Monday, June 27, 2016

2016 Mid-Ohio Valley Hall of Fame Ceremony-Friends, Family, Coaches and History

April 1982 vs June 2016
Tom Hill, John Hashman, Rob Taylor, Steve Taylor
1982 WV State A-AA 4x800M Relay Champions
and current meet record holders 34 years later.
On June 11, 2016 I traveled home to St. Marys/Parkersburg, WV for the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame banquet which included the induction of former Williamstown HS and University of Richmond standout, Ryan Jobes and my lifelong friend and St. Marys HS/Cedarville College standout, Tom Hill.  For several months I looked forward to seeing so many friends, family and coaches from yesteryear. What a weekend it was...and great memories where revisited time and time again.

Along with being an exceptional person, amazing friend and caring man; Tom Hill is one of the most decorated runners in St. Marys High School history and is one of the best ever to run our West Virginia hills. His 9:22.74 performance in the 3200M at the 1982 WV AA-A State Championships ranks #5 All-Time in the 1980's behind 3 other SMHS runners and his 1600M performance ranks #4 All-Time in the 1980's at the WV A-AA State Meet...He placed 3rd and 7th in the WV State Cross Country Championships in 1981 & 1980 respectively and was the first leg on the SMHS Record Setting 4X800M Relay in 1982 (see photo above). That state meet record still stands (as of June 2016) now some 34 years later.

After graduating from SMHS he went on to continue his career at Cedarville College (OH), where he was a NAIA All-American in the 3K and a four time NCCAA Outdoor Track Champion, winning the 5,000M in 1984 & 1987, the 10,000M in 1984 and 1500M in 1986. He was also named Cedarville’s 1986 Male Athlete of the Year and a few years later was inducted into Cedarville's Sports Hall of Fame.

Following his athletic career at Cedarville, he went on to Baylor University where he helped the women's 4X800M Relay team earn its first NCAA All-America honors in school history. He dedicated himself to Baylor University where he served their department and central Texas loyally for 28 years.

He's a great, Christian man with an awesome family and a perfect choice for the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame...

GROWING OLDER

As I reflect on the weekend I'm reminded of several stories from our team and Tom... Growing older is a ride and for those experiencing it you surely relate. Sometimes stories grow with time, it is my hope that our stories do not, and that they stand on their own merits. Some may seem a stretch, but both my cousin Rob and I seem to have a knack for remembering details to events now some 30-40 years later. He can tell a story as good as anyone as you will see below.

None of us want anything to be inflated as time passes...we just tell it the way it happened. This is likely seeded in our early teenage years of off-bearing on the sawmill with our dad's (Delbert and Art), Uncle Harold and brothers and cousins as we listened to our dad's and uncle's tell stories with great detail. Working on the sawmill was hard, hard work but it helped shape us like nothing else (Stacking 350+ pound 7"X9" railroad ties as a teenager will harden you like nothing else.). Their stories were countless, funny and were often an education in and of themselves...many of which included enlightenment on the bird's and the bees. Regardless, as rambunctious teenagers, at the end of each day of saw milling we were ready for a release by way of any of the 3F's that presented the opportunity...one of which stood for Footrace.

It really was a great time to grow up in our town and to this day there is no place I would have traded to be. A community of great people and a place where hard work was rewarded.  Our sport of choice demanded hard work, self-discipline, internal motivation and raw competitiveness. Running was a perfect match for our crew.

Coach Jerry Rea was a huge influence on our success and was the architect in forming a high school program now founded with rich history based on his leadership to many state team titles.  He had so many quotes that I have spent much of my adult life and coaching career drawing from. Statements like "that's nickel and dime boys, nickel and dime" sent a loud message to us.  We knew when he made that statement we were doing something unacceptable and we quickly moved to correct what we were doing.  We could never accept anything at a "nickel and dime" level. To consider it was insulting to most of those who came before us. Many of the SMHS athletes before us, including our brothers, did not settle for anything except their best from themselves. Coach Rea held discipline on our team and he demanded the same level of commitment from everyone one on the team...everyone.  Our 4x800M Relay was no different...I felt no different. To this day it influences and defines my own coaching style.

We were fortunate to have a good team in 1982 and would sit for 45 minutes at the beginning of practice at least one day per week listening to Coach Rea talk about the upcoming meet and how we could get team points on the board.  He would ask our opinion to engage us and get us invested in what we needed to accomplish...to understand what we needed to do for the team.  He was the master at figuring out ways to maximize our point total in the championship meets (the Little Kanawha Conference, Region and State Championship meets) by trying athletes in events they never dreamed of competing in.  He would often say, "even if we lose the battle boys, we can win the war"...but we always wanted to win the battle AND the war...and so did he! It was a time of competitiveness and we competed at everything we did. It made no difference what it was, we wanted to win and Coach Rea knew it and used it to motivate us.

By the time our 4X800M Relay got to the spring of 1982 our high school was known throughout the state since our SMHS forefathers had laid the path for us with two state track & field team titles and two runner-up team finishes in a four year stent...Fresh in our minds were the successes of our brothers and cousins, plus Paul Reed, Scott Jemison, Gene Smith, Jeff Bailey, Max Campbell, Ron Doak, brothers’ David & Earl Stephens, Charlie Strait, Elmer Burns, Tom Cox, Mike Nazelrod, Brian Williams, Wayne Mulenix and the Oldfield's to name a few. These were young men who taught us that we could win in our small town. As youngsters we watched from the stands and drank in their individual and team victories...we learned... waited for our turn...our time to step up to the plate. It was like poking a caged animal with a stick...we wanted a piece of the pie...we wanted a seat at the table....we wanted to do what they did...only better. Without them laying the foundation we surely could not and would not have achieved what we did. That's a simple fact!

As I entered HS in 1979 our community was still struggling, coming off the April 27, 1978 Willow Island Disaster, just a few miles south of St. Marys, which claimed the lives of 51 of our very own and many of our relatives and family friends in what stands as the largest construction accident in U.S. history. That one event truly changed our community forever. It's a story I've struggled to write about for several years and still can't find the words.

These things shaped who we were and to this day, who we ARE. We were fighters and the track provided an outlet for us to run out our anger, our passion and competitiveness. Running was our escape...it was our release...it was the place that we were a lone with our thoughts discovering who we were...it became our mission!  It was our path to the uncertain future. Coach Rea always said, "You are only as good as your last race" and we approached every race like it was our last...after all, we knew all too well that it could be.

On the SMHS steps outside the gymnasium in the early summer of 1979 Coach Rea asked cousin Rob, John Hashman and a group of us if we were going to come out for the cross country team that fall. It was a new sport to our high school and my cousin asked, “What’s cross country?” I personally had no idea. Actually none of us had any idea what cross country was. Coach Rea replied, “Well, you run through fields and creeks and jump logs and that sort of thing.” As we stood there on the high school steps we just looked at each other. Then we nodded that “yes” we would run and concluded that this ‘cross country’ thing sounded like what we did practically every day anyway. Coach Rea is a man of few words and as he left us standing there in front of the school we began to talk with excitement about this new sport to our school. 

Enter Tom Hill

Stickman and Hillba were all I knew him as for a few days.  He tipped the scale just north of 100 pounds soaking wet and if he stood sideways behind a telephone pole he could literally disappear. He was one thin dude who would become one of our closest friends and someone I would trust with anything...and still do to this day. True friends are hard to come by and in my opinion you have only a few in your lifetime.  Growing up and to this day Tom Hill is one of those friends. He's genuine, honest and loyal--you can't ask for anything more in a friend.  

During our four years at high school, SMHS jumped into the sport of cross country with great success for a public school of our small size (~380 total students grades 9-12 give or take a couple and depending on pregnancies). The first year (1979) we even had a cross country program our team placed second in the state championships…in the AAA division that was without Tom Hill (there was only one division at the time under the WVSSAC.)! 

Why were we without Tom you may ask?  Well, in August of that year he and his family went to the Holy Land on a Christian Pilgrimage. As I mentioned before, Coach Rea held everyone to the same standard and he expected everyone who wanted to be part of the team to be at every practice...no exceptions.  My cousin Rob knew Tom could run and that he would help our team. He even mentioned to Coach that Tom was good.  Tom and his family returned a week into cross country practice...He came to practice to join the team. Coach said he would need to wait until spring track season to run since he missed the first week of practice. Looking back now the state AAA XC title likely slipped through our grasp at that moment.


As we all moved through the years our cross country season officially started in early August, however a group of us would meet in our hometown on Rt 2, the road next to our high school.  Every afternoon at 5:00PM during the summer months we would gather to train and prepare for the fall season. It was not mandated by Coach Rea…There was no fixed training schedule…No one forced us to do it. No one called us to make sure we were there to run at 5:00PM. It was just expected by each of us and what we wanted to do. Just like we ate, worked, hydrated...we also ran...e-v-e-r-y day.

Back in those days we had a hard core group that met daily. The group included Tom "Stickman" Hill, my brothers Mike and Cliff, my cousin Larry, our good friends Lee Haddox…Don “Beets” Harding...and in the later years Danny DeMoss, Gerald Bookman and Doyle Monday joined us. We’d even had runners from across the state and other schools like Mark Nichols (Elkins HS), Denny Love (Charleston area), Jeff Hammons (University of Wisconsin) who is the nephew of Randy Hammons of Kings Ridge and the Sarver brothers (Joe and Roger) from Marietta, OH who stopped by to run with us. Mark Nichol’s grandmother lived in Belmont; the town next to St. Marys and he moved to live with her for the summer of 1981 for what we believe was the sole purpose of training with us. In an age before cell phones and the internet it was not uncommon to have a group of 8-10 people meeting on any given day of the week in our small town.


St. Marys HS, West Virginia
We trained hard and treated every day as an opportunity to prove something and to improve ourselves. At the time we didn’t know or understand what it was we were trying to prove and we certainly did not understand training or the physiology behind it, but rest assured every run ended in a race back to the high school. One day it would be the last mile of the run and the next it was the last 800M. Every day someone would push the issue (i.e. - the pace)…every day someone felt good…everyday someone in the group felt they could prove they had the stronger will. Everyday someone was right and someone was wrong. It was simple, uncomplicated and pure to its heart. It defined us and Tom Hill was an integral part of the definition.

FIGURE 8's IN THE COUNTY PARK

One of our trade mark's within the county was the path we wore through the Pleasants County Park each fall.  You see our county park was about a mile walk from our high school and we walked it everyday with coach before and after practice. As we walked over to start practice nearly every day we would pass former SMHS 400M Record Holder, Bill "Billy" Williamson, who was our towns U.S. Mail carrier...And every day my cousin Rob would say to him, "What kinda milk man are you." This would always make Bill smile and the rest of us laugh.  As the years rolled by it became funnier and funnier to Bill and us. Bill came back to running becoming a successful local road racer winning his age group in many of the local competitions. 

We arrived at the park each day ready to work.  It sits at the eastern edge of town, alongside of route 16, which is one of the two busiest roads within our county. The park sits on the side of the roughly mile long-Pike Hill (in later years my brothers, Mike and Cliff and I would actually race loaded Lambert and Westbrook dump trucks up this hill.).  It's a hill many outside our state would describe as a mountain, with the county park's swimming pool and ball fields on the flatter section at the bottom.

The upper section of the park where we ran, sits on the side of a large hill, includes a dirt road around the perimeter and an intersecting road through the middle along with a power line with large wooden poles, we called the "Right-A-Way". The park manager at the time was Jim McFarland, who would later serve as the county sheriff for many years, and he lived in a house within the park along route 16.  There was a steep hill next to his home which we aptly named, "McFarland's Hill" and it is still called that today. It was so steep we would ~almost~ rather run up it than we would run down it.

The Park, as we call it to this day, was coach Rea's favorite place for cross country practice.  Occasionally, we would run on the track and The Island.  The Island referred to Middle Island which was owned by the Ingram Family and sits at the confluence of Middle Island Creek and the Ohio River.  The Ingram's were prominent within our county and were a founding family within the area.  They would later agree for Middle Island to become the Middle Island Wildlife Refuge and today is my favorite location to run when I return home.  During our high school years it was planted from one end to the other in corn and potatoes...However, it was The Park where our blisters became callouses and we were forged into iron in the fires of the WV hills.

By midseason the go to workout for coach was "5 times the Figure 8 within the park on handicap".  We would start in reverse order from the previous time we ran the workout, with the fastest person starting last at a given time after the slowest runner from the previous practice. Theoretically, everyone would finish at the exact same time IF we ran exactly the same time as before.  Of course that never happened and we would often find our very good teammate, Lee Haddox, laying low on a day in order to gain an advantage/head start the next time we ran that workout. 

The Figure 8 laps in the park were 1.1 miles in length and tough...They made us strong, versatile and helped us shine at the championships which tended to be on hilly courses.  The Figure 8 we refer to would change directions on varying days and included McFarlands Hill, the Right-A-Way and Bald Knob within the park. Some days we went up McFarland's Hill and other days we would go down...but every day we did Figure 8's.  

Bald Knob is the highest point in our town and provides a good vantage point from within the park.  Since it looked similar, I always thought it was an Indian burial place like the one the Native American Adena People (Mound Builders) built between ~1000 B.C. and 700 A.D. in nearby Harmony Acres.  For us, it had another name given by our Dad's/Uncles...affectionately named "Skinner Back" Knob.  We always got a chuckle out of this and the stories surrounding that location which dated back several decades. We still laugh when someone refers to it by that name which is the only name we use, unless ladies are present...then it's Bald Knob.  
View from just below Bald Knob overlooking our hometown of St. Marys, WV
Our Figure 8 also included crossing the center of the park on the mowed power line we called the Right-A-Way...it was our favorite part of the loop.  We demanded that our turns across the Right-A-Way include passing through the two large wooden poles.  I recall my cousins get pretty hot about people "cutting the course" by not passing through the two poles...It simply was not acceptable to consider a short-cut.

We crossed the Right-A-Way (the center of the Figure 8) twice each lap and could gauge how much distance we were gaining on our teammates with each pass. We particularly enjoyed passing the few girls on the team and often talked about how much better the view was with them on the loop...It served as motivation on more than one occasion. 

About 2/3's of the way across the Right-A-Way was a large ditch that required a serious leap in order to cross it.  We were so small, Coach Rea became concerned he might lose one of us in the ditch which was about 6 feet wide and 4 feet deep. So, he found an old Pleasants County Park sign and placed it over the ditch.  We thought it would be moved by the park's maintenance folks, but it stayed in place for a couple years before it was replaced.  It was a simple decision by coach, but I'm sure he saved several injuries by placing it.   

As we made lap...after lap...after lap of the park and the season progressed we would slowly start to wear a path through the grass section of the course through the power line Right-A-Way.  In August and September the smell of fresh cut grass filled the air announcing it was cross country season. As we got into October and the leaves began to change you would catch a crisp smell of the arrival of fall as our worn path became even more pronounced as it was worn to dirt.  It was a badge of success for us...It was a symbol of our hard work and a symbol of sweat and toil.  We had worn the grass out and turned what had started as a grass trail into dirt.  

More than once we headed to the Farm Fresh, our local convenience store, to grab a post workout beverage and then jump into the car and drive up the Pike Hill on Route 16 just to look at the worn path as we drove by.  It was a symbol that we took pride in and to this day it is a symbol of what it takes to be champions.
Sun setting on the Ohio River on June 12, 2016 at the Willow Island Dam. The crimson sunsets are still as they were in my childhood days.

St. Marys sits on the banks of the Ohio River within the rolling hills of West “By God” Virginia. It is beautiful country and I recall the sun setting on the Ohio side of the river and the views we would get from running the “Old Pike” which is a mile long hill that winds its way from downtown St. Marys uphill to Rt. 16 before we would hang a right and head down “Shadow Hill” back into town. Those views of the Ohio River and those brilliant sunsets are etched in our memories.

As the spring of 1982 arrived, Tom, Rob and John were headed into their senior year track season and I into my junior.  On some levels I was sad thinking about my best friends graduating. No time for that, so we all set our sights on the 4x800M Relay and the state meet record that SMHS set 2 years earlier when Tom and I teamed up with my cousin, Larry Taylor and Lee Haddox to claim the WV AA state title in meet record time (8:09.44).

That record was a point of contention and boarder line argument on several occasions in our household and on the sawmill.  You see in 1976 the state of WV still competed in distances using English measurements and two of my brothers (Cliff & Matt) teamed up with two brothers and our first cousins (Dale & Kevin) to win the 4x880 Yard Relay in 8:12.70 (Even as an 11 year old kid, I thought it was pretty sweet two sets of brothers set a state meet record in the 4X880 Yard Relay. It's still on the record books since the English distances were retired shortly after.).  If you convert their 8:12.70 in the 4X880 Yard Relay to a 4X800M Relay time its 8:09.90!  So, which was better...the 1976 relay team (8:09.90) or the 1980 relay team (8:09.44).  This needed to be settled or put to rest and the only way was to run a time faster than both!

Our season would be based on this principle point.

RACES

Well before the state championships we found ourselves preparing. Tom, Don Harding, Mike Cunningham and John Hoff were on the basketball team, but a small group of us still found time to make it to Morgantown to the Shell Building for the Sunday afternoon all comer meets hosted by the West Virginia Track Club.

On one of those trips we stopped at a McDonald's to grab a biscuit. Tom was known far and wide to eat anything! The man was named Stickman for a reason, but it was not due to has lack of eating. He ate A LOT...and practically anything he was offered.  As we sat down at a table Tom headed off to the restroom. About the same time, a small group of strangers at a table next to us got up and left the restaurant. They left their trays on the table which included a couple of half-eaten hash browns. Without saying anything, my brother Cliff reached over and grabbed the half eaten hash browns and sat them on his tray. We said nothing and just looked at him with a look of, "what the heck?"

As our conversation quickly changed subjects, Stickman returned to the table a few minutes later.  As we sat eating our biscuits, Stickman got the gleam in his eyes of additional hunger.  He looked at Cliff and pointed to the half-eaten hash browns and said, "You going to finish those?" Cliff casually said, "naaaa, I don't want them" as Tom grabbed both and powered them down before we could blink or respond. We sat there in complete disbelief looking at Stick and then at Cliff.

By this point those hash browns were half digested as Tom realized something must be up. That's when he said with a chuckle, "what's up?" Cliff responded with the Benny Hill Salute as we busted out laughing at what we had just witnessed.  It all happened so fast we simply had no time to respond.  When Stickman found out what Cliff had done he laughed louder, but from that point forward when someone offered him food...he asked a couple questions before devouring it.

We had some truly great years with lots of Benny Hill salutes...including a classic in the summer of 1981. We went to a road race in Moundsville as part of a large Marshall County Fair which included a 5K and a 10K. Our crew chose their races with Tom and Don Harding opting for the 5K and Cliff and I choosing the 10K. John Hoff was there, but he did not run either race.

The Benny Hill Salute was a signature for us since 1979. 
Benny Hill Salute at the Mid Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame Induction
(Front: L-R) Coach Lambiotte, Coach Rea, Steve Taylor, Tom Hill, 
Cliff Taylor
(Back: L-R) Mike Cunningham, Mike Taylor, John Hashman, Jim Taylor,
Rob Taylor, Matt Bailey, Don Harding
As Cliff and I warmed-up, a car passed us with a couple of drunk guys who threw a beer bottle at us, just narrowly missing us.  They went speeding off as we chased them quickly turning our mood to the second of the 3F's- Fight. We jogged a little further and flagged down a Sheriff's car passing by to report the incident. The officer was actually Rex Smalley, the Marshall County Sheriff himself.  We provided the license plate number to him and he informed us that he knew the car and who they were, adding that they were "no good" in his words. He asked our names and said he knew us from the papers and wished us luck. To say the least, the whole incident was a little distracting as we went about our warm-up.

We quickly turned our attention back to why we were there---running a Footrace.  Tom was a competitor and you better bring your best when you faced him in competition. On this night he easily won the 5K race setting a course record in the process.  I won the 10K with my brother, Cliff not far behind. As we approached the finish line I could hear voices from above.  As Cliff said last week, "I thought God was speaking to me from above during the race." As the finish line got closer the voices got louder and as I crossed the line I heard God shouting out "come on Shine!"  Shine was Tom's nickname for Cliff. "Why would God yell for Shine", I thought?  

As I looked around my attention and vision started looking upward.  At this county fair they had a hot air balloon that you could pay $5 for a ride and it was located directly adjacent to the race course finish line. Heck, $5 to us might as well been $500 back then.  The number of people standing in line was at least 150 people in length waiting for a hot air balloon ride. Tom and Don wanted a ride in that balloon but they didn't want to spend $5 and they didn't want to wait two hours. Tom was not bashful and would ask anyone anything...They walked to the front of the line and told the owner of the hot air balloon that Tom had just won the race and just like that, they got their free ride.  It was hilarious.  As Cliff and I looked up at them from the finish line we got a Benny Hill Salute from both Stickman and Don.

Later that evening after being ready to Fight and then running a Footrace, we turned our attention to the chase as Tom, John Hoff and I cruised the Marshall County Fair.  We met a couple really nice, indecorous girls at the fair...their names were "Jenny" and "Karman with a K".  It seems they had seen us at the races.  I laugh to this day remembering Tom giving me a Benny Hill salute as we were getting to know Jenny a little better...I returned the salute as the Benny Hill theme song raced through my head. 

Sometime later as our conversation jumped from place to place, Jenny started talking about her dad and how he was the county Sheriff. I said, "Jenny, what's your last name?" She smiled and said, "Smalley".  Thinking back to a few hours earlier and speaking with the Sheriff, I said, "Is your dad Rex Smalley?" "Yes he is", she replied. About then is when Stickman and I looked at each other and decided it was time to head south to St. Marys. We found Hoff and got out of dodge in short order!  We've laughed about the odds of that and how it was a story few would believe.

SUGAR HILL GANG-Rappers Delight

If there was a theme song for our crew it was without question the Sugar Hill Gang's Rappers Delight. We loved it! Several members of our team had the lyrics memorized and we would trade off singing each verse as we blasted it on the bus enroot to our meets. What's known as the first rap song was music to our ears.  We were done with the Bee Gee's and ELO and ready for something new, and the Sugar Hill Gang was cutting edge for our West Virginia hills.



Even Coach Rea loved it and would come to the back of the bus and ask us to turn it up. Imagine the portable 8 tract player being replaced with the cutting edge, cassett tape player, a song 14:45 in length and several of us with the lyrics memorized, trading off verses. Fun times.

Our choice for listening the the Sugar Hill Gang from 1979-1982

BELLAIRE RELAYS

In April, 1982 Coach Rea split our team for the first and only time in my career. Stickman and I were running well...and so were our relay members. The Bellaire Relays in Bellaire, Ohio were one of the most prestigious meets in the nation at the time.  All the heavy hitters from Ohio and western PA attended. The entry standards we stiff and on paper Tom and I were the only two to meet the standards.  Coach Rea is a man of integrity and he would not adjust a person's time to get them in a meet or a faster section.  You were entered in what you had run.  As it would be, he entered Tom in the 1600M and me in the 3200M while our teammates went to another competitive meet over at Heath, OH.

Tom was in the slowest of 3 heats of the 1600M and I remember thinking, 'wow, this is serious competition". Stickman wasn't fazed...The competitor that he was, he went out there and took the lead from the gun and lit up the track.  He trounced the athletes in his section and broke 4:20 by a good bit. I remember watching him lay the leather to it and on the spot I went through a transformation. As the second and third heats ran they could not match Tom's mark. He won the 1600M at the Bellaire Relays out of the slowest section on paper and grabbed 10 points for SMHS! He did not care who it was, he competed to win and did.

That was one of the last races where I concerned myself with seed times.  Watching Tom win the 1600M was inspiring, exciting and motivating!  I went on to win the 3200M in 9:04 to help SMHS to 20 total team points.  So, at the end of the day, Tom and I scored a total of 20 points which placed 2nd in the team standings.  That was the first and last time Coach split our team. We know he looked at the results and realized 4th place or better in the 4X800M Relay would have been enough for SMHS to claim the prestigious team title at the Bellaire Relays. I believe it was a turning point for both Tom and I giving us a lot of confidence...especially as we headed into the WV State Championships in Charleston.

THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS

As we passed through the LKC and Regional Championships we were able to advance practically everyone that we thought could make it through plus a few that we didn't think would. The question was who would be on the 4X800M Relay...so, on Tuesday, May 25th Coach said, "We'll have a run off to start practice for anyone wanting a shot at the 4x800M for this weekend". Coach kept it pure and our sport simple...head-to-head competition and "you eat what you kill". The first four men across the line would comprise the team for the state meet. In the end it was Tom Hill, John Hashman, Rob Taylor and me.

Three short days later it was show time...Here's a recent account of the race from my cousin Rob, our third leg and to this day one of my best friends: 

"Just a story to share!
It was May 28th 1982 at my first and only State Meet as a competitor! And a lifelong memory was made. About an hour before race time John (Hashman) and I were hanging out under the stands when some boys from Buffalo Wayne got to talking about how fast they were going to run in the 4x800 (We had lost Steve and Tommy somewhere). We listened to them for quite a while when they finally see that we are eaves dropping. One of them asks us what event(s) we were in? Ah the 4x8, was my reply!!!! The look on their faces was priceless. Then they asked what kinda time did we think we could run? Ol' Hash took it upon himself to tell them that we were gonna go 8 flat. Priceless again for the look and the brashness of Hash. We even told them exact splits that we would run, I think we were a bit cocky now looking back but they started it.
Race time; Tommy is in a big heap of people for the first 600 meters. He starting making a move like he was shot from a cannon. He handed off to John clear of the field by about 30 meters and the race was over. His fastest split ever. Time: 1:57 
John ran his fastest split ever and added to the lead. Sorry Hash but I was in a fog waiting on you. I kept thinking come on come on! Time: 4:01
I get the stick and all I remember is don't drop the thing and get it to Steve. I also ran my fastest split ever and mighta added to the lead. Time: 6:04
Now it is time for Steve to show his stuff and that he did! WOW! It looked like he was in a dead sprint. He comes by on his first lap and we are feeling it. We are jumping up and down and screaming in his ear when he blows by us, then that dang official told us to calm down and get back or he was going to disqualify us. Thanks Tommy for having the sense to take heed and get us on safe ground. With a 100 meters to go Steve is clock watching as were we, so I never got to see all of his leg, but the looks on our faces when that clock stopped at 8:00.1 was once again priceless!! He had just ran his fastest split too. Thanks Steve and Tom for letting us talk the talk and then telling you that we needed some bailing out!

What a memory! BTW those boys never came around afterwards."

We were fortunate to have a lot of great sports/running memories from high school, but this one is my favorite. Four close friends came together and after years of training, miles and miles of running, countless laps and figure "8's" in the county park, lots of adventures and some crazy stories later we came together on the field of competition. The fact that we all ran our personal best relay splits in that race makes it that much better and no surprise given the preceding years. We simply did not and would not let each other down.

Tom Hill was an impressive runner and deserving of his induction to the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame. We are thrilled with his selection! Congratulations Tom and thanks for your loyal friendship!  And thanks Tom, John and Rob for so many great memories and for being there. As we all came back together for Tom's induction I can't help but think how it seems like yesterday!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ryan Jobes- 2016 Mid Ohio Valley Hall of Fame Inductee


Ryan C. Jobes
April 12, 1986 - December 20, 2005

The late Ryan C. Jobes was inducted into the Mid Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame on June 11, 2016. Jobes, a model of hard work and determination was humble, modest, unselfish as well as a fierce competitor during his running career at Williamstown HS (WV) and the University of Richmond before an accident claimed his life at the age of 19  on Tuesday, December 20, 2005 (See also "Reflecting on Ryan Jobes-And The Band of Brothers He Formed").

Jobes led WHS to back-to-back state track & field championship titles in 2003 & 2004. He won four events (the 400M, 800M, 1600M and 1600M Relay) in each of those years and was the state's high point scorer each year with 32.5 points.


In addition to the track, Jobes lettered in basketball, tennis and cross country while at Williamstown, but his running earned him a scholarship to the University of Richmond, where he continued his track and cross country career, placing third in the 800M as a Freshman at the 2005 Atlantic 10 Conference Track & Field Championships and being named the Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Week twice.
On December 20, 2005, Jobes was tragically killed in an automobile crash following finals while headed home from Richmond for the Holidays. In his honor, the Ryan C. Jobes Memorial Scholarship was created while a December road race and spring track meet at Williamstown both carry on his legacy by bearing his name.


"If we're not careful we can easily lose ourselves in the abyss of what could have been...what should have been...or what would have have been instead of remembering what was."---UR Head Coach, Steve Taylor who accepted the award on behalf of Ryan and his family.
September 18, 2004
University of Virginia Invitational 
September 4, 2004
Spider Alumni Open Cross Country Meet
Jobes was born April 12, 1986, in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Ryan was a member of First Baptist Church in Williamstown. He was a 2004 graduate of Williamstown High School where he received numerous honors and awards. He was an eight time varsity letterman and participated in golf, tennis, cross country, track and basketball. He was a four year member of student council and vice president of his class for three years.
Ryan Jobes and Hunter Willis at 2005 Preseason XC Camp
He was chosen as Parkersburg News and Sentinel "Athlete of the Week" numerous times. Other accomplishments include being a member of Junior National Honor Society and the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program and winning first place in the WHS art show. Ryan was also the 2004 WHS homecoming king. He received all LKC track and cross country and All Region cross country honors. He was the WHS male nominee for Wendy's High School Heisman Award and was featured in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd" for track and field. He was also listed in "Who's Who in Sports" in 2002 and 2003. Ryan was the current WHS record holder in the 400 meter dash and 800 meter run. He won the 400m, 800m and 1600m and anchored the winning 1600m relay at the 2003-2004 "A" State Championships, setting state records in each event. His efforts helped Williamstown earn back-to-back team titles in 2003 and 2004. He was named the "Most Valuable Athlete" at the 2003 and 2004 State Championships; earned the Ray McCoy West Virginia Track Athlete of the Year; was a 2003 State tennis runner-up in doubles; placed third in the 2003 singles competition; scored a game-high 32 points against Doddridge County during a 2004 basketball game tying the school record for the most three-point goals in a single game; and he was a one-time WTAP Student Athlete of the Week. Ryan was given the Pat Woody Memorial Award for being most outstanding student and athlete at WHS his senior year.


2005 Fred Hardy Invitational 4X400M Relay
Ryan attended the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va., where he placed third at the Atlantic 10 Championships in the 800 meters in 2005; was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week twice in 2005; and won the 500 meters at the Liberty Record Bash. Ryan was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes; completed the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program; was a Youth Group Community Work volunteer; was a volunteer for the American Red Cross Blood Drive; and was a volunteer at the YMCA Summer College Intern Program.

Spiders 2005 PreSeason XC Camp 
Here is a link to the 2016 Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony for Ryan and the acceptance speech given on behalf of Ryan's parents by me, as his University of Richmond Track & Field and Cross Country Coach:



It was a tough and at the same time a joyous evening given Ryan's induction...The opportunity to see so many friends, former teammates, coaches and Ryan's parents and family was something I looked forward to for months and wish could have lasted longer. There will always be a comfort in 'home' and the Mid-Ohio Valley is home.  Yet many of us struggle with all the questions that remain surrounding Ryan's accident and losing him at the age of 19.  It's not easy to this day...still find it difficult...and I struggled to hold it together delivering an acceptance speech on his family's behalf.  I know I certainly do not have the answers and still wish I could make sense of 'why' and 'what' and deliver it in an enlightening way, but that too is not possible. Losing an athlete is without question the hardest thing I've experienced as a coach. It does not fade and still it is a fear that can consume joy...For Ryan's family I'm sure December 20 will always dark day. I've come to realize...maybe, just maybe...for now, we are not supposed to understand.

Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding."

As a coach and former athlete, I've never had much tolerance or patience with or for the undriven person...In my career I've been fortunate to work with several motivated and competitive athletes, like Ryan. Those athletes who have "it" and those who test their limits while breaking through personal and community barriers are both the reason coaches coach, but yet they are less common than one might think. My high school coach (Jerry Rea) used to tell us, "You're only as good as your last race".  There's much truth in the statement and I believe Ryan made the best of each opportunity and tested his own limits through the field of competition.


Until now, something I have only shared with my wife in the 10+ years since his accident...In the last meeting I had with Ryan, I sat in my office and asked him several questions related to running, personal decisions and his goals.  One of those questions was, "How do you want to be remembered?" He didn't answer right away, he just looked at me for a few moments and then he said, "I don't know, I guess I just want to be remembered."

We do Ryan, we do.

Friday, September 11, 2015

USATF-Virginia Crowns Cross Country Champions at 2015 Spider Alumni Open

Courtney Thompson and Tim Gruber interviewing on Spider_TV
following the races. Go Spiders!
Below are links and articles linked to the 2015 Spider Alumni Open and the USATF-Virginia Cross Country Championships...A few thoughts before the articles...

This was the 14th year for the Spider Alumni open and the second year we've hosted the USATF-Virginia Cross Country Championships as part of the event.  To say I look forward to this meet is really an understatement. No one is likely to understand what it means to both Lori and I to have our alumni back in Richmond, watch our current teams compete for the first time and catch up with old friends and officials.  It's something old coaches appreciate and look forward to...even when it is a busy few days leading into and hours surrounding the races.  A couple words might be all that are spoken in the hustle of administering the races, but it's exciting to see the former athletes, see them interacting with each other and to hear what they are doing in the world. Lori and I are grateful for the efforts of so many to make it to the meet to support the teams.

What a remarkable transition we've seen in our 14 years here at UR.  From an emerging group of young people, who on some levels were unsure of what was around the next corner who grew into confident leaders determined to bring the Richmond Spiders to the next level and now parents themselves, leading the way for their children. Let me say...plane and simple...that's what life is about---Family. How simple, yet awesome the moment was!

The USATF-Virginia Championship race started things off and what a surprise it was to see so many USATF Officials at the course to ensure a championship race experience.  Our hats off and many thanks to them for their efforts, not just this weekend but every weekend.

We are already looking forward to next year!

ST

A great crowd greeted runners from across Virginia
for the USATF-Virginia Cross Country Championships
and runners from the University of Richmond, Davidson,
George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth
University for the 2015 Spider Alumni Open.
UR Women Win Alumni Open; Men Finish Second
Courtesy: Richmond Athletics
Release: 09/05/2015

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. – The Richmond Women’s Cross Country team finished first in the 2015 Spider Alumni Open at Pole Green Park in Mechanicsville, Va. The Spider Men’s Cross Country team came in second in the 14thedition of the race.
The standout performer of the day was sophomoreCourtney Thompson who finished in first place in the two-mile women’s race with a time of 11:09.7. The Richmond women had five of the first seven finishers, with Kaelyn Heinicke finishing in third with a time of 11:22.5 and Marisa Ruskan finishing right behind her in fourth with a time of 11:23.4. The Spiders finished in first place with 21 points.
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Hot and humid...That's September cross country
in Virginia.
USATF-Virginia Crowns Cross Country Champions

Murphy, Lautzenheiser win Senior Titles while Watson and Wood Claim Junior Titles

Collegiate Running Association Board Member,
Matt Hannay starts checking numbers as
runners begin moving to the start line
for the 2015 USATF-Virginia
Cross Country Championships.
Mechanicsville, VA - For the second consecutive year, the USATF-Virginia Association hosted their cross country championships as part of the Richmond Spider Alumni Open Cross Country Meet on the Pole Green Park Cross Country Course in Mechanicsville, Virginia.

In the Open Men’s race Ryan Murphy (Richmond, Va.) and Jason Driscoll (Richmond, Va.) battled throughout with the outcome undecided until the final stretch. In the end, Murphy (17:03) claimed the individual title by six seconds over RVA Distance Project teammate Driscoll (17:09). Robert Flanagan (S. Chesterfield, Va.) claimed the final podium spot with his bronze medal performance (17:52).

Murphy and Driscoll were joined by Colson Williams (Richmond, Va./18:09) to complete their newly formed RVA Distance Project team which claimed the Men’s Open team title. Their win earned their team $500 towards the USATF National Club Championships to be held this December in San Francisco, CA.

What was a close battle for the men’s open title was a runaway on the women’s side. Kathleen Lautzenheiser (Richmond, Va.) took the lead from the gun and never looked back as she raced to victory in a time of 18:43. Lautzenheiser claimed the Open Women’s title over Richmond Track & Field Club teammate Nicole Thomas (Richmond, Va./20:01). Rounding out the top three was Kate Spangler (Richmond, Va.) who ran 22:12.

Even the dogs were out to cheer on the runners.
Lautzenheizer and Thomas were joined by Bobbie Davey (Henrico, Va.) on the Richmond Track & Field Club’s team. The three scoring positions ensured they captured the Women’s Open team title and also qualified for the $500 travel stipend for the USATF National Club Championships to be held in San Francisco this December.

The junior races had the deepest fields on the day with 40 percent of the event’s competitors listed as under 20 years of age. Coming into the Junior Men’s Championships, the favorite was Jacob Watson of King George, Va. As expected, Watson, who placed 10th in the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships last December, claimed his first USATF-Virginia Junior Championship title. Watson used a fast start to steadily pull away from runner-up Gavin Jenkins (Washington, Va./17:34) and 3rd place finisher Jonathan Watson (18:25), who is only 15 years of age and the younger brother of Jacob.

In the Junior Women’s race it looked to be a battle between Julia Wood (Woodville, Va.), Khloe Pointer (North Chesterfield, Va.) and Archana Shekharan (Moseley, Va.), who all entered with strong resumes. Wood and Pointer placed 3rd and 4th respectively, separated by only two seconds, in the 2014 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships last December in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Shekharan placed 32nd and collectively the three led their Richmond Track & Field Club to a runner-up spot in the national team championships among 15-16 year olds last December.

On this morning Julia Wood didn’t want it coming down to the end. Like her male counterpart she started fast with the open women’s leader and continued to press during the race. As she came down to the final stretch to the finish line she held a commanding lead over Khloe Pointer and finished comfortably in first in a time of 19:00. Pointer finished second in 19:44 followed by Archana Shekharan in 20:06 to round out the top three podium spots.

In the Women’s Junior Team Championship it was a sweep for the Richmond Track & Field Club as Wood, Pointer and Shekharan claimed the top 3 junior women’s places for a perfect team score.

Overall, the USATF-Virginia Cross Country Championships were met with high praise by participants and race directors alike. In its second year at Pole Green Park, the event expanded significantly both in the amount of participants and in the competitiveness within the age groups.

“We were really excited to host the USATF Virginia Championships again this year”, said University of Richmond Head Men’s Cross Country Coach and Collegiate Running Association Co-Founder Steve Taylor. “This Pole Green Cross Country Course is one of the best. It is spectator friendly and as nice of a running surface as I’ve seen. The Hanover County Parks & Recreation staff do a great job throughout the year in maintaining this facility.”

“We like watching this event grow and hosting in conjunction with our annual Spider Alumni Open” said Taylor. “Last year there were no complete teams and this year three categories were awarded. We are avid supporters of USATF Virginia and the officials. There were so many USATF Virginia officials out here today. They were amazing and we want to publicly thank them for their efforts, not just today but throughout the year.”

The Collegiate Running Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles through running, once again served as the presenting sponsor for the championships. “The CRA is happy to be the presenting sponsor of the races today’, said CRA Co-Founder Jon Molz. “We recognize the importance of being a support organization not just for our national championships events, but also for our local communities. As we grow as an organization, Richmond remains our home and it’s exciting to watch great races and be part of events like this.”

A complete list of the results can be found below:  

2015 USATF-Virginia Cross Country Championships RESULTS