Monday, July 26, 2004

Running at WVU meant a lot to me

This situation with WVU men's indoor and outdoor track and cross country greatly saddens me.

Like many of the people who came into the program, the talent I contributed to the program wasn't All-America quality, but it was appreciated nonetheless by the people who coached me and the teammates I worked with.

The program gave me far more than I could give it. And that became apparent later on when I became a professional journalist who worked for several newspapers in West Virginia before moving to California.

I had a good career as a distance runner. When it became apparent that my best days as a competitor were behind me, I chose to remain connected with the sport by writing about some of the top competitors our sport produced not only at West Virginia, but at Marshall and other universities and colleges.

I had a lot of fun writing about the many high school and college athletes who competed in West Virginia and in other states. And even other countries. One of my proudest accomplisments was helping cover the Canadian Olympic Track and Field trials in 1984 for The Canadian Press.

Donny DeCarlo? I wrote about him when he was at Morgantown High and later at WVU when I was working at The Dominion Post.

Garnett Edwards? I was proud to call him a teammate and marveled at the way he represented our university in the hurdles and sprints at meets both great and small.

Alex Kasich? I knew him as a teammate. I marveled at the way he could turn a race around with a drive that was fueled by the workouts he ran and the teammates who pushed him to greatness.

David Tabor? I wrote about him when I was working in Beckley and he was at Princeton High. He later went on to star at Marshall.

Mike Kominsky? I covered him when he ran at Oak Hill High and won three state championships (800, 1600 and 3200-meter runs) when he was a high school senior, and I was working in Beckley. I also covered the day he signed with the University of North Carolina. And, who was there at Mike's house when he signed? None other than Gary Hofstetter, who I knew from covering the WVU High School Invitational when he and his North Allegheny (Pa.) High School teammates came to Morgantown in 1975.

Back in the early 1980s, when WVU and Penn State were both in the Atlantic 10, I had the honor of covering the meet when WVU FINALLY beat Penn State in cross country. That meet was at Meadow Ponds.

I've never seen Coach Pushkin happier. And I never saw a more gracious attitude than the one displayed by Harry Groves, the great coach at Penn State.

Those of us who had the privilege to compete at WVU look back upon those days with a great deal of happiness.

It's a feeling we want future generations of athletes to experience. I'm hoping that our group can make a difference in changing the hearts and minds of the people who make these decisions at WVU.

Our sport is a wonderful sport.

For more than 25 years, it gave me satisfaction as an athlete, a volunteer coach (in Canada and in West Virginia with Cabell Midland High) and as a journalist.

I wouldn't be the person I am today if I hadn't met the great people who have competed, coached and worked in the media with journalists who happen to love our sport.

Would I have been as good a reporter when it came to track if I hadn't competed at WVU? I'm not so certain that is the case.

When you compete, it gives you insight as to what the athlete is thinking and feeling. When you are in the arena and experience the same emotions that the athletes are experiencing, you are able to ask the key questions because you've been there. You know what's foremost in their minds.

Prospective male journalists who also want to compete in track and field won't be able to do that at WVU. Thank goodness females who have that ambition will be able to do that.

This project is an awesome undertaking fueled by the many people who were touched and influenced by the sport at WVU. The memories I have of the sport will last a lifetime. I hope we can give future generations of track and field athletes and cross country runners the opportunity to say they had a similar experience at West Virginia University. Females are experiencing those wonderful emotions right now. Let's hope and work for the day it can be restored across the board.


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