Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

V5 N36 Theodore "Ted" Nelson, Member of Western Michigan National CC Champions - RIP

Ted Nelson, front and center on 1965 National Champion WMU team.
other members
Coach George Dales
Front Row  Keith Reed, Ted Nelson, Steve Smith
Back Row   Roger Plont, Wolfgang Lugauer, Mike Gallagher, Gary Myers  

Yesterday I heard from several Western Michigan Alums that one of their own ,  Ted Nelson , had passed away in Ann Arbor , MI.    As some of you old timers may remember,  Western Michigan, was a powerhouse of middle distance and distance running in the late 1950s and 1960s under Coach George Dales.  The likes of John Bork, Jared Ashmore, Richard Mach, Dick Greene, and Dick Pond   struck terror in the hearts of many collegiate distance crews in those days.    Ted Nelson was a member of that noble group of runners and was on both their national championship teams in 1964 and 1965.  None of those members of the 64 and 65 teams shone as individually as the aforementioned runners, but their team of better than average guys really put together a  season that should be an example of what a bunch of very dedicated young men are capable of achieving.  The Mid American Conference was a hotbed of great distance runners in the 60s, with Miami of Ohio, Ohio U, and Western Michigan leading the way on any given day.

In looking for more information about Ted Nelson  I found the following article to share with our readers.  It is long, but it merits taking the time to read.  It covers well that 1964 season and the current fate of the program which has been sidelined along with many other running programs in the Mid American Conference.

My personal connection to this team was through Mike Gallagher who beat me in the state high school mile race in Ohio in 1961.   It was in the days when state officials decided it was easier to run three separate races in the mile and compare times, assuming the fast heat would produce the winner.  They were wrong , big time, and Mike who was in the second heat won the race, besting my time in the fast heat.  

Let it also be known that the reader should not confuse Western Michigan's Ted Nelson with two other Ted Nelson's who were outstanding runners as well.  I'm referring to Ted Nelson, the half miler out of Mankato State in Minnesota, and Ted Nelson, the quarter miler from Texas A&M.
George Brose

How Upstart Western Michigan Won NCAAs 50 Years Ago

Alumni reunite to remember a cross country program that won two national titles in the ’60s.

October 2, 2014
1964 Western Michigan Cross Country Team
Fifty years ago, during the summer of 1964, George Dales, the head coach of Western Michigan University’s cross country team had his team captain, Bruce Burston, write letters to all of his teammates. Dales wanted his athletes coming back to school ready to run hard, not overweight and undertrained. Burston dutifully wrote the letters and Dales made him pay the postage. When training began in the fall, no man mentioned any letter, but from the start of that season Burston sensed a shared, unspoken belief that they could do something special if they worked hard enough.
The cross country team meant a lot to Burston, who had moved to Kalamazoo from Australia for a running scholarship. He had been one of the best high school runners in Australia, but only considered himself “good, not outstanding.” In college, he found he loved the camaraderie of the team—“mateship,” as Aussies call it—and he respected the tradition of strong distance running Coach Dales had built since arriving at the school in 1953.
By senior year, Burston had solidified his reputation as the team’s top scorer, but his hopes for team gold outweighed his individual ambition. He was not an overbearing leader, nor was he obsessed with winning. After the first meet of the season, one of his teammates, Larry Peck, recalls drinking his first ever beer out with the guys after the race. Jim Carter, a junior, raised a glass and said, “Here’s to the NCAA champions.” Was he serious? “I think he was,” Peck says. “Kind of.”
Standing on the line at the NCAA championships in East Lansing, about 80 miles from WMU, that November of 1964, Burston thought again of the fate of the team. The skies were clear and the course was covered in snow, but this might play to guys’ advantage. They had run in all kinds of weather, all season long. They were ready. No man had outright said, “Let’s win it,” but some of the guys were thinking it. Beyond the usual prerace encouragement from coaches, no one else seemed to expect much of them during the race. They hadn’t even won their conference meet. Fifty years later, Bruce still insists, “None of us were stars.”
When the gun went off, Ohio University’s Elmore Banton took off like a shot, establishing a lead that he would never relinquish. Burston, on the other hand, made a mess of things. He hadn’t sprinted fast enough to get out near the front so he found himself surrounded for the first mile. As runners trekked through the snow, he ran around groups of them, passing as many as he could on the side.
At one point he felt a bit of a stitch but ignored it. “This was a team thing,” he remembers thinking. “I was running for the other guys as much as for myself.”
A modest number of spectators flanked the course, including a pack of Western Michigan runners who hadn’t made the top seven but had skipped class to come out and cheer their teammates on. Greg Bishop remembers watching the guys run west and make a left turn that led to a climb. By the time the runners returned to where the spectators were stationed, after about two miles, the leaders were strung out in single file and there were packs forming after about 20th place.
Conditions were less than ideal. The meet hosts at Michigan State University had plowed a path around the golf course, but the ground was still slippery and the wind whipped. “The snow made it difficult to pass because everybody was trampling down the same path, and if you wanted to get off the path to pass, you’d be in two inches deep of snow,” Bishop recalls.
Banton of Ohio maintained his lead, passing the 3-mile mark at just over 15 minutes. Burston knew he was well back, probably in the top 50. But he quickly made his way past dozens of runners, including a few of his teammates. Bishop and his buddies stood near the finish line, where they waited anxiously for the runners to return. “You didn’t really know what was happening out there until they were coming down the last couple yards,” Bishop says. Finally, Banton came striding in. He won the race handily, setting new NCAA and meet records. The pack of WMU supporters counted jerseys as they came in and cheered as the seven guys made their final kicks.
The end of the course was a 200m straightaway, a feature Burston had faced every year at the NCAAs. His vow: Nobody would pass him on that straightway. When Burston tells this story he proudly admits that someone did pass him that day, a guy in a Miami singlet by the name of Jack Bacheler. Bacheler went on to run in the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games.
Burston had finished the four-mile race in 11th place in 20:33.4 but he didn’t know how the rest of the team had fared. Don Clark, a quiet Canadian, crossed the line a few places behind him, in 18th, and he was followed by Steve Smith 10 seconds later, in 28th. Another 12 seconds after that, Jim Carter crossed the line, in 43rd. Carter had been a decent high school runner but was regularly beaten by a guy named Tom Sullivan, who could run a 4:02 mile and was the hot shot recruit to come out of the Chicago area. As Carter made his way through the finish chute, he threw his thumb over his right shoulder and gestured to his teammates and coaches. Right behind him was Tom Sullivan, of Villanova. Carter had beaten him by less than a second.
But the breakout performance of the day came from Mike Gallagher, who had run the race of his life to finish seventh. Gallagher, an unreliable junior who had barely made the team after a summer of skimpy training, had almost not been entered in the race. “He started coming around late in the season,” explained Bob Parks, the team’s assistant coach. “We had a decision to make. Should we put him in the nationals?” Gallagher was a talented runner, but his performances were all over the place. Everyone had expected Burston to be the Broncos’ top scorer, so Gallagher’s seventh-place came as a complete surprise. “We knew that Mike was really running out of his head that day,” Bishop says.
When Bob Parks took a new coaching job at Eastern Michigan University, he employed “the Gallagher Rule;” that is, the right to make a wildcard choice for a meet’s seventh man.
In 1964, scoring the team results of a cross country race took time as officials had to remove individual runners from the tally and deal with any disqualifications. Burston’s hopes were up, fueled by the thrill of learning how well Gallagher had placed, but he didn’t know for sure if the team championship was theirs. Someone from the small pack of supporters came up to the runners to say, “I think we’ve got it,” but he wasn’t entirely confident in the calculations.
Photo Courtesy of Wolfgang Lugauer
Burston was worried about Oregon. One of the WMU guys, Jim Flaminio, brazenly tracked down Oregon’s coach, Bill Bowerman, and asked to see his numbers. “He was very gruff and wasn’t going to give us any information,” Bishop recalls. But eventually Bowerman reluctantly showed them his papers.
“We’ve got it! We’ve beaten Oregon!” Flaminio called out to his teammates. The Broncos had won the NCAA championship with 86 points, besting Oregon with 126.
“It was all a bit surreal,” Burston says. “Here was this little dinky school that had knocked off Oregon and knocked off Miami.”
After the official results came out and the team received their first-place trophy, pictures were taken and a guy from Stanford—Harry McGalla—who had finished just behind Burston in the race, came up to the guys and shook all of their hands. Soon after, they all piled back into cars and drove back to school.
The champions were hardly treated like heroes upon their return. “Everybody expected us to be one of the better teams but I don’t think anybody expected us to win,” Parks says. “When we came back, people didn’t even know where we’d been. The athletic director asked where we were this weekend and I said, ‘At nationals. And, well, we won.’”
Back then, almost all students lived on campus, and a bunch of the guys on the team lived in Vandercook Hall, which was nicknamed “Hungry Hall” because it lacked a cafeteria. When Burston and his teammates got back to Vandercook, they were treated to lunch out. By the time they got back, word of the big win had spread to a few more people. A couple of Burston’s lecturers made comments about the victory and the team was commended during a basketball game the next day. The misspelled trophy given to the school—which read “Cross County Champions”—drew snickers. Though the win marked the school’s first ever NCAA title, there were no wild celebrations. “I don’t think the university thought of itself as capable of winning,” Burston says. “I think I appreciate it more now. It was a pretty big deal, and I don’t think we realized it at the time. We were the first to come first in anything.
The next year, the race distance was upped to six miles from four and the race location moved from East Lansing to the University of Kansas. By then, Burston had graduated and Gallagher had broken his arm going into the meet, but the guys ran hard and brought home the championship again, winning by a greater margin than they had the previous year.
“A lot of our guys weren’t all that good in high school, but they were guys that worked harder than everybody else,” Parks says. They ran together in the mornings before practice and they pushed each other during afternoon workouts—hill repeats, half miles, and quarter-loops of a nearby field. On Sundays they met at Vandercook and set off on 20-mile long runs. They were disciplined, reliable, conscientious. They studied after practice and went to bed early, and though they rarely partied, when they did so it was as a group.
The friendships endured long after graduation, even after some team members left Kalamazoo. Some guys got together to watch college races and a growing group of alumni gathered regularly for reunions. The only outlier was Don Clark, a mysterious sophomore who had disliked Coach Dales’ workouts and preferred to run most of his mileage up and down the roads on his own. After placing 18th in the 1964 championship race, Clark fell away from the group and wasn’t even on the squad in 1965. “The fact is, nobody knows where he is,” Burston says. “We’ve been looking for him for 20 years.”
Burston’s glory days were part of a golden era for WMU. No other team in the school’s history brought home a national title, let alone two in a row. Since 1915 there had been track at WMU, but for the years Dales was in charge, the teams dominated. During his 17-year tenure, 14 teams finished in the top 10 at nationals. And as alumni are quick to point out, there are more track and field athletes in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame than from any other sport.
So it came as a surprise when on December 3, 2003, school administrators decided to eliminate the men’s cross country, indoor, and outdoor track teams in order to save the school money. Athletes and coaches from these teams (plus another that was axed, women’s synchronized skating) were rounded up for an emergency meeting at 10 p.m. and told they could finish the current season but not compete the next year. The next day, the news was confirmed at a press conference: “We know that eliminating any sport diminishes our ability to offer a well-rounded college experience,” said Judith Bailey, the university president. “But we must protect our core academic mission, and doing that in this budget climate means making difficult decisions and reassessing how we use our resources.” Revenue-producing sports, like football, were safe, as were the women’s running teams.
Angered by the news, a group of athletes, alumni and others from the running and university communities rallied to get the team back. They gathered thousands of signatures for a petition, printed the slogan “Save Our Sports” on hats and t-shirts. Students raised banners at other teams’ games, and alumni fundraised to buy advertisements in local papers. The efforts proved influential, winning the support of the students and many other community organizations, but were not enough to convince the school to reinstate the team.
Five years later, the group negotiated with a new administration and made further attempts to “bring back track.” This time, alumni and friends were told that if they could pledge $300,000 and promise to keep giving year after year, the team could come back. Though the initial amount was raised, the continuous-giving plan didn’t fly with the alumni, who believed strongly that the university had a responsibility to fund its own sports teams. Today, many alumni of the track and cross country teams refrain from donating, out of principle, until the team is brought back.
Though the men of ’64 and ’65 don’t expect to see the cross-country team revived, they did get some formal recognition from the school, something many felt was long overdue. On October 21, 2009, both the 1964 and 1965 NCAA championship teams were inducted into the university’s athletic hall of fame. After the group was given a standing ovation, Burston gave a speech that lauded the runners’ accomplishments and thanked their coaches. He concluded by saying that unfortunately their grandsons would never have the opportunity they had, so long as there wasn’t a men’s team.
In early October, the men of Western Michigan plan to have a reunion to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 championship. Burston will be making the trip from Australia. Theirs will be an unofficial reunion, planned and organized by former team members. Bob Parks, who for several years continued to pester WMU’s athletic director with emails about the dropped team, has a suggestion for WMU, leading up to the early October reunion: “If the school wanted to do the right thing, they would announce on the spot, we’re bringing back our men’s cross country team.”
1964 Western Michigan Team at Hall of Fame Dinner
The 1964 Western Michigan cross country team at a 2009 Hall of Fame dinner. (Photo Courtesy of Wolfgang Lugauer.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

V5 N 35 Charlie Thomas, Texas A&M Coach RIP

Former Texas A&M track and field head coach Charlie Thomas passes away

By: Texas A&M Sports Information
Charlie Thomas, former Texas A&M track and field head coach for 32 years, passed away Monday in Bryan at the age of 83.
Charlie Thomas, former Texas A&M track and field head coach for 32 years, passed away Monday in Bryan at the age of 83. Named the head coach at Texas A&M at the age of 28 in 1959, Thomas coached his share of great athletes while some of the world’s best sharpened their skills under his direction.
Even after his retirement in 1990, his enthusiasm for the sport and the success of Aggie endeavors never wavered.
“Charlie was a great athlete and coach, but just as important as that he was also a true gentleman and leader within our sport,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “He was a great Aggie who loved Texas A&M. He will never be forgotten in the track and field world and will live on here at Texas A&M for being the coach and man he was for his athletes and this institution.”
The family will receive friends from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Friday, January 30, 2015 at Memorial Funeral Chapel in Bryan. A private family graveside service will be held at a later time.
During his coaching career at Texas A&M, Thomas coached eight world and American record holders, three Olympic gold medalists, two Olympic silver medalists, nine Olympic qualifiers, 22 NCAA individual champions, and seven collegiate record holders.
Aggie athletes under his direction were awarded 105 All-America honors and included 124 SWC individual champions. His teams also excelled in winning SWC outdoor and indoor titles as well as placing among the top 10 at the NCAA Championships with second, third, fourth, and sixth place finishes among Texas A&M’s best efforts.
Coach Thomas was inducted into the University of Texas Hall of Honor in 1981, Meet of Champions Hall of Fame in 1985, Border Olympics Hall of Fame in 1990 and The Texas A&M Hall of Fame in 1996.
He joins D.X. Bible as the only two people to be honored by the Longhorn Hall of Honor and the Texas A&M Hall of Fame.
In high school Thomas won five gold medals in the Texas State meet as a sprinter at Splendora and Cleveland high schools between 1948 and 1950.
While attending the University of Texas, he never lost a 220 yard race in the state of Texas during his career. In 1952, he anchored the University of Texas world record in the 440 yard sprint relay. In 1954 he ranked number one in the world in the 220 yard sprint.
Thomas competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1952 after his sophomore season and finished fourth in the 220 yard trials; missing a place on the U.S. Olympic team by inches. He could not compete in the 1956 trials because he was considered a “professional” as a track coach.
After graduating from the University of Texas with a certificate as an athletic trainer, Charlie was the head track coach at East Texas State University from 1956-1958; leading his teams to three straight Lone Star Conference championships. While coaching at East Texas State, he received his Master's Degree.

Texas A&M Head Track Coaches 1959-Present (Ted Nelson, Charlie Thomas, Pat Henry)

Charlie Thomas was named Texas A&M's head track coach in 1959 at age 28

Charlie Thomas coached eight world and American record holders, three Olympic gold medalists, two Olympic silver medalists, nine Olympic qualifiers

V5 N 34 Julius Gyula Penzes RIP

This picture appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1957
Julius Gyula Penzes passed away on Friday April 17, 2015.   He was ranked 6th in the world in the 10,000 meters for Hungary in 1953.  He is listed having run 10,000 in 29:48.2 on Oct. 4, 1953, and 30:43.2 set Nov. 4, 1951.  These meets were really late in the year, but that 's the way European track can be.     I only learned of him through another Hungarian/American athlete,  Les Hegedus, who we wrote about in 2013 in this blog.   See:

V 5 N 33 Untimely Death of Ron Stapleton, U. of Cincinnati All American

I received this email from Coach Bill Schnier (1980-2013) about the death of a former Bearcat Cross Country All American in Southern California this weekend.  Even though I never knew Mr. Stapleton nor anything about his exploits, I feel that this blog is a place to remember people who have been a part of our sport and done positive things for it.   Our sympathies go out to his family.  GB

 This article, together with a phone call yesterday from Chuck Hunsaker, announces the death of Ron Stapleton in a car accident on Friday in California.  He was rear-ended by another car whose driver was suspected of texting at the time.  
   Ron was an All-American cross country and track runner at UC in the 1970s as well as a team captain and leader of his teams.  His highest cross country place was 23rd in the 1971 NCAA Cross Country Championships making him UC's first All-American in either cross country or track and field.  In addition, he qualified for the NCAAs in track in 1972 (indoor mile, outdoor 5,000 meters) and 1973 (indoor mile, outdoor 3 mile).  He is still the UC record holder in the mile run, 3 mile run and was the UC record holder for 5,000 meters upon his graduation in 1972.  In 2013 he was inducted into the University of Cincinnati James P. Kelly Athletic Hall of Fame.
   Bill Schnier

Ron Stapleton (Left) at his 2013 induction into the U. of Cincinnati Hall of Fame
along with Julie Dupont Fitzgerald, Kenyaon Martin, and Gino Guidugli

An Orange County man was killed in a collision on I-15 in Eastvale on Friday, April 17, California Highway Patrol and Riverside County Coroner's officials said.
A white van and a white pickup truck collided about 9:42 a.m. on the northbound side south of the Highway 60 interchange, a CHP incident log said. About six vehicles total got involved in the crash, creating a pileup and temporarily closing at least two lanes, the log said.
The coroner identified the victim as Ronald Stapleton, 63, of Laguna Hills.

Phil Scott just sent this about Ron

Al Lanier and Ron were buddies. He was our grad assistant my first year at u.c. He lived just few floors up from me in Scioto. Ronnie was a fun guy and real influence in a positive way when I needed. Wow just talked to a man Sat. who had Mentor H. S. JACKET on. (Ron's HS?). He knew of this running legend there. Wow David Stanton followed Ron  around like a pup. He told Ronnie he was going to break the steeple chase record first time he was to run it. Ronnie said go to the front stay out of trouble and you're full of crap if you think you  can break the  record. Dave broke the record, he was not full of crap, he went to front never looked back. Like a 9.04??? At MTSU (Middle Tennessee State U.)1974.

V5 N 32 David Hemery 68 400 IH Gold Medalist to Attempt London Marathon

Found this piece in "The Telegraph" today, it was also mentioned on TF&N's website.  Nice little background piece.  He'll be running the London marathon in 48 sec. intervals with 60 seconds walking.  The article also describes how Mr. Hemery made a few dollars in the Brit equivalent of Sports Superstars and was able to make a down payment on his first house,  then moved to Boston, where here coached at BU for a number of years.    If I recall,  Peter Snell got a little nest egg on the American version of that show and was able to fund his way to grad school in the States to become an exercise physiologist.   A group of my friends and myself included used to refer to the program as "Trash Sports",  but it looks like it did have a few positive outcomes for the participants.  NFL'ers didn't fare too well in this show.

David Hemery: why I am running the marathon aged 70

The Olympic gold medallist is running the London 2015 marathon in 48 second bursts. Harry Wallop meets him to find out why

David Hemery, holding the union flag from the closing ceremony of the 1968 Mexico games, in his garden in Wiltshire
David Hemery, holding the union flag from the closing ceremony of the 1968 Mexico games, in his garden in Wiltshire Photo: Jay Williams 2015
At every London marathon there are always a small number of Olympic gold medallists attempting this endurance race. And there are also invariably a clutch of septuagenarians proving age is no barrier to running 26 miles.
This year is no different – former rowers James Cracknell and Zac Purchase are lining up on April 27, so too about 150 people in their eighth decade.
But 2015 is likely to be the very first time when these two circles in the Venn diagram cross over and an Olympic gold medal winner in their seventies gives it a go.
It is David Hemery, the “man killer of Mexico,” who won gold and smashed the world record in the 400 metres hurdles in 1968.

David Hemery on his way to winning the gold medal in the 400m hurdles, in the Olympic Games, Mexico 1968
He doesn’t much look like a “man killer”, or an ant killer for that matter. He is lounging, feet up, in the slightly scruffy study in his very cosy Wiltshire home, in front of a crackling fire, a dog at his side, and a garden full of 10 alpacas, two ponies, a pair of geese and seven chickens.
Dr Dolittle of Devizes is coming out of retirement.
The majority of his fellow runners are unlikely to recognise him. But to people of a certain era he will be forever associated with one of the most famous pieces of sports commentary of all time.
David Coleman, the man behind the BBC microphone, crackling all the way down the satellite link from Mexico City's Estadio OlĂ­mpico Universitario, could not contain his excitement.
"It's Hemery Great Britain, it's Hemery Great Britain, it's Hemery with one barrier to go," Coleman said in his machine gun rata-tat-tat delivery at an estimated 200 words a minute (almost a record itself). "And David Hemery is going to take the gold. David Hemery wins for Britain! Hemery takes the gold, in second place Hennige and who cares who's third? It doesn't matter."
It was actually another Brit in third. It helped spawn “Colemanballs”, the merciless column in Private Eye, which lampooned the commentator’s gaffes. But those who had stayed up late to watch knew what Coleman meant – Hemery had eviscerated the field and finished a full 8 metres ahead of anyone else. The 400m hurdles was always described as the "man killer" event, requiring a steely toughness. Coleman added Hemery "killed the rest of the field".
Not that he realised it at the time.
“I didn't know after I'd crossed the line,” he recalls. He had looked to the right and seen no one had overtaken. “But then I thought. ‘Oh no, I never looked to my left. Did I win?’ The first thing I asked the BBC interviewer, when he came onto the track, was 'Did I win?'. I didn't know. I was running scared for the last fifty metres.”
He describes the sensation as he ran for the line as no different than if someone had pulled a knife. “It's the adrenalin. I was literally, running scared. It’s the fear they are gaining on you and they will overtake you."

David Hemery in 1998
The race, along with Coleman’s commentary, made Hemery famous. This was, after all, an era when a British Olympic gold medal was a precious and rare thing. He was helped by his distinctive looks – a sweep of blond hair, shaggy sideburns, and a Roman nose large enough to pole vault over.
“Someone once said I had a recognisable physiognomy", he says wryly. "People still come up in the street and say: "Are you Dave Hemery?”
But what really made him a household name was the BBC Sunday afternoon show, Superstars – a strange, but phenomenally successful, hybrid of It’s a Knockout and Grandstand. It gathered some of the best sportsmen of the time and got them to compete in a range of completely different sports, including a rather brutal gym test. The calibre of the contestants was astonishing. Alongside Hemery, there was Jackie Stewart, Bobby Moore, Joe Bugner, Roger Taylor, Tony Jacklin and Barry John. “We were called the magnificent seven. What a great group. I loved it.”
Of course, now, no football club or Formula One team would allow their star performer to risk injuring themselves doing squat thrusts or cycling around an athletics track, let alone for peanuts money. “Modern sports stars paid far too much. Most of us were complete amateurs.”
Hemery and the rest were not paid a large appearance fees. "I think they might have paid us £250 to turn up. But I turned up for the fun. And the challenge.”
And, also, the prize money, which was for the mid 1970s, pretty considerable: £4,000.
Hemery won not just the first series, but two others.

Kevin Keegan, competing in a 1970s BBC Superstars cycling event
“I put a deposit down on a house with my first Superstars win. It was quite a lot of money. I put £2,500 down on a flat in London, in Fortis Green, north London. That doubled in value, which I took to the US [where he worked as a head coach at Boston University] and meant we could buy a house there, and that doubled in value which allowed us to put a deposit down on this …” he points to this modest, but comfortable cottage a mile up a country lane. His wife, Vivian is in the kitchen cooking a frozen Waitrose pizza for their lunch. Along with their menagerie in the garden, it seems a pretty idyllic life.
He has Coleman to thank too, in a roundabout way, for his appearance in this year’s marathon.
It was at a celebration for the commentator’s life at the BBC – after his death at the end of 2013 – that Hemery bumped into Dave Bedford, fellow former athlete and long-time director of the marathon.

Runners in the London Marathon passing Buckingham Palace
“He said, ‘you haven't done London, have you’. And I said: ‘Why would I want to do that, as a sprint hurdler?’
“And he said: ‘Because you could earn your charity a quarter of a million pounds’.”
His charity is an educational one called 21st Century Legacy. Lord Coe asked him to set it up to help the London Olympics deliver on its promise that it would “inspire a generation”, a promise many feel has withered, as playing fields have been sold off and participation in sport has failed to increase.
21st Century Legacy is not about inspiring future sports stars, per se, but giving schoolchildren ambition to “be the best they can be”, even if that means no more than improving their handwriting. It sends inspirational speakers to schools – often former gold medal winners – and trains teachers to “unlock potential”. It has a whiff of management training gobbledegook about it, which is how Hemery has been earning his living for the last couple of decades, after a stint as a teacher himself. There is a lot of talk about “the shift going on in education from a didactic approach to an enhanced facilitation, child-centred style.”
But 160,000 schoolchildren have taken the course and Hemery insists the programme leads directly to better behaviour and results within schools.
His own potential is being unlocked come April 27, because he intends to treat the marathon as an extreme form of interval training: running for 48 seconds, his world record time from Mexico, and then walking for a minute. Repeatedly. For 26 miles and 385 yards. It should take 5 and half hours.
“It’s mostly because I can’t sustain a run anymore,” he says.
It will be an impressive feat if he can sustain his sprint-walk for 26 miles, though a number of increasingly senior athletes are hitting the track. Earlier this year, 95-year-old Charles Eugster ran 200m in 55.48 seconds.
There was a time when extreme fitness training was Hemery's bread and butter. In the run up to the Olympics in 1972 he’d do 500 press ups and 500 sits up every single day, and run 10 miles in between.
He's still the same weight as he was in '68 but he now trains by going out with his wife, who rides a horse-drawn carriage across the Wiltshire countryside. “I run beside it, and when I am out of breath, I jump on the back. When I get my breath back, I leap off and run ahead and open the gates.”
His marathon tilt will certainly catch the eye. If only David Coleman were still around to commentate.
• You can sponsor David Hemery's marathon here:http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DavidHemery

Sunday, April 19, 2015

V.5 N 31 Memories of John Jacobs, University of Oklahoma Coach

I recently found this article in the Oklahoma University Athletics site written by Debbie Copps.

When I first enrolled at the University of Oklahoma in September, 1961    I had the privilege of 
meeting Jake, whose name now hangs over the OU track facilities and is also commemorated by
the John Jacobs Invitational that was run this past weekend.  

Jake became the coach at OU in 1922 and 'retired' in 1957.  One of his own athletes, Bill Carroll, 
NCAA pole champ in 1952, succeeded him for another seven years, followed by J.D. Martin, also a 
Jake boy, for another 37 years.   So that is a span of 79 years where Jake's influence was felt directly or indirectly by Oklahoma athletes.   No gathering of older OU track men goes without the exchange of several  'Jake' stories.    He coached in a day before science was a part of the input that went into training and coaching decisions.   His homespun humor was extraordinary.   His workouts on the bulletin board were punctuated by some of his humor.   If the workout was to be run hard it was followed by the term  C&A.      A couple of us greenhorns approached Jake about that one.  Jake replied, that means how you get thrown out of a bar.  The bouncer grabs you by the collar and the asshole , and out you go.    If you got passed too easily in a race or a workout , he called it 'pulling calf rope'.    Jake's son Bill transferred from the basketball team to the track team and won the 
conference championship in the 880.   He took teams to the Drake Relays when Knute Rockne was
also taking teams there before he became the legendary football coach at Notre Dame.  They were
inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame on the same day.    Some of his life appears in the 
article below.  A lot remains in our memories.

John Jacobs (right) and his son, Bill, who had his own successful Sooner career
Who Is John Jacobs?
April 16, 2015
NORMAN – Who exactly was John Jacobs, the man for whom the University of Oklahoma’s track and field facility is named and whose name has been on this weekend’s track and field meet for 46 years now?
Once you read through his accomplishments, it would be most appropriate to call him the “father of track and field” at the University of Oklahoma. Before his death in 1978, if you had called him that, you had better have been a world class sprinter. The all-around OU athlete and longest tenured Sooner coach at the time of his retirement would not have been shy about his displeasure at your words.
Jacobs arrived at the University of Oklahoma as a collegiate track and field athlete in 1911, starting what would ultimately be a nearly 57-year relationship between Jacobs and the University of Oklahoma. Born in Garland, Texas, in 1892, Jacobs came to OU from the small town of Mangum, deep in the short grass part of the state of Oklahoma. His last year of high school came in 1910 but he never graduated before he  came to OU. To avoid the boredom of the required gymnasium classes for non athletes, he took up track even though he had never seen a track shoe.
He quickly became a track and field sensation. He ran the hurdles and was the leadoff man on the mile relay team. He also competed in the high jump and the broad jump, now known as the long jump. Before his graduation, he had tied a world record in the 120-yard high hurdles, running on a sandy track in Weatherford. He owned a number of dirt track records at the time of his graduation from OU.
After his graduation with a bachelor’s degree in history, Jacobs coached high school sports in Sherman, Texas, Corsicana, Texas, and Ponca City. In 1922, then OU Director of Athletics Bennie Owen named Jacobs the head track and field coach and the rest is Sooner history.
The success of his athletes and, in reality his success as a coach, earned the Texas born coach multiple honors. In 1957, he was inducted into the Helms Foundation Track and Field Hall of Fame. Jacobs, as usual, had a response that started with humor, then wrapped around to what he really felt. “They must give those things on longevity. Seriously, how can I convince myself that I deserve this fine honor? Please convey my thanks and appreciation.”
In 1955, he was named Track Coach of the Year by the Knute Rockne Club of Kansas City. In 1977, he was inducted into the old Oklahoma Athletic Hall of Fame and, in 2003, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame two years after his death in 1978.

He developed six Olympians as the Sooner coach – Tom Churchill, decathlon, 1928; Glenn Dawson, 3000-meter steeplechase, 1932 and 1936; J.W. Mashburn, who ran on the mile relay, 1956; Neville Price, broad jumper for South Africa, 1956; Anthony Watson, broad jumper, 1960; and Mike Lindsay, shot put/discus for Great Britain, 1960. He was the honorary referee of the 1943 Texas Relays, the 1950 Kansas Relays and the 1951 Drake Relays and ultimately served as the honorary referee for every major relay carnival. He also served as the referee of the National Collegiate meet.
To John Jacobs. A fierce, but friendly and always honorable opponent.
On a plaque presented by Big Eight coaches upon his retirement
His indoor teams swept three conference indoor championships without a heated indoor track in which to practice and added a fourth later in his career. Nine others placed second. His outdoor team won 19 consecutive dual meets in 1924-29 and won the conference crown in 1935, 1961 and 1962.
He coached six Sooners who won outdoor NCAA titles – Frank Potts, pole vault, 1925;Parker Shelby, high jump, 1929; Floyd Lochner, two mile, 1935; Bill Lyda, 880, 1942; J.D. Martin, pole vault, 1960; and Anthony Watson, broad jump, 1962. He coached a double national indoor champion, Bill Calhoun, who won the 60-yard dash in 1966 and the 440-yard dash in 1967.
When he offered to step down as head coach but to remain on the staff as the associate coach, Jacobs assured people that “I’m not quitting, I’m just slipping. Lately, I’ve caught myself telling the same fish story three or four times to the same person.”
When OU built a new outdoor track and field facility in 1957, Jacobs was the one to design it. Competition on the new track was fast as nine conference records were broken in 10 running events during the Big Eight Conference meet in 1959. OU’s longtime sports information director Harold Keithsuggested the new facility be named for Jacobs, who had served as OU’s head coach for 35 years at that point. While the standing policy at the time was to not name facilities for people who were still alive, in 1962, the regents reversed that policy and John Jacobs Field was named.
In July 1968, Jacobs stepped away from coaching completely. He told people that “he had tried to retire in 1957 but the administration got busy hiring all those football coaches and forgot to take me off the payroll.
“If I can’t fish, I can’t coach. My health has been bad – have everything in the almanac -- and if I go fishing in the morning, it’s hard for me to coach track that afternoon. Track practice lasts all day anymore. Not like it used to be.”
He went on to explain further. “The big difference is what I call alternate running. Today a guy will run 20 quarters in practice and walk 220 yards in between each of them. We never did this in the old days. A miler would run a mile in practice. Now they run all around it. And they run a lot more.”
Jacobs had a unique way of coaching, using humor and home-spun advice, something those who competed for him remembered long after their OU careers were over. He achieved results almost as much with his humor as by his actual coaching. It also made entertainment out of what is so often drudgery in track and field training. Much of his instruction was not only funny but also bore the stamp of truth.
One of those who lived with what he learned from Jacobs was Bill Weaver, who would later change his first name to Dennis and play Chester in Gunsmoke. In 1946, as Bill Weaver, he competed in the decathlon for Jacobs and OU. Making a presentation to Jacobs in later years, Weaver praised his coach for his wisdom. “There is a philosophy about his coaching that you can carry all through your life.”
Jacobs, called the Will Rogers of the red dirt track by one writer, often had football players join the track and field team in the spring and he cautioned them before their first competition by sharing that “In a track meet, you are on your own. You just can’t put on a helmet and hide behind 10 other guys.” That sense of being alone is part of the reason that Jacobs would often disappear high into the stands or under the scoreboard once the meet started. He also did that because he believed the meets were about the athletes and not the coaches.
He had an extremely talented hurdler who had a habit of swinging his left arm above his head while clearing the hurdle. Jacobs told the young man that “you hurdle like the ancient Greeks. They used to hurdle for beauty. The idea was to go over the hurdle looking beautiful (at this point, Jacobs would go into an exaggerated pose of gracefulness). The one that got the most cheers won. Hurdling for beauty.”
That hurdler would later praise his coach’s words that gave him an image of what he was doing wrong. “If he had showed me how to do it right, he would have had to tell me a dozen times. I saw instantly what he meant when he gave me the business about an ancient Greek hurdler. Then, I was ready to listen to his actual instructions about how to get that hand down out of my face.”
One of his half milers, who was a voice major, was late to practice one afternoon right before the Big Seven Conference meet. He apologized to his coach, explaining that he had to make up a voice lab he missed when the team made its annual trip to the Drake Relays. His coach responded in typical form. “You sang all the way up there in the back seat of the car. I’ll give you an affidavit on that.”
Jacobs, who let his “boys” call him Jake after their freshman years, had a coaching career that spanned 46 years, going from the days of running on a dirt track and relay runners touching fingers to expanded events, alternate training methods and desegregation.
There were no scholarships for track and field when he was brought to Oklahoma to build the program. He would bring athletes to Norman, then find unique jobs for them so they could pay bills. The national champion and three-time Drake Relay champion, Shelby, was an attendant at the state mental hospital on the east side of Norman. Another man worked the overnight shift at the railroad express office and had to be awakened in the afternoon to throw the javelin. Another national champion, Lochner, brought a Jersey cow to town with him and would wake before dawn to milk her and peddle the milk to a customer route.
His Sooners trained for years in an area that few would believe today. An open air indoor dirt track was located under the stands on the east side of the stadium. Jacobs coined the term “Pneumonia Downs” and it was an area used by many Sooner sports to train in the often fierce Oklahoma winters. When snow would melt and drip through the stands onto the “track,” umbrellas were an important piece of training and competition equipment. Jacobs knew that it took a special kind of athlete to be able to train and to succeed at Pneumonia Downs. “Only kids who were raised on bean soup and corn bread can stand up under here.”
Jacobs always downplayed his impact as the head coach. One year, the favored Sooners had just about everything go wrong during the indoor conference meet. Athletes pulled muscles, ran into each other and knocked each other out of the race. Finally, the Sooners’ vaunted mile relay got knocked out of the championship with yet another injury. When Jacobs returned to the hotel, someone had stolen his beloved hat.
A few weeks later, the Sooners ruled at the Texas Relays. When someone praised Jacobs for his team’s performance, he pushed it aside. “This is sure some hat I bought. If anything, this is a faster hat than the old one.
Still, some of his advice rings true today.

On a trip to Nebraska during the war, Jacobs, who left notes hand written in pencil tacked to the locker room door for his team as a way of communicating with them, shared that “At this time, it is almost impossible to get hotel rooms for a track team. Please leave the rooms at Lincoln intact. We have several trips and need to be in good standing with all hotels. They know who is in the rooms and so do I. Thank you.” He signed the note Rev. Jake.
Ultimately, Jacobs understood what was important to success in track and field. “Pleasure and fun should be the chief aim in track. Most track athletes are over coached. I’d lots rather have my men in good mental condition than worrying about form. Some of the best men I ever had forgot everything I’d told them the minute the gun fired.”
He also had a commitment to integrity that stood the test of time. During a wartime dual at Pneumonia Downs with Kansas, the meet came down to the final event, the mile relay. OU won the relay, and the meet, when the Sooners’ anchor leg dove under the string to pass the KU runner. When the KU coached protested that his runner’s feet had crossed the finish line first, Jacobs assembled the judges and explained the rule. The result – Kansas won the relay and the dual.
The respect Jacobs earned through his career was represented quite appropriately on a 14-inch walnut plaque presented to him in 1958 by his fellow Big Eight coaches. The inscription read “To John Jacobs. A fierce, but friendly and always honorable opponent.”

Jacobs and his wife, Daphne, had two sons, Bill and John. A fourth generation of the Jacobs family, Hannah Jacobs, is working as a manager for the Sooner track team.
It appears that Jake’s influence continues through today – his name on the facility, his name on the meet and his great-granddaughter who continues to serve OU.
JAKE-ISMS On growing older:
“The older we get, the faster we were when we were boys.”
On human nature:
“There was never a man who couldn’t be took.”
To a sprinter who got off his blocks to slowly:
“You back up like a freight train before you start.”
After being named the honorary referee for the Texas Relays in 1943:
“An honorary referee is just like an honorary pall bearer. Too old to carry the casket.”
About an athlete who had recorded great grades:
“You have to be eligible … you just don’t have to be that eligible.”
To a distance runner who didn’t sprint to the finish line:
“If you could have broke into a pert walk that last 100 yards, you’d have won. Don’t drown within a foot of the bank.”
About a shot putter who was struggling in competition:
“He stands too close to his instrument after he follows through.”
After a talented high school discus thrower had thrown a collegiate discus 132 feet, Jacobs, pointing to two Sooner discus throwers:
“I’m getting up a relay team to throw it back to him.”
On his induction into the Helms Foundation Track and Field Hall of Fame:
“I backed in but they can’t back out.”
In filing the first protest in his 30-year career in 1952 over the disqualification of a Sooner relay at the Texas Relays:
“Going 46 miles an hour in a 45-mile zone is against the law. I just wanted to be sure our man was making 46. In my opinion, he was not but nobody’s going to believe a coach.”
To a young sprinter who was very slender:
“You warmed up good? I’m not worried about you pulling a muscle but you might pull a bone.”
To a distance runner who always looked behind him while running:
“Don’t bother about looking back. There won’t be anybody behind you.”
By Debbie Copp, OU Athletics

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