Thursday, December 4, 2014

V.4 N. 92 Walk On Nominations

What Is A Walk On?
Def.   Someone who gives a track coach a lot of satisfaction without costing a dime. Taken from the

Once Upon a Time in the Vest Dictionary of Concise Thought, Irrational and Irreverent Opinion.

Without having fully defined the meaning of  Walk On we've received mentions of several varieties all of which might fit into someone's definition. In my mind I was thinking a Walk On at an American  university athletic team would be someone who presents herself or himself to the coach and by past history or present initiative is allowed onto the team without costing the coach any funds from the track budget other than taking a physical, filling in NCAA paperwork, and consuming a few bits and pieces of equipment , and maybe having  a locker.  But I also realize there may be other opinions as to what constitutes a walk on.  If an athlete quits a team and joins another at the same school , is that a walk on, or if a football player wishes to dodge Spring football by coming out for track is that a walk on?  Some have completed Spring football , then come over to the track team for the last few meets of the track season.  Anyway , this is just an exercise not a definitive decision about walk ons.  However it has brought out more responses from readers than any previous request for your input.  

In the British Commonwealth , every athlete might be considered a Walk On , because athletic scholarships aren't given to anyone, in fact readers from other countries probably have no idea what we are talking about.  Then too  our own Ivy League schools (Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown, Princeton, Cornell, Yale, Penn)  supposedly do not offer athletic scholarships, but they certainly do some recruiting to get good athletes into their programs.    Some of you might disqualify a person from being a walk on if a coach sent a letter of encouragement or made a phone call , or an electronic communication. I tend to discount that aspect, but if someone wants to come up here to Vancouver Island and get into a shouting match with me, they are most welcome, and by the way when you  cross the border would you please bring a couple of bottles of duty free wine,  a box of Ritz Crackers  and some Cheez Whiz?  Actually several examples came to us that were completely out of this framework, such as Delano Meriwether, M.D. and Michelline Ostermeyer, but we have chosen to accept them into this exclusive club, because their stories are just so darned interesting.  And now, on with the show.

Our first nomination came from Gary Wilson University of Minnesota Coach, (ret'd.)

Gabrielle Anderson of Minnesota. Came in as a 5:05 miler and ran 4:13 for 1500 as a 6th year senior after two bouts of cancer. 
Gabrielle Anderson (one l or two l's?)

Gabrielle Anderson

Also Eileen Donaghy of Minnesota who ran 5:25 for 1600 in HS. Won the Big Ten CC title as a Junior. Note: Suzy Favor was second that day. 
In fact she was a walk in. I never recruited her since it was my first day on the job back in 1985 when she entered my office. 
I am sure there are better stories but those are two of my best. 
Hope you had a great Thanksgiving George. 

Gary's nomination of Gabrielle Anderson and Eileen Donaghy meet the 'classical' definition of a walk on (in).  And by the way, that was a helluva coaching job with both of these athletes, Gary.   

Kristin Gaddis 

Steve Price, former Bowling Green St. U. Women's Cross Country and Track coach sent this:

For what it's worth : Kristen (nee Gaddis) was third/fourth girl on her Worthington, Ohio cross-country team in the late eighties/early nineties. She was a walk on at BGSU and in 1995 was All-Ohio collegiate champion and part of the team that qualified for the NCAA Championships....making it the first team from the MAC Conference to do so.

Dixon Farmer sent this one in:

A nomination for Chuck Smith, Occidental '70.......Won College Division 100/200 in 9.4/20.7 in 1st year of running. Was a swimmer at LACC (Los Angeles Community College). Made 1972 Olympic team after winning FOT 200. 5th in Munich 200 final.

Chuck Smith
Definitely a winner and member of our all walk on team.    

Here's what Sports-Reference has on Chuck Smith

Charles Kenneth "Chuck" Smith
Height: 6-1 (186 cm)
Weight: 176 lbs (80 kg)
Born: March 12, 1949 (Age 65.261) in Chicago, Illinois, United States
Affiliations: Southern California Striders, Anaheim (USA)

Chuck Smith won the AAU 200 in 1972. He also placed sixth in the 1971
AAU and the 1970 NCAA.
Personal Bests: 100y – 9.3 (1971); 100 – 10.2 (1972); 200 – 20.55 (1972).
Munich 200   5th.  

See the Munich 200 at about minute 6  mark in this youtube clip about Valeriy Borzov.


Bob Roncker Cincinnati Running Store proprietor (ret'd.), U. of Cincinnati athlete, Xavier, and state runner up in Ohio High School cross country, Elder HS (1960)   just wrote:

"Here's my response. However, he was not a walk on to an educational institution. I am referring to Dr. Delano Meriwether. He did not participate in track in either high school or college. As I recall the report in Track and Field News or another source, he was watching a track meet on TV and said that he could do that.

He started sprinting and was an immediate success.  He was national outdoor 100 champion in 1971 and the indoor sprint champion in 1972.  He received additional recognition for his unusual attire – hospital scrubs, suspenders, and swimsuit."

Wikipedia posts the following about his career:

Here is a refresher on Dr. Meriwether's running career, although his professional career is even more extraordinary, including graduating from pre-,med at Michigan State in three years, being the first African American accepted into Duke Medical School, serving as a physician in South Africa under the apartheid regime, and his  achievements in medicine just continue on and on.
Meriwether began competitive running in 1970 while working at the Baltimore Cancer Research Center. In order to train Meriwether would scale a fence at the nearby Johns Hopkins University athletics track and would run at night in the dark.[13] Due to his relative inexperience and unique attire, Meriwether drew the attention of the news media; appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine posing in his running gear,[2] and also featured in Time magazine.[9]
Meriwether made his mark as a runner at the Amateur Athletic Union USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon in June 1971 when he won the 100 yard dash.[2] His appearance at the event was unusual for a number of reasons. He was unattached to any educational institution and he was wearing a hospital shirt, gold and white suspenders and swimming trunks. The most remarkable element of the day was the time he recorded for the 100 yard dash. In recording a nine second 100 yard he became the second runner to run the distance in nine seconds flat, the other being John Carlos, however Meriwether's time did not count as a record as the run was wind assisted.[6][9][10][21]
In 1972 Meriwether was the United States Indoor Track and Field Champion,[22] but due to a knee injury he was unable to compete for selection for the United States 1972 Olympic Games team. After another injury prevented his chances of being selected for the 1976 Olympics, he retired from regular competition to concentrate on medicine.[18]
For a number of years he ran in masters events and his 200 meter run of 20.8 seconds in 1978 is still a current national record in the 35-39 age group.  Wikipedia

Jane Brooker was a cheerleader at Cedarville College.  She decided to go out for track and became rather good at the 800.  Jane was a NAIA All-American and the first female (from Cedarville?) inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame. In 1994 she ran 2:01.13 at the National Championships in Knoxville.
Bob Roncker

G.P. Williams just sent this from Victoria, British Columbia

Hi George.  Interesting topic.  As I have no background or much knowledge of US college track my example is probably not what you are looking for but might form a basis for another area of research.

I go back to the years following the Second World War to a French lady called Micheline Ostermeyer.  There is good coverage of her in Wikipedia and it seems that she was a type of "walk-on" in the way she got into track after being a concert pianist as a child and young adult.  I saw her in about 1950 at the White City and recall being impressed by her dual life.  Hope you can use this in some way.


Hey, this demoisselle has quite a story according to Wikipedia

Michelline Ostermeyer
A great-niece of the French author Victor Hugo, and a niece of the composer Lucien Paroche, Ostermeyer was born in Rang-du-FliersPas-de-Calais. At the insistence of her mother, she began learning piano at the age of 4, and at 14 she left her family's home in Tunisia to attend the Conservatoire de Paris. After the outbreak of World War II, she moved back to Tunisia where she performed a weekly half-hour piano recital on Radio Tunis.
It was during her return stay in Tunisia that Ostermeyer began participating in sports, competing in basketball and track and field events. After the war, she continued her participation in athletics while resuming her education at the Conservatoire. She competed in a range of contests, eventually winning 13 French titles in running, throwing and jumping events. In 1946, she placed second in the shot put at the European Athletics Championship in Oslo, as well as winning the Prix Premier at the Conservatoire.[2]

The 1948 Summer Olympics were Ostermeyer's finest hour as an athlete. She won gold medals in the shot put and discus throw (despite having picked up a discus for the first time just a few weeks before the event), and a bronze medal in the high jump.[1] She thus became the first Frenchwoman to win three medals in a single summer or winter Olympic Games. Her performance was only overshadowed by that of Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the same Olympics.[2] After winning the shot put, she concluded the day with an impromptu performance of a Beethoven concert at her team's headquarters.
She retired from sports in 1950 after having won two bronze medals at that year's European Championships, and continued to pursue a career in music. Her athletic prowess damaged her reputation as a concert pianist, however, and she even avoided playing anything composed by Franz Liszt for six years because she considered him too "sportif".[2] She toured for fifteen years before personal commitments, including the death of her husband, led her to take a teaching job, a post she held until her retirement in the early 1980s. In her final years she emerged from retirement to give a series of concerts in both France and Switzerland before her death in Bois-Guillaume.


John Lawson U. of Kansas 1966 and former NCAA XC champion sent us this:

Lowell Paul ran as a walk-on for Kansas University from 1963 to 1966. Lowell ran on every relay from the 440 to the 4 mile relay. He was primarily an 880 runner but had speed as well as distance abilities. Lowell was a straight A student and went on to run for the Chicago Track Club after graduation. He was from Colby, Kansas.
Lowell Paul and Dave Wottle laying
some hurt on each other.   This photo appeared in the New York Times
a few years ago misidentifying Lowell  as Rick Wohlhutter.
Lowell's daughter set them straight very quickly.

Thanks for responding.   Lowell  definitely makes the team.  I remember running in several relays at Texas and Kansas against him.  Talked to him several years ago by phone.  Really nice guy and doing good work serving the poor in Legal Aid in Lawerence and Topeka area.  He ran for the U. of Chicago Track Club in the Rick Wohlhutter era and had  a 1:46+  880 PR.   Also his son turned in some very good times a few years ago.

George, glad you remember Lowell and have had contact with him in more recent years. I remember he was one of the first runners to grow a long beard while running for Chicago Track Club. Pretty sure he was in Grad school at U of Chicago. Yeah, he was a very nice, quiet guy. 



Hello. My friend and team mate at Mizzou, Don Hoelting, was a 4:32 high school miler, (Duchense H.S., St. Charles, MO) and walk on. By his senior year he was 4th/5th man on our Big 8 XC championship team, 6th place team NCAA XC championships, and in the spring of 1971, as a senior, ran 13:38-39 three mile on the track. Were you within about 15 yards of him in the last 300 you were doomed; he had a vicious, vicious kick!  Kerry

As I recall in our phone conversation, Lowell said that when he was at U. of Chicago Law School, they had an exchange program in Germany that he attended and got a nice stipend from the U. of Chicago and spent a lot of time running in meets in Europe. That might throw him into the track scholarship category, but what the heck, he had already used up his NCAA eligibility. George


Bill Schnier U. of Cincinnati Track Coach (ret'd.) wrote:

   I don't know the best walk-ons or who was even a walk-on, but I nominate David Payne.  He goofed up his senior year in HS and was academically ineligible, so he attended UC his first year but could not practice or compete.  The next year he joined our team, but only as a walk-on.  He was on scholarship his third year in college and after that he was a two-time All-American before winning the silver medal at Beijing for the 110 Hurdles following graduation, 13.02.


 My second-best walk on was Lewis Johnson (now announcing the big track and field meets for television) who dropped out of track for two years after running 51.5 in HS.  He then ran the 400 for two years, about 48.8 before switching to the 800 M. where he ran 1:47.00 and placed 8th in the NCAA Div. I meet at LSU in 1987.
Lewis Johnson on the Job

Chris Wineberg

   I would like to add another quaity walk-on, Chris Wineberg of the University of Cincinnati.  As a 51.3, 13' 6" athlete from Springfield Northeastern HS, Chris came to UC as a walk-on, later earning a scholarship.  His best event was the decathlon where he scored 7584 (2004), still our school record.  He was an All-American, 8th in the NCAA decathlon in 2004 and helped UC to a C-USA championship that same year as well as an undefeated season in all team-scored meets.  In the C-USA meet he did the following:  decathlon (1st, 7296), pole vault (3rd, 16' 4-3/4").
   Chris's college top marks are:  7584 (Dec), 5616 (Heo), 10.94, 22.14, 48.87, 46.9 (R), 4:38.67, 15.54, 23' 10-1/4", 6' 4", 17' 3/4", 44' 3-1/4" (SP), 185' 1" (Jav), 128' 5" (D).

Filbert Bayi

Here's a Walk In story from J.D. Martin who coached over 35 years at U. of Oklahoma.
  JULY 2005

Last year after picking up the current OU Track and Field media guide, I was browsing through the list of former letterwinners. Up came the name of Filbert Bayi in the late 70's. Filbert Bayi was one of the premier milers in the world and had once held the world record in that event. Then I see that he earned a letter at OU  years after setting the record. This had to be an interesting story and certainly J.D. was the man to provide background. How did he get to OU, how many Mercedes did J.D. have to buy him, how's come he didn't retake the mile record with J.D.'s coaching? Like any newsman, you go to the source. So here's J.D.'s reply.

George, here's the poop on Filbert.
It starts with me hiring a distance coach from Eastern New Mexico named Bill Silverberg.
He had a reputation of getting Kenyans and other foreign runners.

Anyway, after he was with me for awhile he asked what travel agency we used to fly kids to school. I told him none, as that is a NCAA violation. He wanted to know how I expected him to bring athletes here from Kenya or Tanzania. That was my first clue that he had his own ways of playing the game and he scared me to death.

Later that year Kenyan's began showing up on campus. Most could not get into school
and were sent along to JR. Colleges. One young 18 year old ran for a couple of years but didn't make much of an impact.

But one day out of the blue and a surprise to Silverberg, Filbert walked into our office.
He knew Silverberg and had heard that he was recruiting for us. He just decided to
come over and see if he could go to school and run for us. All legit.

He ran cross country for us but had some injury problems and was never able to perform
up to his abilities. After one semester he decided to transfer to UTEP where most of his
buddies were and the climate was more like home.

One day later I get a call from a local travel agency wanting to know when we were going to pay the bill for the flights from Africa......(not Filbert)

After getting up off the floor Silverberg and I had a little discussion about him working somewhere else and told him he had a large bill at the travel agency.

He moved on and I don't know if the bill was ever paid.

Filbert was as great person. It is a shame he didn't stay longer and get healthy.
That is the Filbert Bayi story.

Some of you distance runners may remember Bill Silverberg as a pretty good steeplechaser when he ran at Kansas.


Quentin Brelsford Ohio Wesleyan U.. winning the 1946 NCAA
Cross Country Meet against the big boys
And let's not forget my earlier nominees   John Gutknecht and Quentin Brelsford both of Ohio Wesleyan University who ran for free.   Gutknecht won the AAU 6 miles in 1961 and Brelsford won the NCAA cross country meet in 1946 against the big boys' schools.


We've recently been in contact with Jim Allen (Washington State)  and from this email it seems that he more than  deserves to be on the all walk on team.  Here's his credentials:

Interesting project. I suspect some of the best "track walk-ons" could have been football players on scholarship seeking to avoid Spring Ball by turning out for track. In the early to mid 60's, Mel Renfro  at Oregon and Henry Carr at Arizona State come to mind.

I was a walk-on at Washington State University in 1960.  Thought it was a good way to satisfy my semester PE class requirement. Three years later (1963) I was Bronze Medalist in the 440 yard intermediate hurdles at the NCAA Championships at Albuquerque and awarded All-American status by the NCAA. A week later I was Silver Medalist in the same event at the AAU National Championships in St. Louis and selected to the USA Team as one of the two intermediate hurdlers that travelled to Europe to compete against the National Teams of Russia, Poland, Germany and Great Britain/Northern Ireland.
I was also Conference Champion (what is now the Pac 12 Conference) in the Intermediate Hurdles in 1964.

Might be worth an honorable mention.


Jim Allen

 Jim:  This is much better than honorable mention.    Furthermore I think that your son Jeff Allen   deserves a place on the team.  He played football at Stanford but had been 300IH state champ in Washington..   He told me he came out for track under Vin Lannana about his junior or senior year and filled in on relays for a season or two, and when one of their 4x400 guys was unable to run in the finals at the NCAA championships he moved in and ran a sub 47 leg, the team scored points and he made All American, so you guys are the only father-son combo on our list.   Can anyone confirm Mel Renfro and Henry Carr's walk on status?   George


Rick Lower suggested that  Otis Davis should be considered a walk on.
Otis Davis transferred over from basketball at U. of Oregon to the track program and went on to win the Olympic 400 meters in Rome in World Record time in only the tenth 400m of his career.

the following from wikipedia
 at the age of 28, Davis made the U.S. Olympic team. He ran his fastest time to date one week before participating in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome as one of the oldest members of the track team, where he was nicknamed "Pops" by his teammates. According to Davis, "I was still learning how to turn with the staggered starts and all. I was still learning the strategy involved. I was still learning how to run in the lanes."   Wiki also relates that on his first day on the track he high jumped 6'0' and long jumped over 23'.  Won the PCC meet that year in the 220 and 440.   No info whether he was on an athletic scholarship coming from basketball to track, but it is likely his being a four year Air Force veteran, he was probably getting G.I. Bill money and it cost neither the basketball program nor the track program very much if anything.  


I'd have to say that I consider my self a walk on.

My high school Coach, Bob Epskamp introduced me to the idea of going to Western Michigan.
My. teammate, Art Eversole, was also from Monroe and enrolled at WMU a year before me.

     (Art was 3rd. in the NCAA XC in 1959 at Mich. State.)

I never received a phone call or letter from George Dales, but, when I arrived at WMU, he knew that I was coming
and arranged for a room Job and a State Board Scholarship for Teachers-  to cover tuition.

(I got a form letter in the mail from U of M but nothing else.
The picture of the track team on the flyer looked like it was out of the 1940's or something.

I didn't have the foggiest about college recruiting, etc. so, I was an easy "recruit" for Coach Dales.

John, it doesn't look like anything came out of the track budget.  John went on to win the NCAA Amazing how things worked back in the day before there were recruiting rules.  When I was recruited at Oklahoma, Coach Bill Carroll came to Dayton and took my family to dinner and said there was a scholarship for me.  No papers signed, no nothing.  I showed up at the campus a year later and went to school.  Offer and acceptance were totally verbal.  Ed.

Bill Blewett on the pole with some fairly illustrious company

Just as I was ready to do this posting, Bill Blewett's name came to mind.  Bill is not exactly a household name in track and field, but his story certainly is a good example of a classic walk on.  Bill was from Lawton OK and never broke 5:00 minutes for a mile in high school yet his shop teacher Dee Givens frequently talked about his years of running at OU.  He was a 9.3  100 yard sprinter and made the Olympic Trials finals in 1960.  Bill came out for cross country his freshman year at OU and broke 5:00 minutes three times in his first workout there.  He went on to run a sub 4:10 mile while at OU and sub 14:00 three mile after graduation.    
And now for our last but by no means least , member nominee for great walk ons in university sports or otherwise.      Bob Schul,  Olympic Champion , 5000 meters, 1964.

In Bob's autobiography,  "In the Long Run"  he recounts that he did not go to college straight out of high school.  He instead worked for a year in a factory in Dayton, Ohio.   The following season he enrolled at Miami University and showed up at cross country practice.  Coach George Rider recognized him as having been a  decent high school runner (4:34 mile) and welcomed him to the team.  Whether he got any assistance that Fall for cross county is not mentioned in the book, but until that is disputed, Bob will be on the list.

So his is our first list of extraordinary individuals  who might be called 'walk ons' to track and field

Gabrielle Anderson  Minnesota
Eileen  Donaghy  Minnesota
Kristin Gaddis  Bowling Green
Lowell Paul   Kansas
Bob Schul Miami of Ohio
Lewis Johnson  Cincinnati
David Payne  Cincinnati
Chris Wineberg  Cincinnati
John Gutknecht  Ohio Wesleyan
Quentin Brelsford Ohio Wesleyan
John Bork   Western Michigan
Don Hoelting  Missouri
Henry Carr*  Arizona State
Mel Renfro*  Oregon

*under consideration

Special Category  "I didn't recruit him but he came anyway and I gave him a scholarship"

Filbert Bayi   U. of Oklahoma

Special Category  "father  and son"

Jim Allen Washington State
Jeff Allen  Stanford

Special Category "I never did this before"

Michelline Ostermeyer  Conservatoire de Paris (concert pianist)
Chuck Smith  Occidental  (swimmer)
Dr. Delano Meriwether   Michigan State, Duke Medical School (academic/medical doctor)
Jane Ramig Brooker  Cedarville University (cheerleader)
Otis Davis  U. of Oregon   (basketball)

Don't  let this list remain static; send your additions and anecdotes in to or add in to  the comments at the end of this article.

1 comment:

Kerry said...

Hello. My friend and team mate at Mizzou, Don Hoelting, was a 4:32 high school miler, (Duchense H.S., St. Charles, MO) and walk on. By his senior year he was 4th/5th man on our Big 8 XC championship team, 6th place team NCAA XC championships, and in the spring of 1971, as a senior, ran 13:38-39 three mile on the track. Were you within about 15 yards of him in the last 300 you were doomed; he had a vicious, vicious kick!

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