Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Sunday, September 30, 2018

V 8 N. 61 A 2018 Track and Travel on the Eastern Front by Paul O'Shea

Track and Travel On The Eastern Front  

By Paul O’Shea

Track and Field News, the trade journal for those of us who pay obsessive attention to
athletes who run, jump and throw, offered an attractive travel package this past summer.

I took advantage of their plan: Attend three prestigious track meets in three countries.
Wrap them with tourist-type visits to six cities (Brussels, Zagreb, Ostrava, Budapest,
Krakow, Warsaw) in five European countries (Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, Czech
Republic, Poland). Negotiate five separate currencies: kuna, koruna, florint and zloty,
in addition to the Euro. See first hand what the Nazis did in the most notorious of
concentration camps.

Ours was a well-traveled group of retirees, those still working, and other track and travel
enthusiasts.  The award for the most distant visitors went to a six-person group from
South Africa. Another contender came from Calgary.  Many were California and
Oregon residents. One tour member was retired from the National Security Agency, a
second was a homebuilder, a third a retired physician.

We had a city tour in each of the cities.  Most of our cultural and historical investigation
was done on foot, often on surfaces that were troublesome  bricks or cobblestones.
In Krakow, for example, we walked five miles, up and down to see the cathedral and

Red-Bulled daily in the States by political developments, keeping up with the news
overseas was a challenge.  CNN was available each day but only covered a few
international stories. The New York Times has a truncated international edition, running
op-ed columns primarily, and I was only able to get half-dozen issues over the eighteen
days.  No PBS NewsHour.

At the onset of my travels, the overnight flight from Dulles to Frankfurt was uneventful.
Then, two hours later another flight to Brussels, the site of our hotel and first track meet.
But I arrived too early (about seven a.m.) and couldn’t get into my room to get needed
sleep until two in the afternoon.  

Hotel Pullman was adjacent to the Brussels train station, so I waited inside, watching the
travelers and suitcases march by.  My room on the seventh floor gave me a good view of
some 22 or so railroad tracks sprawled below. The station was the final stop for sleek,
long distance trains and shoebox-looking commuters.  It wasn’t unusual to see as many
as five or six trains coming in to or out of the station, slithering past each other.

Some sixty of us convened in Brussels, with one of the year’s premier events, a Diamond
League track meet, kicking off the schedule.  A Diamond League event ranks just below
the World Championships and the Olympic Games, with many world-class athletes
performing in a one-day recital.
The Brussels meet concluded a fourteen-city competition that brings together the sport’s
elite.  This promise proved to be reality when we witnessed the fourth fastest men’s five
thousand meters ever run, by a nineteen-year-old Ethiopian.  From my view it was the
outstanding performance in the three meets we attended.

After Brussels we flew to Croatia’s capital and largest city, Zagreb, the only air travel on
the trip.  The next morning we toured the city and had the rest of the day free. On the
following day I elected to go to the oldest and largest national park in Croatia, Plitvice
Lakes, about two hours’ drive. The property has sixteen large and small lakes, and a
stunning 78-meter  waterfall. To get to them we had to walk down and up about two
miles of slippery stones and wooden planking. The only rain we saw in the two weeks
fell that day just as we were ending the park tour.

That evening we went to the Zagreb IWC meet at the snug Sports Park Mladost stadium,
and watched Nigel Amos of Botswana
win the 800 and Kenya’s Elijah Manangoi take
the 1500.

We motored a little over two hundred miles to our next destination, the beautiful city of
Budapest, split in two by the Danube River. Almost every evening we were on our own
for  dinner, so we sampled plenty of Eastern European cuisine, often meat and potatoes.
Gundel is reputed to be the city’s finest restaurant, and it does have some charm with its
Olde European décor, six-piece orchestra and  offerings of Hungarian Goulash Soup and
Breaded Quail. After a rhubarb and strawberry cold soup starter, I had venison.

At Gundel, I was joined by two other tour compatriots, and remarked how much it
resembled Luchow’s, the one-hundred-year-old restaurant with similar ambience, menu
and string orchestra I had come to know while working in New York City in the Sixties.
Sitting at the next table to us at Gundel were nearby diners who heard me suggest the
comparison, knew Luchow’s, and we talked about its demise in the 1980s.

Then on to Ostrava, a three hundred mile bus ride through the agricultural and light
industrial countryside.

Ostrava is the Czech Republic’s third largest city. There we saw the Continental Cup
track meet, an unusual competition with scoring that pitted continents, not countries
against each other.  The four competing continents were: The Americas (joining both
North and South), Europe, Africa, and Asia-Pacific. Internationally there is an unequal
distribution of track talent, so the principal competitors proved to be the Americas and
Europe, with the Americas winning over Europe, 262 to 233.

I have been to hundreds of track meets over the years, but the Continental Cup in
Ostrava provided a new experience: a glider passed over City Stadium a half-dozen
times. After conducting due diligence, with javelins jousting for air space, the pilot
decided it was not a desirable landing field.

Ostrava also provided one of the trip’s most unusual sites, Dolni Vitkovice.  After 170
years of continuous production, the manufacturing of pig iron was discontinued. The
rusty remains of the iron and coal industry were left as a site to be visited as huge,
abandoned industrial monuments.  It was the first in the Czech Republic to receive a
European cultural heritage designation.


Our penultimate tour leg was about 150 miles away in Krakow, the second largest city in
Poland. Situated on the Vistula River, it is one of Europe’s loveliest. The hotel in
Krakow proved a lodging challenge when I read the room number on the room key jacket
as 326 when it was actually 324.  Three trips to the check-in counter finally solved the
puzzle and I didn’t have to sleep in the halls.
As soon as the trip itinerary was announced last year, tour members suggested going to
Auschwitz, about thirty miles from our stay in Krakow.  And so we did. I knew that it
was one of the most notorious of the concentration camps, with an unimaginable
1.1 million executed, about 90 per cent Jews.

After passing under its extraordinarily ironic signage, Arbeit macht frei  (Work Sets You
Free), we walked through the grounds and inside buildings that housed the prisoners
waiting to die of starvation, bullets or gas.  We saw the huge accumulation of hair, shorn
from women before entering the gas chamber. There were collections of empty hydrogen
cyanide Zyklon B canisters used to asphyxiate the prisoners, further evidence of the
enormity of the catastrophe.

Just a few hundred meters away were small towns and villages, seemingly unaware of the
horrors committed less than seventy years ago.

But it wasn’t until I saw the photos of hundreds who were doomed, captured for the rest
of time, that the genocide became real.  On each wall of a long hallway were individual
photos of prisoners. The photographer, himself a prisoner, took 70,000 photos of men and
women, all wearing triangular badges which identified them as political prisoners,
common criminals, gypsies, Jews, homosexuals. William Brasse’s autobiography was in
the gift shop.

Finally, to Warsaw, which I thought the most interesting of the six cities.  We toured the
Warsaw Ghetto, famed for its uprising, commemorated by a magnificent series of
Warsaw Ghetto Today
We stayed at the Hotel Bristol, left undamaged because the Nazis occupied
it during the Second World War.
Hotel Bristol
 Chopin is revered here, and you can sit on a bench,

waiting for transportation, punch a button and hear his Polonaise.

Going home, on the first of two legs, I flew from Warsaw to Frankfurt with one of the
tour members, Michael Griffin.  When we disembarked from the plane in that city, a
pleasant surprise. Because we were flying Lufthansa and business class, evidently
Porsche has an arrangement with the airline, because idling next to the plane and awaiting
our arrival was a gleaming new Porsche Panamera (the four-door sedan),
deputized to

take the two of us about ten minutes away to our next gates. I resisted going to the Duty
Free and taking a Panamera home. Those overheads are always so crowded.

September, 2018

 I really enjoyed this piece because it coupled T&F with travel.  Most intriguing was their trip to Auschwitz, surely a grim experience at the world's worst death camp.  I visited Dachau near Munich which was set up for executions but not so much used for those purposes, mainly work and detention.  The pictures of those cities are spectacular but they are also places where most Americans, including me, have never seen.  The world is indeed a big and beautiful place.       Bill Schnier

Sunday, September 23, 2018

V 8 N. 60 Clifton 'Butch' Sower Remembered

Butch Sower in the late 1970s
(Sept. 23, 2018)
A few days ago we talked about the remarkable recovery of Marc Arce, former University of
Findlay (Ohio) track and cross country coach after a devastating bicycle accident.  Today we have to report on another tragic accident that took the life of Clifton 'Butch' Sower of West Liberty, Ohio, also the result of a bicycle crash.  I saw some reference to Butch's accident and passing in a series of emails, but I did not recognize the name.  A little sleuthing on Google led me to Butch's obituary published in the Columbus Post Dispatch. (see below).

In the late 1970's Butch was a standout track and cross country runner in Ohio high school representing West Liberty-Salem HS.  West Liberty (pop. 2000)  is a small town in Logan County northwest of Columbus that has a long history of tough runners.  The Big Orange Shoe Store , affectionately known as BOSS,  in town has  survived for years solely selling running gear in that  small market,  a testimony to the importance of running in West Liberty.  Runners often came from 30 or 40 miles to shop at Big Orange.

Butch had some flaws as you will see if you read his obituary, but there was a lot  more to Butch  than the flaws mentioned, and his good deeds and effort to redeem himself are what is truly  important.

Butch was the man in his high school days.  He didn't run in college, he didn't move on in the sport.  This blog normally only talks about the big names in the sport, but there was a sentence or two in Butch's obituary that told me something about his character.

"In 1977, Sower stopped to help a runner who had fallen, resuming a cross country race to win. The next year, he came in second in the 2-mile state championship, stumbling before the finish and being beaten by the same runner he had helped...."

This is a strong parallel  to the story of John Landy stopping to help a fellow runner, Ron Clarke, then a schoolboy, during a mile race that Landy went on to win.

When we judge people, it should be by these kinds of small, spontaneous acts that tell us more about a person's character than a long thought out act that weighs the pros and cons of what we do in life.  It tells us something about the inner workings of an individual more than what academic credentials in our resumes can say about us.  And for that I choose to honor Butch in this blog.

Butch at the recent BOSS run

He graduated from West Liberty-Salem in 1978.
Butch was All-Ohio in cross country and track.
He helped the Tigers win state titles in cross country in '76 and '77.

Headed home after a long bicycle ride in Logan County last week, Clifton “Butch” Sower might have been trying to avoid a large turtle before he was found thrown from his bike on Route 287.
The animal, which had been dead for some time, was found in the westbound lane near Sower on Aug. 29, according to a State Highway Patrol report.
Sower, 58, of West Liberty, was flown to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, where he died Tuesday. An autopsy will determine the cause of death. He was not wearing a helmet.
His sister, Ann Vogel, called the tragedy a fitting end for her older brother, whom she described as a “tortured, beautiful soul.”

“He loved his animals,” she said. He grew up with pets — chickens, dogs, cats. He built a two-story doghouse with carpet and windows.
Sower was raised in the village, was a standout athlete at West Liberty-Salem High School in the late 1970s and was known for his sportsmanship, his sister said.
In 1977, Sower stopped to help a runner who had fallen, resuming a cross country race to win. The next year, he came in second in the 2-mile state championship, stumbling before the finish and being beaten by the same runner he had helped, said Vogel, 51.
“That’s who he was. He was always fighting the good fight. He was a big tipper; he was a giver. He was an organ donor,” Vogel said.
Sower, a carpenter, also struggled with alcoholism.  He had been charged several times  with drunken driving - landing in jail after the last one three years ago.
After his release in May, he vowed redemption, Vogel said.  He resumed his life
long love of running, up to 40 miles a week.  He bought a bicycle and rode up to 100 
miles weekly with a friend.
As for the turtle: "It's a great mystery." Vogel said.  "We just don't know.  Maybe he 
hit it. Maybe he was going too fast."
His last footrace was 10 days before the crash.  The BOSS Run was to support the 
West Liberty High School cross country team.
I didn't know Butch Sower but I did know his teammates, Corey Frost and Earl Zilles as well as their coach, Ken Lehmann. WLS was an absolute powerhouse during the 1970s.  Nice article.     Bill

Friday, September 21, 2018

V8 N. 59 MARCH, 1968, #2

MARCH , 1968 (#2)

In the three previous NCAA indoor championship meets, there have been no double winners. This year Jim Ryun and Bob Beaman turn the trick.

Beaman dominates the long jump, breaking Rainer Stenius' meet record on all five of his legal jumps en route to raising his own WR to 27-2¾. (more on Stenius below) Whereas the long jump was never in doubt, the triple jump was. After jumping 52-3 on his second jump, Beaman meant to say that he was passing his final jump in the trials, but instead of saying “pass”, he says “scratch” thereby eliminating himself from further competition. He could only watch as Nebraska's Lennox Burgher exceeds 51' five times to come ever so close with a best of 52-1.
Bob Beamon (Getty Images)
It was understood that Ryun would win the mile, but Kansas needs the points that a double will bring. Which way to go, down to the 880 where he will tangle with Villanova's Dave Patrick or up to the two mile, where (Washington State) Gerry Lindgren and his streak of 8 NCAA championships (indoor, outdoor and cross country) awaits? The decision to move to the two mile, though presenting a daunting challenge, proves propitious for the Jayhawks as Ryun hangs with Lindgren before unleashing his unmatched finish to win 8:39.0 to 8:40.8. World record holder Kerry Pearce is third at 8:45.0.
Jim Ryun leads the mile
(Getty Images)

The mile doesn't require as much energy as the pace dawdles, allowing Ryun to finish in 54.7 en route to a 4:06.8 win over (Kent State) Sam Bair's 4:07.2.

Villanova wins the team title with 16 of their 35 1/3 points coming in relays. With Larry James anchoring in 46.6, the Wildcats take the mile relay in 3:14.4. They also win the distance medley in 9:49.6 and take second in the two mile relay, as Patrick's 1:49.2 can't quite catch Harvard, 7:26.8 to 7:27.4.
George Lawrence "LarryJames (November 6, 1947 – November 6, 2008)

James wins the 440 in an 11 lap to the mile WR of 47.0. Patrick and Frank Murphy go 1-2 in the 880 and the Wildcats go home happy.

Last year's champion, USC, scores a mere point less this year but their 25 isn't a challenge to Villanova. Oklahoma 17, Kansas 15 1/3 and El Paso 15 round out the top five.

While the boards are being pounded in Detroit, the outdoor season is getting started the same days in the Texas Southern Relays in Houston. Southern's Harvey Nairn catches fast starting Roy Hicks of Texas Southern in the high hurdles. Their times of 13.6 and 13.7 are 1-2 on the world list. Hicks has no reason to hang his head. He wins the long jump in a PR of 25-2 and takes fifth in the high jump (no height mentioned).

The following weekend the big boys come out to play in Santa Barbara's Easter Relays. Southern California and San Jose State tangle in the 440, 880, mile and 2 mile relays. SC's world record holding 440 team (McCullouch, Fred Kuller, OJ Simpson and Lennox Miller) (see more about that 440 team below) win over the Spartans 39.7 to 40.4. The same quartet repeats in the 880, 1:23.6 to 1:24.0. San Jose State bounces back in the mile relay with Lee Evans anchoring in 46.9 to edge the Trojans 3:11.3 to 3:11.8. Carl Trentadue's 1:48.8 anchor puts SC on top in the two mile relay, but just barely. The Trojans and Spartans both clock 7:24.0.

The pole vault is frustrating for UCLA. In addition to watching rival USC go 1-2 with Bob Seagren and Paul Wilson clearing 16-6, the Bruin duo of world-class vaulters has a miserable day. Rick Sloan twists an ankle high jumping and will be out of action for some time. Jon Vaughn clears 16-0 for third, but when vaulting at 16-6, an official attempting to grab his pole hits the standard and it falls, hitting Vaughn's hand and ending his day.
John Vaughn (Historic Images)

In his outdoor season opener, Ed Carruthers high jumps 7-2 and has a near miss at 7-4.

Remember Sam Walker breaking the HS SP record at 69-11¾ as reported in our last report? Well, he has now not only exceeded 70 feet but 71 feet by an inch....only to find that the landing area slopped over the legal limit. Hang in, Sam, the season's still young. We'll be keeping an eye on you.
Sam Walker

Sam Walker montage  (Only if you are really into weight lifting)

Rainer Stenius (the following was lifted from T&FN threads)

Most of you probably know that Rainer Stenius died last month (December 1)(2015?) in Espoo, Finland. He was only 71 years old.

I met Rainer a few times while he was living in the United States in the 1960's. I believe he still holds the Cal State Los Angeles school record for the long jump (and maybe the triple jump, too).

His jump of 26' 9 1/4" (8.16) in 1966 was the Finnish national record for about 39 years and he was the 1966 NCAA long jump champion.

I believe he was injured in 1968 and did not compete in Mexico City at the Olympic Games. Does anyone have more details about this?

Even Memory Lane Has a Finish Line for Kuller : Track: Sprinter with the smooth stride helped set a world record at USC but missed qualifying for '68 Olympic team.

Fred Kuller

Thursday, September 20, 2018

V 8 N. 58 Coach Marc Arce's Continuing , Remarkable Recovery Since His Injury a Year Ago

Back on the Bike Jan. 12, 2018
Almost 4 Months After His Accident

One year ago we reported on the serious injury suffered by the University of Findlay track and cross country coach Marc Arce.  We are happy to report that Marc has made a remarkable recovery considering the nature of his injuries.  

On September 16, 2017, Marc was cycling to a cross country meet from Findlay to  Tiffin, OH.  He left well ahead of the team to check in, look at the course and perform any pre-meet activities that coaches go through.  The trip was to be about 30 miles.   On the way Marc was overtaken by a pick up truck that passed too close to him. The sideview mirror on the truck struck Marc's head and threw him to the ground.  The result of the accident left Marc in the hospital for 5 1/2 weeks.  His accompanying injuries would fill an ER text book...facial and skull fractures, broken hip, multiple rib fractures, lacerated spleen, collapsed lung, heart attack, traumatic brain injury. He doesn't remember anything about the accident and the approximate four weeks following. 

When he came to, he found his wife Lisa at his bedside where she had been all his weeks of recovery and then his rehabilitation.  Marc candidly admits that he was not an easy patient to deal with.  As many people would be after such extensive injury, he was stubborn, argumentative, and just not an easy guy to deal with.  Marc was grappling with not only with the aftermath of a near-death experience, but also a loss of a job where he had spent the last 30+ years.  But Lisa hung in there with him, knowing full well this was not uncommon for the man she knew to be a dedicated, tireless coach and a former athlete and marathoner who was used to driving himself to the limit.  

This past Sunday, September 16, exactly one year after the accident, Marc pushed himself to the limit once again, participating in The Last Gasp, a Cape Cod bike event, trekking some 60 miles across the island.  It wasn’t easy, but Marc finished in under 5 hours - a testament to his never-quit spirit. Not only was he motivated by his own personal comeback, but more so by those, especially former athletes, who helped him raise over $1600 for a local charity as part of the event. The day ended with a standing ovation as Marc received the “Back in the Saddle” award at the post-ride gathering . It was quite overwhelming for him and Lisa to receive such support and compassion from total strangers. 
Marc Relaxing on the Ferry Back Home After His 60 Mile Ride

Marc and Lisa  had a combined total of 57 years of coaching service to University of Findlay.  Their coaching accomplishments included:

13 NCAA Div. II National Champions
224 NCAA Div. II All Americans
7 US Olympic Trials Qualifiers
2 National Runners Up Men's Track and Field Teams
8 NCAA Div. II Top Ten Track and Field Teams
241 GLIAC (conf.) Champions
127 USTFCCA Div. II All Academic Individuals
12 NAIA National Champions
213 NAIA All Americans
63 NAIA Scholar Athletes
7 NAIA Top Ten Track and Field Team Finishes

Bravo Marc.

Inspiring story!
David Rapp

Marc Arce is a real inspiratioinal Story, which made my day.  
John Bork Jr.

This is a great comeback story.  Marc is a tough cat and Lisa is just as tough.    Bill Schnier

V 11 N. 3 "Quicksilver: The Mercurial Emil Zatopek" by Pat Butcher, a Book Review by Paul O'Shea

When we come across books to review, we know that there is a particular skill set needed to be fair and honest and at the same time literary...