mike whose intrepretation of a 220 jog was very different from mine.  Nevertheless, we ran all 10 and they were in 26 seconds.  I almost died during that workout but was mighty please to have finished it.  Years later I ran into Mike and we discussed that day.  Amazingly he said I almost killed him with those 26 second furlongs.  It really made me feel good that I challenged a great such as Mike Ryan.  I know that he more than challenged me as it took the rest of the day for me to recover.  He was a very good person, extremely motivated and high charged.  I am truly saddened by his passing.     Bill Schnier

From:Don Betowski


Mike was a teammate of a good friend of mine, John Jones.  They ran together at the AFA.  John was stationed at Minot, ND after graduating.  That must be the coldest place in the US, so John did not get too much taining in while there.  However, he always tried to go to  the Drake relays.  One year he finished 5th in the 6 mile to Frank Shorter.  I believe at that time it was the 5th fastest time in the US at 27:48.  I knew John, when he was a grad student at UCSB, and we trained together on Saturdays.  Like Mike, John died much too soon, as he had a massive heart attack about 10 years ago.


Carol Stedman said...

Sad to see another class mate gone. May his family be at peace and comfort. God bless them. Thank you for the article. Even though I knew him as class mate, I didn't realize all his kudos on the track. Thanks again. Sincerely, Carol Stedman (nee Butler), class of 1965.
By the way, how long was he in the Air force? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

After I graduated from Villanova in 1968, I was drafted and was lucky to get the Asst Coaching job at the Air Force Academy for Track and Cross Country. I ran with Mike and found him to be one of the most talented runners I had ever trained with. After the NCAA XC in 1969, Mike was getting invites to all of the indoor meets but he decided to quit track. We were all surprised but he had other things he liked to do. I know during his last XC season, he usually would play racquetball on Thursday rather than workout with the team.
Charlie Messenger

V 9 N. 17 A Few More Musings: on An old poster, the dieing Relay Meets, Matt Boling

Hey,  in 1938, how many six packs of Foster's would it take to get you to take off your clothes and pose with your wife's pie...