History is a subject that provides guidelines for achieving success in the future or avoiding past mistakes. It is an integral part of sports or any other segment of our society.

I became very aware of this when doing research for an article in another publication. It involved an intercollegiate track program that had been discontinued many years ago, never to return. I felt it was my duty to record information that would preserve the past of those who dedicated their lives as athletes and coaches to the former program. As I began to search for the appropriate facts, I discovered there was no information on the school’s athletic department website about the once-successful men’s team. To see if this was the exception or the norm for other schools whose teams had also been discontinued, I learned that this was the rule, not the exception. Giving more thought to this blatant disrespect to track and field at these institutions, it became obvious that when those who gave so much to their teams were no longer with us, it would be as though these teams never existed, thus making it “the forgotten sport,” (the title of a short story that I wrote in 2001.)  This purported “oversight” is a disservice and an insult to those who were involved in the programs that were once vibrant, contributing parts at their respective institutions. I am sure that many who were involved are much less likely to support and donate when the fund raising communiqués arrive, asking for money to enhance the experience of current student-athletes.

It should be important to all coaches on both the high school and collegiate levels to record and update their programs’ history on a yearly basis. This information is not only important from an historical aspect, but it also provides invaluable and great memories. These written artifacts give alumni, parents, and others who supported, sacrificed, and experienced track and field, a way to relive those years. It also is vital to be the success of current programs.

 I have kept records and results of work-outs, news clippings, season summaries, etc. during my entire career. That information not only brings back countless precious memories, but it has provided invaluable resources to motivate current teams and to allow those from the past to know that they are appreciated and not forgotten.

Currently, our athletic alumni organization (high school) has agreed to pay for a track record board that will be located in our stadium and will list all the individuals and teams that have won state championships from 1914 to the present. Compiling this information has taken many hours, but the benefits have made the effort well worth the time. The contacts with former athletes, their relatives, and information from year books and newspapers from the last 107 years have provided a better understanding of the success of the school’s great athletic tradition in all sports. The results of this project will remind those involved in the present and the past of how much the legacy of the track and field program is appreciated.

To use an often-quoted phrase to illustrate the importance of history: “Honor the past in order to preserve the present and insure the future.” Those involved in our sport must do everything possible to make sure we follow the message of this quote.

- Hopefully, in the future, the OHSAA will change the time schedule for their early-season cross-country invitational, in order to avoid the intense heat that runners endured this year. Not only does this schedule create a dangerous situation, it does nothing to endear the sport to first-time athletes or their parents. High school runners should never compete at 1:30 p.m. with a heat index near 100 degrees.

-On a very sad note, our sport lost one of its great individuals when Medina Head Coach, Milt Place, passed away suddenly on August 22,  a day after his team competed. I knew Milt as both a friend and a rival coach, during my years at Hudson High School. He was the consummate professional, had a great passion for our sport, and he will be dearly missed by all who knew him. He made tremendous contributions to the sports of cross-country and track, belonged to four Halls of Fame, started both the Tiffin Cross-Country Carnival and Medina Cross-Country Festival, hosted clinics, and loved coaching. He was mentored by Joe Vigil, the legendary coach at Adams State. Milt, you were the best of the best, as a person and as a coach. R. I. P., my friend.

Yours in track,
Rod O’Donnell

A few articles added by RUNOHIO about universities dropping Men’s Track & Field and Cross Country:

MAC losing men's track programs one after another -  https://va.milesplit.com/articles/889/mac-losing-mens-track-programs-one-after-another

Running on empty - https://www.dispatch.com/article/20070503/sports/305039865

Ohio University Drops Men’s Track & Field - https://www.letsrun.com/forum/flat_read.php?thread=1738248

Akron University Drops Men’s Cross Country -  https://thedevilstrip.com/2020/07/02/as-the-university-of-akron-cuts-teams-former-cross-country-runners-fight-to-save-their-program  & https://www.letsrun.com/forum/flat_read.php?thread=10011091

West Virginia University Drops Men’s Track & Field/Cross Country - https://www.letsrun.com/forum/flat_read.php?thread=1738248 

Western Michigan Cuts Men’s Track & Field/Cross Country - https://www.letsrun.com/forum/flat_read.php?thread=279971

X x x

Read more of Rod O’Donnell articles on www.runohio.com

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

2021 Track & Field - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/200-keeping-track-2021-track-field  

2020 OHSAA State Cross Country Championships -  http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/news/134-keeping-track-by-rod-o-donnell-2020-ohsaa-state-cross-country-championships 

Keeping Track - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/173-keeping-track-2  

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

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

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         

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

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

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