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When the final race of 2020 was over at the State Championship, many positive thoughts emerged, despite enduring the most tumultuous season in Ohio history.

*Fortress Obetz and Steve Adams, tournament manager, along with all of the meet officials, made this year’s event truly memorable. I had visited the site in late June and knew the venue and Director Adams would give the OHSAA a first-class facility, not only this year, but for many years to come. It is, without a doubt, the most fan-friendly site in the 92-year history of the meet.

*As I attended meets throughout the season, the athletes who took part in our great sport are the best group of young men and women that anyone could ask for. Their adherence to the rules that were in place to prevent COVID 19 spread, thus insuring that a season took place, were consistently followed. Despite many uncertainties, they maintained their focus, and they trained in order to be successful. As I have said many times, the athletes who participate in this sport are the “best of the best”. They are living examples that every point in “Life Lessons” (RUNOHIO – Sept/Oct 2019) is accurate.

*Congratulations to all of the participants, coaches, and parents who shared in this great experience. Kudos go out to a very special coach of the Divison III State Champions East Canton Hornets. Lee Sternberg started the program in 1973 and has been the team’s only coach. He has led his program to runner-up finishes in 1987, 1988, and 2006. State Championships were won in 1998, 2017, and 2020. He is a remarkable coach of a great program.  Congratulations also go to the Woodridge boys’ program, coached by Jeff Howard. The Bulldogs won their 10th championship, breaking the record set by Caldwell.

*Top 5 freshman boys and girls in the State Championship:

BOYS 

1. Sam Richiuti – Dublin Coffman I  15:48

2. Blake Rodgers – Belpre III             16:15

3. Ty Peres – Amherst Steele I            16:29

4. Luke Bowlsby – Amherst Steele I  16:39

5. Charlie Putnam – Portsmouth II    16:55

 

GIRLS

1. Caleigh Richards – Maplewood III 18:22

2. Amy Weybrecht – Gilmour Academy II 18:40

3. Reece Savage – Johnstown-Monroe II  18:40

4. Kailyn Biecker – Wadsworth I          18:46

5. Sarah Peer – Westlake I                      18:46

 

* The OATCCC is awarding 16 grants to elementary schools to support physical education teachers and coaches in order to promote the sport of track and field at the grass roots level. More details can be found by contacting Doug Joy or Wayne Clark. This new program will plant seeds with our young people that will pay dividends well into the future of our sport. Soccer, football, baseball, and basketball have been recruiting elementary students for many years, and it is time for track and field to do the same.

* On a disturbing note, Clemson University has become the first Power Five school to drop men’s cross-country, indoor and outdoor track& field. Athletic Director Dan Radakovich gave the usual overused excuses for the decision and action; however, his last reason, the lack of local and national interest, is chilling. Maybe, if Clemson and other collegiate programs would score the meets that they participate in, present home meets that are short and organized, and allow their athletes to consistently compete, instead of regularly holding them out of competition, except for the “big meets,” there WOULD be more “local and national interest.” Regardless, it is totally inexcusable to drop this historical program that features a 3.6 million dollar indoor track facility and a newly-upgraded 10-lane outdoor track. Obviously it is more important to Mr. Radakovich and the University President that the football team facility has a miniature golf course (only 9 holes), sand volleyball courts, laser tag, a movie theater, bowling alley, and barbershop. As Gerald Gurney, president of the Drake Group (an academic think tank established to end academic corruption in college sports), stated several years ago in a Chicago Tribune article (12/23/15), “This is all about pandering to the fantasies of 18 year olds. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the mission of the university.” Since that quote was printed, a 142,000 square foot structure has been built. It features a “nap room” that includes comfortable recliners and a glowing fish tank  that creates soothing white noise. An outdoor movie theatre has also been added. This insanity will never stop, regardless of the revenue produced by football. The massacre of men’s track will continue, unless the sport’s coaches are willing to make drastic changes in how their sport is presented, and, therefore, perceived.

*On a much more positive note, The College of William & Mary has extended the life of its men’s program through at least 2022, after making the decision to drop the sport (RUNOHIO - December 2020). This extension will allow alumni and coaches the time to organize, making sure that the team will continue after the 2022 season. Congratulations to the supporters of the dropped programs, including track and field, swimming, men’s gymnastics, and women’s volleyball, for their hard work and vocal protests.

Our sport will survive on the high school and collegiate levels, if all those involved work together. This will not be easy, but, remember, you are all the “best of the best.”

Yours in track,

Rod O’Donnell

More KEEPING TRACK articles on www.runohio.com  

COVID 19 and Sports - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/news/120-keeping-track-covid-19-and-sports-by-rod-o-donnell  

Life Lessons from Cross-Country - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/10-life-lessons-from-cross-country-updated-2020     

Facts - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/100-keeping-track-facts   

Track  http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/67-keeping-track     

Marc Bloom’s Amazing Racers -  http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/43-keeping-track-marc-bloom-s-amazing-racers-by-rod-o-donnell       

Critical Time for Cross Country and Track & Field -  http://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/96-track      

Football and Track & Field -  http://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/78-keeping-track-football-and-track-field    

College of William & Mary –  http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/news/121-keeping-track-college-of-william-mary-by-rod-o-donnell  

Take care and I hope to see you at a race soon.

Matt McGowan