Friday, August 29, 2014

Vassar Farm: How to get there, part 2

Coach Chuck just texted me, from the darkened Vassar Farm, and instructed me to spread the word to all to use the following address: Vassar Farm Lane, Poughkeepsie, NY. If that doesn't get you there, throw your GPS in the trash, or blame me, or both! Vassar Farm Lane. See you soon.

Vassar Farm: How to get there

It has come to my attention that the GPS address that I posted earlier for Vassar Farm may not be entirely accurate. Feel free to blame the old man (me); however, I did what any modern, tech-savvy dude (well, that doesn't describe me, but still ...) would do: I googled it, and the address that it spit out was 124 Raymond Avenue. Apparently, this may not be accurate.

Here's the deal: Vassar Farm is at the intersection of Raymond Avenue and state Route 376. It is clearly marked. If you are driving south on Raymond Avenue, in front of Vassar College, take it to the end, and then cross Route 376 and you are there. If in doubt or if you get lost, call or text me at 845 309 3640 and I will do my best to navigate you there. If I do not respond right away, try again. I might be a little busy. Hope to see you there, bright and early.

Down on the Farm

Here we go. XC season is about to begin. Here is a quick glimpse at the course at Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve in Poughkeepsie. Our good pal James McCowan, the young and talented Vassar coach, has the course all marked and ready to go. We look forward to hosting here for the first time. We are hoping for a good day and good logistics. Given that this is our first time at this venue, there is some level of concern about the unknown. But hopefully, everything will go well. See you there.

Driving with Kleeker

With preseason XC camp drawing to a close, and with all the little things involved in preparing to host an XC meet, Friday was a day of running around here and there. A lot of running around. A lot of here and there. Several trips to the Hyde Park Stop & Shop were made. On my last trip to the grocery store tonight, who was waiting out by my van but that local legend himself, The Kleeker. He is Hyde Park's own; he's the cart guy at Stop & Shop, and all of us in town collectively take care of him. He does not drive, but he is never lacking for rides. I am one of his regular shuttle guys. To work. From work. To the Marist basketball game. From the Marist basketball game. Hey. Coach. Can you get me a coffee at Dunkin' Donuts? Sure, Kleek, sure thing. Tonight, he had a cart full of groceries, and he patiently waited for the ride he knew he would get from the old coach. He's our biggest fan, and we were happy to oblige.

Captain x 2

He's a school record holder several times over. He's a team captain in track and field. But perhaps some of you in the blogosphere are not aware that senior David Marthy is also a leader in another aspect of campus -- ROTC. Despite his relative youth, David has long and distinguished service in both the National Guard and the US Army. Earlier in the week, he was cruising around the McCann Center in his other uniform (sorry for the fuzzy photo, taken from my phone), looking for a place to execute some PT (physical training) testing with ROTC. As luck would have it, our trusty racquetball court in the back of the McCann Center was vacant, and that's what he used. It's the same racquetball court that doubles as our Team Room during most of the year. Trust me when I say that our guy is an ace in the area of PT. All you have to do is see him tearing around the track during the winter and spring to know what I mean. Nicely done.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Red Fox Trot 5K: Let's GO!

Just got out of a meeting for the Red Fox Trot 5K, which is on Saturday, September 6. The race committee is concerned about the low entry numbers at this point. I assured them that our alumni runners will be coming out in full force to support the race. If you have not yet registered for the race, please do so NOW, either online or by sending in your paper application. Please do not wait till race day to sign up. If you do, you will have to pay full price, and I cannot get you a reduced entry fee. This race is put on by the Red Fox Club, not by me or by our program, so we cannot bend the rules for our brothers and sisters in the Marist Running family. We know there will be a great -- hopefully record -- turnout, so please register now for the race. Thank you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Been a long time ...

Leftover memory from Sunday's race at Baird Park ... As I was working the turnaround area with Pat Rynkowski, a gentleman in the race huffed and puffed and announced that he was a proud graduate of Marist and the football team, from 1996. A long time ago, he said. He looked at me and commented that he remembered me as the track coach back then. "You been there a long time!" was his next comment. As I enter my 24th year as coach here, as the second longest tenured head coach in the building behind LVW in the pool, it was a funny way to be reminded that it's been a long time for me here.

Foxy Foxes

Here is a photo from Sunday afternoon's annual women's team bonding party at the Gould residence in nearby Stormville. All team members are fancily flashing the "Foxes" hand gestures. Nicely done.

Home meet info, Part 2

As always, we will be doing a Team Tailgate at many of our XC meets this year. Our home meet on Saturday is no different. Because we do not have the pavilion setups that we are accustomed to at Bowdoin Park, we will be utilizing our Marist Track/XC Team Tent for our spread. Kathy Gould has asked that any parents who want to contribute to the tailgate send her an email at to coordinate the festivities. I will be providing some basics for the XC runners -- water, fruit, etc. We will try to secure a few tables as well from the Marist Athletics department. We appreciate all contributions. The food will never go to waste with our ever hungry athletes.

Home meet info, Part 1

Our home XC meet is at Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve on Saturday. It is the first time we are hosting a meet there, instead of Bowdoin Park. We look forward to partnering with our friends at Vassar. For those traveling from out of the area who are not familiar with the farm, the address is 124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604. It is located at the intersection of Raymond Avenue, Hooker Avenue and Route 376. The Farm is quite busy on Saturday morning due to the community farm project, so you may be asked to park in the gravel lots closer to Route 376, and then walk over to the rugby field area where the meet will be starting and finishing.

Women's race, 5km: 9 a.m.
Men's race, 6km: 9:45 a.m.
Teams competing: Marist, Iona, Central Connecticut, Vassar

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Preseason update: A Home Run of a race

On Sunday, we traveled out to James Baird State Park in LaGrange to support and cheer on runners in the inaugural Run For Home 5K race, put on by the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie. The Children’s Home is where loyal alum Alex Cuesta is employed, and he was part of the planning team for this first-time race. Cuesta ran the race and got fourth overall (21:10), basking in the support and sarcasm from his former team as we lined the course and controlled traffic on the road. Our women completed their long run out at Baird and in the vicinity after the race. We hope this becomes an annual preseason tradition.

Preseason update: Split squad practices

In spring training baseball, teams often will play two games in one day at two different venues. They call it “split squad.” Oftentimes in preseason, we are a “split squad,” with the men and women going their separate ways for different practices at the same time. On Saturday, our women were down at Bowdoin Park for the first interval workout of the year – 1,000-meter repeats. Our men did a long run/workout from campus, to Vassar Farm, and back. We reconvened in the awesome, incredible, delicious Dining Hall for a well-earned lunch after many calories burned.

Preseason update: Chillin' at Minnewaska

On Friday, we took our annual preseason trip to run at Minnewaska. Our most common memories of Minnewaska are sunny and warm morning runs, followed by a refreshing dip in the glacial lake. We refer to it as the “natural ice bath.” This year, there was no sun and there was no warmth. In other words, it was quite possibly perfect running conditions. It was drizzly and cool.

And, there was no refreshing dip in the lake, because the damp and cool morning was refreshing enough. Even if it were nice lake weather, there were warning signs of leeches (leeches!) in the lake. Yikes. No thanks. We can ice bath back in Poughkeepsie.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tradition continues

The men's XC team had its first practice at the Mills Mansion in Staatsburg this afternoon, and we did the hill workout that has come to define the first day of practice each and every year. Up and at 'em.

Preseason polls

For the first time, the MAAC has done preseason polls in cross country. Our women's team was tabbed as third out of 11 and our men's team was tabbed as fifth out of 11, in a vote of head coaches in the MAAC. You can see the complete list and the story here. Our best finish on the women's side in school history is first place (four times) and our best finish on the men's side in school history is second place (10 times). So, clearly, we have work to do to get back to where we want to be. We look forward to the challenges and the work that lies ahead.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Preseason begins

Our XC teams reported to campus today on a day where it finally felt like summer in Poughkeepsie. It has been a cooler than normal August lately. Thanks to the Wonders of Social Media, the first day of preseason is not nearly as daunting for our new team members. The new crop of freshmen have been communicating all summer long and they have already formed bonds. We all had a good laugh when two of our freshmen men (who will remain unnamed) already got themselves locked out of their temporary dorm room in Champagnat. They were a little late to dinner, but they got there.

While we're on the subject of dinner ... this old coach had his first meal in the Dining Hall. And, despite the howling protests of past team members and loyal blog followers who may think otherwise, I am here to tell you that the cafeteria is wonderful! Great food, nice spread, fresh coffee, all you can eat ... are you kidding me? This is like a dream! Can't wait for our next meal in there, lunch on Thursday.

Speaking of Thursday ... our men's team will travel to Mills Mansion for our annual hill workout to start to the season. Summer is over; time to get to work as a unit.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Leadville Trail 100

Congratulations to my good friend Bob Sweeney for completing the Leadville Trail 100 mile race in Colorado this weekend. I have not heard from Bob via e-mail or text yet, so I am just reporting what I see on the race Web site:

Finish time: 20:51:12
Overall place: 18th of 358
Gender place: 16th of 306
M40-49 place: 4th of 105

Covering 100 miles anywhere is difficult. Doing it at high altitude adds a mammoth challenge. Bob lives out there, so the altitude is not a huge surprise to his body. But still ... this is a remarkable accomplishment from a guy whose running career is filled with them. If I get photos or more details, I will pass them along at some point. Wear that buckle with pride ...

Gearing up

Preseason starts soon. Our athletes return to campus on Wednesday. We are getting geared up for another long journey of three seasons. Summer mode is slowly starting to fade into the time when we will be around our athletes on a daily basis for the better part of the next 9 months. We look forward to that. We will be posting throughout the preseason period, which is longer this year due to a quirk of the calendar.

One programming note, in case I forgot to mention it: Our home meet this year will NOT be at Bowdoin Park. Rather, it will be at Vassar Farm. Date is Saturday, August 30. Women's 5k is at 9 a.m. Men's 6k is at 9:45 a.m. This change of venue should be excellent for all involved.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dry season

I was met with this jarring sight on Monday afternoon: An empty pool at the McCann Center! Every few years, the pool has to undergo much-needed cleaning and maintenance. This is the first time the pool has been drained in four years. The pool will be unavailable for about three weeks. Yes, that means no pool for preseason. It's a bummer, but there is nothing we can do about it. My aquajogging belt is lonely sitting in the locker room. We miss the pool already.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Club championships in NYC

Marist Running Alums Conor Shelley and Girma Segni continued to represent their current racing teams very well. At last Saturday’s New York Road Runners Club Championships 5-mile race in Central Park, Girma was sixth man on the runner-up West Side Runners (WSX) team and Conor was 12th man on the very deep championship team from New York Athletic Club (NYAC). Girma was 16th overall and fifth in his age group in 25:06; Conor was 31st overall in 26:11. The top 10 runners from each team score. NYAC’s composite time was 4:07:55 to WSX’s 4:10:54. Imagine that 26:11 is 12th man on a team. We can only hope for such depth in the coming weeks and months …

Hashtag MaristPreseason (#MaristPreseason)

For those on Twitter, for those who follow Twitter, for those who Tweet, for those who are on Instagram ... and any other types of Social Media that I probably no little about: Use the hashtag MaristPreseason (#MaristPreseason) to follow goings-on in our athletic department over the next several weeks, as fall sports teams begin to report to campus. Football arrived today; cross country is the final team to arrive, two weeks from today, on August 20. Summer's nearing an end, my friends ...

Remembering a captain

I was Roy White. That much I remember. Growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1970s, baseball was the sport of summer in our neighborhood, and we played it endlessly. Like most kids of that era, we modeled our game after the heroes we watched on TV every night. And, since the Mets were basically irrelevant during those years, mostly the players we emulated were Yankees. Late 1970s-era Yankees: Reggie Jackson. Mickey Rivers. Sparky Lyle. Ron Guidry. Goose Gossage. Willie Randolph. Graig Nettles. Roy White. Bobby Murcer. Catfish Hunter. Thurman Munson. Ah yes, Munson. The undisputed leader of the team. The Yankee catcher, each and every day, guiding the team from their lethargy of the late 1960s/early 1970s to their return to greatness in the mid to late 1970s.

Looking back at that time, and that era, and those players stand still, frozen in time – much like childhood memories do the same. It is jarring to me when I see them return for Old Timer’s Day as, well, old men. I still remember Rivers as the guy who limped up to the plate, looking like an old man, but then was the lightning-fast leadoff hitter. Now, he just limps all the time, as an old man. Giudry, the skinny lefthander with the whip of an arm; 25-3, 1.78 ERA in 1978. Numbers forever etched in our memory.  Lyle, with the walrus mustache, big chaw of tobacco in his cheek and the nastiest slider you ever saw. Goose, with his handlebar mustache and menacing scowl. Murcer, with the Okie drawl and sweet lefty Stadium swing. Roy White, with the awkward, unorthodox lefty batting stance; I liked White because he played the game with values that I grew up to try to emulate: steady consistency, humility, hard work, lack of flamboyance. Linking them all together was Munson, the guy who never gets to return for Old Timer’s Day, the guy who didn’t get the chance to live the many more chapters of his life, the guy who was killed in a plane crash, in his prime, 35 years ago on August 2.

Billy Hild sent me a link to a now-old but not outdated article that was written to coincide with the 20th anniversary of his death, in 1999. A wonderful, poetic and haunting piece – about Munson, about childhood memories, about growing old. Since that article, Catfish Hunter succumbed at a too-early age to ALS; Murcer the same to brain cancer. Little bits and pieces of our childhood taken away. But we always remember Munson, because he was taken away when we least expected it. We all cried back then … kids, grown men, all of us. Munson, more than them all, remains frozen in time – a captain and a Yankee for the ages. He has been dead longer than he lived on this earth, but he still remains a larger than life figure, 35 years later.

Frozen pizza

My mother loves to cook. Maybe it’s a cliché of an Italian-American home, where I grew up as the youngest of four children, but we were always surrounded by food. Sunday afternoon, post-church, was always the biggest feast of the week. My mother’s homemade pizza was always the show-stopper. In our family, among our extended family and in our neighborhood, it was a known commodity.

My parents are old; my father is 86, my mother is 82. Like many men and women in their 80s, their health is failing to varying degrees. But, they still have each other, and we would most definitely sign up for a lifespan that stretches into the 80s. A few weeks ago, we had a small gathering to celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary. A pretty good run, if you ask me. My mother often tells me, in person and over the phone, in her Italian accent: “Peter, you know. Your father and me, we getting old.” To which I always reply: “Ma. There’s no ‘getting’ anymore. You have arrived at your destination. You ARE old!” We get a laugh out of that. But it’s true. There is no denying it is true.

My mother has macular degeneration. She is losing her vision, a lot more rapidly than we would all like. Her kitchen is no longer as active as it once was. Perils lie at every corner. When you cannot see well, you cannot cook well. Combine this with the fact that she had a major fall a few years ago that has greatly limited her mobility, and the days of the vintage homemade pizza are numbered. Perhaps, sadly, they are over for good.

When I traveled down there to northern New Jersey last week for a quick visit and to help with transportation to doctor appointments, she announced that there was Ellio’s Pizza in the freezer, if I wanted it for lunch. She was apologetic. No homemade pizza. She urged me to have the Ellio’s. It was lunchtime. I had some Ellio’s Pizza. Did I like it, she wanted to know? Sure, Ma, it was great. Good, good, as long as you like it, as long as you are full, she said. Of course it’s not as good and not as satisfying as the homemade pizza; I wasn’t going to say that, and make her feel any worse. But for now, frozen pizza in their house is just as good, as long as they are around for a while longer to share it with us.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Melfi strides to victory

It's always great to get in a race while on vacation. It's even nicer to WIN. Marist Running Alum Mike Melfi (Class of 1998) proved he still has winner's wheels as he won the Wildwood Crest Beach Race 5K last weekend down in the Jersey Shore. Melfi is sporting the colors of the Syracuse Track Club, and he edged out a hotshot college runner for first place. Not bad for a young man who is a lot closer to his 40th birthday than he would care to admit. Mike has been training hard and consistent, and he remains on top of his game. And that old Melfi stride is still looking as strong as ever!

Runners with an Edge

Love this photo, taken from the Marcum Workplace Challenge 3.5-mile race last week on Long Island. Several Marist runners near and dear to us were in the race and in this picture. Kat Sheehan was second overall in the women's race. Conor Shelley is in his very natural pose in front of the group with Adult Beverage in hand. Thanks to loyal friends and alums, I have a fair amount of Runner's Edge gear, and I sport it often. More is always welcome, especially RE hats (hint, hint?). Good work to one and all on the Island.

Maynes soars in 10-miler

Marist Running Alum Matt Maynes (competing for Manchester Running Company, as you can see!) continues to show his great range, with a strong finish at the Sound Runner Sea Legs Shuffle 10-mile event in Guilford, CT, on Sunday. You might remember Maynes from his crazy fast downhill mile race earlier this summer. Maynes finished 16th overall in 59:27, and sported these fancy negative splits: 29:48 for first 5 miles; 29:39 for second 5 miles. Nicely done, Maynes!

Vess in Tracktown USA

Marist Running Alum Adam Vess, now running for Team Flagstaff, was in Eugene last week for the half marathon race there. I am not on Twitter, but his post-race Tweet somehow landed on Facebook, and it read: "If the half marathon was an 8 mile race, I would have been very competitive." His race splits bear this out:
5km in 15:39 (5:03 pace)
10km in 31:08 (5:01 pace)
Half marathon finish time in 1:08:49 (5:15 pace).

So yeah. Our star was running a bit out of event. But it was a great experience for him, and his fitness level remains strong. He was 10th overall and 5th in his age group. I've said it before, I'll say it again: If Vess stays healthy, he can and will do great things.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ted Corbitt Way

Sorry for the long delay in posts. I have been in summer mode. I have several posts queued up in my mind. I just have to get around to writing them. Now that it is August, I will get back to regular posting soon. I apologize to loyal blog followers; summertime is great and I love every minute of it. However, the lack of routine can be somewhat unsettling for me, and as a result, my laptop time is limited and/or distracted. Aside from running around in circles again, it has been a busy but at the same time restful summer.

We'll start this month with the great news, sent by our loyal friend Marty McGowan, about the renaming of 228th Street in NYC as Ted Corbitt Way. For those who never knew about Ted Corbitt, he was a true pioneer in our sport -- and an incredible and prolific ultramarathon runner. Go to his official Web site for tons of details. Among his many, many contributions to our sport, we can all thank Ted for pushing for the accurate measurement of courses. This is taken for granted now, but back in his heyday it was an often ignored aspect of the sport. Corbitt was a great and gentle man, who died seven years ago after a long and honorable life in the sport.

The street that will bear his name is in the Marble Hill section of NYC. Now, being an inveterate map reader and fan of borders on the maps, Marble Hill is an area of the city fraught with confusion. It is part of the Bronx. But it is really part of Manhattan. But it is part of the Bronx. Even though it is considered part of Manhattan. Very, very confusing. If you ask me, Marble Hill is in the Bronx. Now, it will forever be known as the home to Ted Corbitt Way. Nicely done.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Addie wins and sets course record in 5K

It's great to see Addie DiFrancesco back in the race results. It’s even better to see her at the top of the heap, as she was oftentimes when running for us here at Marist. Addie, who graduated in 2012, still holds the school record in the 10,000-meter run. Last weekend, she ran in the Shaneanigans 5K in Woodbury, CT. She won the women’s division and set a course record in the process. Addie said the race was “super hilly,” and this from someone who loves hills and does not shy away from them. She placed eighth overall in 19:25.13 on a course that she surmises might have been a bit long. She outdistanced the second-place woman by 1 minute and 19 seconds, so it was a dominant victory. Addie has been doing a weight training class and one of the photos here is her posing with her IAP buddies. Sun’s out/guns out! Nicely done, Addie, and hope to see you at the Red Fox Trot.

Views from Minnewaska

This week's awe-inspiring view comes from Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Gardiner, just west of New Paltz, during Week 3 of the New Paltz Cross Country Series. These storm clouds brought a little bit of rain, just enough to make the carriage trail slick at the turnaround mark. My son, Joey, showing he is a chip off the old block when it comes to coordination on the wet trails, crashed at the turnaround but was able to rally for a strong finish. 

An uplifting cycling story, for a change

Check out this wonderfully written piece by Juliet Macur of the New York Times a few days ago, about an American cyclist in the Tour de France who was forced to quit the race due to severe injury. But before he quit, he refused to quit, and showed a uniquely competitive spirit not often seen in professional sports. This article was so good I had to re-read it several times to appreciate it for what it was. Good stuff. Take five minutes and click on the link to check it out.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Early harvest

Here is a photo of my youngest son James with some initial pickings from our vegetable garden -- three cucumbers and a green pepper. We cut up the cucumbers and pepper for our salad last night for dinner -- nothing more satisfying than eating something you grow in your backyard. It looks like our biggest yield this year will be cucumbers, and there is an outside chance some of the corn might mature to the point where we can eat it. Let it rain ...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

View from Spring Farm

This photo was taken at sunset on Monday night from Spring Farm at the Mohonk Preserve in Ulster County, about 15 minutes west of New Paltz. We were there for week 2 of the New Paltz Summer XC Series. My son Joey, his friend Joe and our friend Eric ran the race, along with junior Omar Perez and plenty of other running friends and acquaintances. The beauty of the Shawangunk Ridge and the Catskill Mountains never ceases to amaze us. Also! Maybe, just maybe, I'm getting the hang of this smart phone, huh?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Will and Britt shine in Utica

Our favorite running duo, forever Foxes now sporting different colors, had a great day at the Boilermaker 15-kilometer race this morning in Utica. Will Griffin (Garden State Track Club) was 26th overall in 49:49, an average of 5:21 per mile.Will battled it out in a field of professional runners and held his own up there. Great job.

Brittany Burns (Syracuse Chargers) continues her battle back from injury issues for much of the year with a strong 29th place finish in the women's field in 1:01:20 (6:35 pace). Britt texted after the race that she was cautious in her return from injury and did not have the volume of training she needed to run faster. But, she'll get there.

It should be noted that Britt's brother, Gregory, ran a strong time of 58:09 (6:15 pace) in the race as well.

Girma wins in NYC

Congrats to Marist Running Alum Girma Segni, now running for West Side Runners in NYC, for winning Saturday's Boomer's Cystic Fibrosis Run To Breathe 4-mile race. Girma ran 19:45, an average of 4:57 per mile, for the W. There was a video of his victory on Instagram, that alert and wiseguy blog followers made me aware of. Nicely done, Girm!

Team summer BBQ, circa 2014

We always seem to be blessed with great weather for this fun event, which was held on Saturday down at the Marist Boathouse along the Hudson River. Each year, it seems we get more and more team members, family members and alums to attend. It is mostly word of mouth; all are welcome. Highlights were the returns of recent alums living far away – Joel “Big Man” Moss all the way from Texas, and Kevin O’Sullivan from the DC/VA area. The stars of the day were the dads turned grillmasters who kept our young charges well fed: Steve Rizzo (dad of incoming freshman Steven Rizzo); Doug “Walk Dad” Licursi (father of Kristi Licursi); JC Berzal (dad of 400 IH school record holder Zach Berzal). Thanks, guys!

Notes from Lane 6

Random notes from the pool deck, where I spent close to 8 hours as a timer during two swim meets in which my daughter Natalie participated on Saturday and Sunday …

--Instead of looking for the smoke from a starter’s pistol, you have to watch for the light when the starting buzzer goes off. No smoke. Look for the light. Got it. Much like track, it’s not rocket science.
--I felt my age as I crouched down and leaned over looking for the swimmers to touch the wall. I know what you’re thinking. No, I did NOT tumble into the pool (although that would have been hilarious).
--Swimmers finishing their races splash a lot.
--As a result, sneakers and tube socks get really wet.
--Especially when fast breaststrokers are barreling into the finish.
--It’s good fun to try to match your fellow timers down to the hundredth of a second.
--But after about 100 heats of the freestyle, IM, backstroke, on and on and on, that gets old.

Am I complaining? Not at all! It was long and hot out there, but it was good and great fun, and I got a front-row view of Natalie doing her absolute best in a sport that is totally new to her.

World Cup = nap time

For the past several weeks, I have tried to have an open mind when it comes to the World Cup. There are soccer (futbol) fans and there are non-soccer fans. Soccer fans are growing in number and passion, and most of them react indignantly to us non-soccer fans; as in, “dude, you don’t UNDERSTAND.” Yeah yeah OK. Here’s the thing: I’m not “anti-soccer.” I view soccer in a similar way as I do ice hockey: I know there are passionate fans that follow the sport, but I have no interest in either of the sports. Most of the time.

Here’s the difference: When the NHL Playoffs come around, I watch, I am interested, I am entertained and I am rarely disappointed. Every time I ask Phil to explain the “neutral zone trap” I get confused; icing still baffles me, and the outcome of face-offs still seem random. But! The NHL never fails to entertain in the playoffs – even without the fighting!

Every four years, I turn to the World Cup for a similar spark; I am always left longing for more and for the most part left bewildered at what all the fuss is about. Maybe I’m just lucky, but while on vacation in Lake George I was driving around listening to what seemed to be a boring USA/Belgium knockout round game, but when I got back to the cabin in a downpour, I was able to watch the extra time period that was filled with scoring, drama and action. The USA goaltender (I already forgot his name and I am too lazy to look it up) was the MAN. That was some good soccer. For about 10 minutes out of a month. Otherwise? This stuff was a total bore. This afternoon, I tried to watch the World Cup final. I dozed off. The game-winning goal was exciting, but it came after hours of scoreless (and, sorry, BORING) soccer.

The NHL playoffs have fast-paced action with goals or exciting near-misses, goaltenders standing on their heads, power plays, and Barry Melrose (he really is the MAN). The World Cup? Players with one name, few goals and not many near-misses, players who flop for a referee call (hockey players would NEVER do that), biters (Really? Hockey players will just slug you and not care about a 5-minute major) an organization in FIFA that takes advantage of a host country’s infrastructure for a few weeks and leaves them with crumbling and overpriced relics of stadiums that sit empty for decades (and oh yeah, they seem to ignore the fact that concussions do exist) … and, most importantly, low-scoring games where the action just seems to lollygag endlessly. I have watched games (like today’s) where I was actually HOPING for commercial breaks. Hmmm. Sorry, folks. I tried, like I do every four years. No thanks.

Friday, July 11, 2014

School record boards are here!

Our son James looking up at the boards, while being warned by his Old Man "no touching!"
It is with great excitement, pride and gratitude that I post these photos of our new Marist Track and Field school record boards, which were delivered and mounted with pride on Thursday. Omar Perez, who is on Randy's Crew, was part of the process of mounting the boards on the wall in the McCann Center hallway. Brimming with excitement at the news, I dragged the kids down there to check them out late on Thursday night. The boards are a long time in coming, and the spark for the idea was lit by one of our track team captains whose name appears frequently on the board. The boards were purchased thanks to a generous donation from the Valentino family. For someone who has been fortunate enough to witness a good number of these records when they were set, once again the prevalent emotions are pride and gratitude. Please check them out the next time you are in the McCann Center.

Proud of our Stingray

After years and years of being around the ubiquitous swim club practices and meets at Marist -- how can we avoid them as the parents clog up the McCann Center bleachers? -- I am proud to report that we are now "swim parents" as well, for a short time anyway. Our daughter Natalie is on the Hyde Park Stingrays, a summer club team here. She practices for an hour each morning, and they have a short but intense meet schedule, that started on Wednesday night. We are very proud of her taking on this challenging sport at the relatively old age of 11,  soon to be 12 (and, I'm not joking; serious swim club athletes start early and often). This photo is of her before her first race, for which she was quite nervous. She did fine, not the best freestyle form, but from a guy who did not learn to swim till he was 34 years old, who am I to judge? She has about 5-6 meets in the next two weeks, and then -- poof! -- the season is over. Short and intense, a good introduction to it.

Of course, being a "swim parent" means getting roped into volunteer duties -- the other night, Heidi and I did the 50-50 raffle. Someone asked if I would be a timer for the next meet on Saturday morning. Uh. Hmm. Let me think. Standing outside in shorts, long-sleeve shirt and tube socks, for hours with a stopwatch, timing endless heats of races. Yeah. I think that fits my professional skill set.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Postcard from Hawaii: Jackie and Jaime

No, no, no. Don't worry. We are NOT in Hawaii. Our plane from Oregon pointed us east and we are back in Dutchess County now. However, two of our women's XC team members are in Hawaii, shown above are Jackie Bunce and Jaime Durso. Jackie was visiting Jaime (who lives in Hawaii), and this run was taken from along the rim of Koko Head Cater overlooking Hanauma Bay. Jackie said in a text that that the run was "partially paved in the beginning but goes off onto a rocky path. Very, very windy! About 5 miles." Thanks for sharing the photo and the information. It looks like beautiful scenery. Enjoy the beauty and get in your miles!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Farewell from TrackTown USA

With an early alarm (3 a.m. local time, yikes) set, it is time to sign off from Room 243 at Motel 6 and say farewell to Eugene on what was a wonderful trip out here. Hopefully, we have no delays or cancellations on the way home. Thanks for following along.

Spencer Johnson gets 15th in the 10,000-meter run

Spencer Johnson battled gamely in challenging conditions Sunday night at the USATF Junior Championships’ concluding event, the 10,000-meter run, at Hayward Field. Race-time temperatures were in the low 90s with a searing sunlight blazing on the famed track -- far from ideal conditions for a 25-lap race. Spencer placed 15th out of a field of 20 runners in 34:05.93.

The time was nearly two minutes slower than his qualifying mark of 32:19.34. But, consider this: Only 7 of the 20 entrants actually finished faster than the qualifying standard. And, consider this: Spencer’s qualifying time was by far the slowest of the 20 competitors in the field; the standard was 32:20.00, which Spencer made by an eyelash in that oh-so-memorable race at Stony Brook back in April.

Shortly after the race, a very loyal alum and follower of our program, texted, “So not a good race?” On paper, the time was not great. And, as
you’ll see in the splits, the pace slowed dramatically as the race wore on. However, there are compelling reasons why we can classify this as a strong effort from our little dynamo from Bristol, CT:

--The aforementioned statistic that he was the slowest entrant in the field.
--The early pace was surprisingly fast – for the field, and by default, for Spencer. The leaders went out at about 4:45 pace, crazy fast in those conditions.
--Early on in the race, when he was basically rolling 5km pace in a 10km race in tough conditions, Spencer was in last place and was gapped from the field by about 5 meters. Mentally, this had to be tough for him. But he gutted it out and caught several runners, who were slowing mightily in the hot weather.

It is very rare, at a championship meet, to see water being handed out on the track. But that’s how hot it was. On the back stretch, there was a water station.
Spencer took water early on, but found it was making him cramp up, so he just passed on the water for the second half of the race. He got through it. He toughed it out. A great experience for him, and great exposure for our program. Nicely done.

Here are his lap-by-lap splits …
74, 2:30 (76), 3:45 (75), 5:00 (75)
6:17 (77), 7:33 (76), 8;50 (77), 10:09 (79)
11:29 (80), 12:49 (80), 14:11 (82), 15:34 (83)
16:57 (83), 18:20 (83), 19:45 (85), 21:10 (85)
22:34 (84), 23:59 (85), 25:28 (89), 26:55 (87)
28:24 (89), 29:50 (86), 31:16 (86), 32:42 (86)
34:05.93 (83.93)
First 5km: 16:15
Second 5km: 17:50.93
1600-meter splits: 5:00, 5:09, 5:25, 5:36, 5:45, 5:47

Note: Thanks to Kristi Licursi for taking these great photos of Spencer's race. You'll note the multitude of empty seats at historic Hayward. Also, it should be noted that Spencer took the great photos of Kristi's race on Saturday morning.