Dual Meet Hall of Fame: Coach

Last year I inaugurated the Dual Meet Hall of Fame to recognize outstanding achievement in this little-recognized but important facet of college track and field. My spring 2012 choice for coach honoree was Washington State’s John Chaplin, and my winter 2013 choice was Nebraska’s Gary Pepin.

This time, it’s Jim Bush, the coach of tremendous teams at UCLA, USC and Occidental.

As a coach, all Jim Bush did was win.

Injuries held Bush back as collegiate competitor at Cal, and he was determined to be a better coach than athlete. After stints as head coach at Fullerton High School (eight seasons, eight league titles) and Fullerton Junior College, Bush moved to Occidental College. In three seasons (1962-64), his Tigers never lost to UCLA in a dual meet. So UCLA hired him.

When Bush came to UCLA, they had never beaten rival USC in any of their 31 dual meets. In his first year (1965), the Bruins fell again, but the streak was broken in 1966. For the remainder of Bush’s 18 years, they won all but four of the dual meets against USC.

Under Bush, the Bruins beat a heck of a lot more teams than just USC. All in all, Bush’s dual meet record at UCLA was 152-21-0, and under his watch the Bruins won seven dual meet national championships (and only once did they finish outside of the top three.)

Bush developed great athletes and lots of them, but the team came first. He once famously kicked Dwight Stones off his team after Stones told Bush he wanted to do only three meets for the Bruins (vs USC, Pac-8 and NCAA) and Bush refused to let the world record holder back on the team.

Bush left UCLA after the 1984 season due to health issues. Over the next few years he worked with professional athletes of various stripes: football (LA Raiders, Marcus Allen in particular), baseball (LA Dodgers), basketball (LA Lakers). He earned Super Bowl and World Series rings for his efforts.

Bush went back to active track coaching as a volunteer assistant at crosstown rival USC, and the Trojans hired him as head coach in the summer of 1990. USC’s competitive fortunes had declined precipitously, citing NCAA scholarship limitations as the reason. Bush didn’t accept this: “We’re going to bring USC back. I don’t care how many scholarships you have, it doesn’t make a difference to me,” he told the LA Times. “If we have 14 scholarships, that means everyone else has 14 scholarships. We’re going to win.”

Win they did. Going 0-5 and 1-5 in Bush’s first two years, the Trojans progressed to 5-2 and 9-1 in his last two years, topping out at #6 in the TFN dual meet rankings. Bush’s career at USC did not end well; he said he was forced out (after being diagnosed with prostate cancer), and he filed a lawsuit against USC (eventually settled out of court.)

Bush still coaches, volunteering his time in Southern California.

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Dual Meet Hall of Fame: Venue

Last year I inaugurated the Dual Meet Hall of Fame, to commemorate great rivalries, athletes, coaches, places and moments in this cornerstone of our sport. That first spring class of honorees included a venue, the venerable and beautiful Hayward Field. It’s a tight little aging wonder, much beloved by the fans who flock to it. Hayward is to Oregon track as Fenway Park is to the Boston Red Sox.

If there ever was a Yankee Stadium of college track—big, grand, in the middle of the sport’s capital megalopolis—it was the Los Angeles Coliseum.

From its opening in 1923 through the 1993 season (after which the track was removed), it was the home stadium for the USC Trojans. For the majority of that period, the Trojans dominated the landscape in college track and field: 25 NCAA Championship team titles and, from 1946 to 1962, 104 straight dual meets without a loss.

These days, more than 10,000 fans coming out to any college track meet is unusual, but it was once de rigueur for USC’s dual meets at the Coliseum.

Some great moments in dual meets at the Coliseum:

March 29, 1924: about 10,000 came out to see the first big dual meet in the new stadium, Stanford vs USC.

June 15, 1936: an estimated crowd of 40,000 came out to see the Trojans take on Ohio State. Jesse Owens won four events but the Trojans won the meet.

May 3, 1947: 29,879 fans saw USC beat Illinois, the defending NCAA champions.

1956: The biggest turnout ever for the USC-UCLA meet, 38,543, saw USC keep its rivalry win streak alive despite 18 points by the Bruins’ Rafer Johnson. UCLA went on to win the NCAA Championship that year.

April 21, 1962: Bill Bowerman’s Oregon Ducks came to Los Angeles and snapped the Trojans’ streak of 104 straight dual meets without a loss. Attendance was “just” 12,393.

May 7, 1966: In head coach Jim Bush’s second year at UCLA, the Bruins finally beat USC, their first victory in 33 tries.

1972: Coliseum officials didn’t expect a big crowd, so only one box office was open. The line of fans stretched all the way back to Martin Luther King Boulevard, and the meet was delayed to let at 17,400 of them in.

1986: USC got its first win in the women’s dual meet series with UCLA by a score of 69-67. The meet came down to the 4×400 relay, where future Olympian Leslie Maxie beat the great Gail Devers on the anchor leg, helping USC set a school and meet record in 3:32.58.

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Men’s All-Dual Meet Team

A few days ago I premiered the “All-Dual Meet Team”. The idea is fairly simple: thirty-two top NCAA athletes selected based on high achievement and/or versatility.

I attempted (and succeeded at) filling three spots in each standard dual meet event. Duals almost always include a 3000 or 5000 but not both, so “3k/5k” refers to both as a single unit. To be selected in an event, the athlete had to have done it (or its indoor equivalent) in a dual/tri/quad meet.

The Team

Akron
Shawn Barber – pole vault

Alabama
Diondre Batson – 100 meters, 200 meters and 4×100 relay

Arizona
Lawi Lalang – 1500 meters and 3k/5k
Edgar Rivera-Morales – high jump

Arizona State
Jordan Clarke – shot put, discus, and hammer

Arkansas
Taarik Batchelor – long jump and triple jump
Caleb Cross – 110 hurdles, 400 hurdles, and 4×400 alternate
Andrew Irwin – pole vault
Stanley Kebenei – steeplechase
Anthony May – high jump, long jump, and triple jump

Cal
Collin Jarvis – steeplechase and 3k/5k
Hammed Suleman – triple jump and long jump

Cal Poly
John Prader – pole vault

Illinois State
Tim Glover – javelin

Kansas State
Erik Kynard – high jump

LSU
Rodney Brown – discus and shot put
Aaron Ernest – 100 meters, 200 meters and 4×100 relay

Oregon
Jonathan Cabral – 110 hurdles and 400 hurdles
Sam Crouser – javelin
Mac Fleet – 1500 meters
Elijah Greer – 800 meters

Purdue
Chukwuebuka Enekwechi – shot put and hammer

Stanford
Michael Atchoo – 1500 meters and 800 meters

Texas A&M
Henry Lelei – steeplechase
Deon Lendore – 400 meters and 4×400 relay
Sam Humphreys – javelin

UCLA
Julian Wruck – discus throw

USC
Remy Conaster – hammer throw
Bryshon Nellum – 200 meters, 400 meters, and 4×400 relay
Reggie Wyatt – 400 meters, 400 hurdles and 4×400 relay

Awards

Most Valuable Athlete
Caleb Cross (Arkansas) scored the most points of any athlete on a top-ten team: three firsts (one each in the Oregon dual, Texas A&M-LSU triangular, and Texas dual), two seconds (one each vs Oregon and vs Texas), and legs on two winning relays (both vs Oregon).

Outstanding single performance in a dual meet
Elijah Greer (Oregon), 1:46.20 (800 meters) vs Arkansas, which broke a 35-year-old dual meet record
Honorable mention: Julian Wruck (UCLA), 66.05m/216-8 (discus) vs LSU and TCU, also a national dual meet record

Outstanding multiple performances in a single dual meet
Lawi Lalang (Arizona), 3:41.52 (1500 meters) and 13:40.85 (5000 meters) vs Arizona State and Northern Arizona, one of the best distance doubles ever in dual meet history

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Efficiency

I do a lot with collegiate dual meets. I do rankings, schedules, records, all kinds of stuff. It’s not necessarily that I think they’re the best form of college track competition–meets like Penn and Drake and conference and national championships are amazing things to see–but I do think the collegiate dual meet is important and underused and needs a town crier. That’s me.

I see more and more people agreeing with me this year. Arkansas head coach Chris Bucknam: “We have to do more dual meets…this is the direction track and field should be going.” UCLA head coach Mike Maynard: “Invitational meets are killing our sport…scored competitions are the best way to showcase our sport to spectators.” And yesterday, Paul Merca wrote the best and most passionate argument for dual meets I’ve yet seen.

The arguments are that dual meets are fan-friendly and accessible to the average sports fan. You can tap into your ready-made pool of fans of each particular college rather than needing to create new track fans. The meets are held in a reasonable time frame, with a score and a winner and a loser, and times and distances and heights are of lesser importance. Instead of individual events being just a bunch of stuff that happens, each event is part of a coherent whole. Basically, the meet tells a story.

I agree with all of these arguments and they are the best reasons for college track and field to give greater emphasis to dual meets. They are built around passion and aesthetics. But I have some other reasons to add to the list, ones that are geared towards the bean counters rather than the artists.

Dual meets are, in a word, efficient. In many ways, they make greater use of what we have at hand.

How so?
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Women’s All-Dual Meet Team

The final women’s collegiate dual-meet rankings will be released tomorrow. Ahead of that announcement, I chose my first ever All-Dual Meet Team.

These are all athletes who competed in dual meets, and specifically in the events for which they were chosen (or the indoor equivalents).

A somewhat common rule for dual meets is a roster of no more than 32 athletes, and I have 32 athletes below. I attempted to get three athletes in each standard dual meet event. Athletes were chosen for excellence, versatility, and/or ability to double (or triple or quadruple) at a high level.

Of course, they are listed by team. Here they are!

Alabama
Alexis Paine, pole vault

Arizona
Brigetta Barrett, high jump
Julie Labonte, shot put and discus
Georganne Moline, 400 hurdles and 4×400 alternate

Arizona State
Chelsea Cassulo, hammer throw
Anna Jelmini, discus and shot put
Christabel Nettey, 100 hurdles and triple jump

Arkansas
Makeba Alcide, high jump
Regina George, 400 meters, 200 meters and 4×400 relay
Sandi Morris, pole vault

Cincinnati
Mackenzie Fields, pole vault

Indiana State
Felisha Johnson, shot put and hammer throw

Kent State
Dior Delophont, high jump and triple jump

LSU
Laura Carleton, 1500 meters and 3k/5k
Kimberlyn Duncan, 200 meters and 4×100 relay
Natoya Goule, 800 meters, 400 meters and 4×400 relay
Charlene Lipsey, 800 meters and 1500 meters

Michigan
Rebecca Addison, 1500 meters and 3k/5k

Oregon
Phyllis Francis, 400 meters and 4×400 relay
Laura Roesler, 800 meters and 4×400 relay

Penn State
Lauren Kenney, javelin

Stanford
Brianna Bain, javelin
Kori Carter, 400 hurdles and 100 hurdles

Texas A&M
Jennifer Madu, 100 meters, triple jump and 4×100 relay
Shelbi Vaughan, shot put and discus

UCLA
Brea Buchanan, 100 hurdles, 100 meters, 4×100 relay
Kylie Price, long jump, 100 meters, 200 meters, 4×100 relay
Turquoise Thompson, 400 hurdles and 4×400 alternate

USC
Jenny Orozai, hammer throw

Washington
Megan Goethals, 3k/5k
Marie Lawrence, steeplechase

Washington State
Caroline Austin, steeplechase

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I’m Still Here

I’ve not given up this gig, I’m just very busy. I’m now regularly contributing to two other outlets, the Daily Relay and Track and Field News, plus guest spots here and there. This in addition to announcing two or three meets a week, trying to get my fat ass back into shape for a half marathon, and holding down my day job.

This weekend is off the charts with Penn, Drake, rivalry duals, and Stanford. Read about it here.

In the meantime, check out yesterday’s highlights at the Penn Relays.

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The Weekend’s Best Matchups

If you’re looking for my weekly preview, it’s at my new project, the Daily Relay. Check it out, there’s a lot going on this weekend.

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New Website: The Daily Relay

You might wonder what happened to my weekly college awards writeup. The answer is that they’re somewhere else: a new website project called The Daily Relay.

It’s a cooperative effort between several bloggers. Besides me, there’s Kevin Sully from The House of Run, Pat Price from Writing about Running, and Jim McDannald from TrackFocus. The name comes from each of us taking turns in contributing.

We wanted to kick off the site around the Boston Marathon. Monday’s disastrous events put things a little off kilter. But we’re back on track and a rhythm will be established.

Don’t worry, this site is not going away nor are any of the others. But we thought we could do more together than any of us could individually. You know, like four 10+ second sprinters coming together for a sub-40 relay.

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Senseless

Carrie crossed the finish line at 4:08:48.

The first explosion happened with 4:09:44 on the clock.

By then, she was already through the finish area and had met with George, her high school coach from some 25 years ago. She was far enough away to be safe from the blast. She told the Newark Advocate that five minutes had passed between her finish and the explosion, but they say that time slows down in extreme situations.

Her husband, John, was still out on the course. A many-time Boston Marathoner himself, he wasn’t up to running this year and was experiencing the race as a spectator. He’d missed seeing Carrie go by in a crowd and was still miles away when the explosions happened. They immediately contacted each other via cell phone, so each knew the other was uninjured, but it was still a tense time before they were reunited. He was running down city blocks, fighting waves of people like the protagonist of a disaster movie, and it was hours before he got to Carrie and George.

John is my best friend from my college team, and “best” means a lot when you’ve put in hundreds and hundreds of miles of blood, sweat and tears. When I saw Carrie’s finish time at the BAA website, I was as terrified as I’ve ever been until John sent me a single-word text: “Safe”.

Watching the Boston Marathon bombings coverage on television was, unfortunately, not a unique experience. London. New York. Atlanta. Oklahoma City. These are the examples of urban bombings I can recall, all intended to create fear, confusion, and massive injuries and fatalities, but there are undoubtedly more. Heck, today there were coordinated bombings in six of Iraq’s provinces, causing 42 deaths.

What was different and worse about Boston is that I knew people who were there. Besides Carrie, John and George, the older sister of a teaching colleague ran today (she finished 30 minutes before the blasts). I’m sure I know others who ran because I know a lot of runners.

That’s what has hit the running and track and field community so hard; this is personal. Anyone with many serious runner friends knew someone there today. Many of us have been there ourselves, elated to see Boylston Street at the end of a difficult journey. Others dream of getting there, or just like watching it on TV. For me, the Boston Marathon is a bit like Opening Day for baseball fans, a reason to blow off work and watch a sporting event that feels almost like an old buddy. What kind of a bastard plants a bomb at Opening Day?

There is no point in trying to make sense of a senseless act. The person who did this will be caught, prosecuted, and punished. His reason will undoubtedly be some political screed (see: Al-Qaeda, McVeigh, Unabomber). And the people who paid for it are just ordinary Joes and Josephines, trying to share a good time with their buddies and families and the city of Boston.

In the days immediately after September 11, 2001, when the nation was stunned and looking for a way to react, people spontaneously began to go to hospitals and the Red Cross and donate blood. Eventually so many people were donating that it overwhelmed storage capacity and donors were turned away.

What about now? What are we going to do in reaction to this tragedy? What will be our spontaneous mass action to tend to our own fears and to channel our concern for others? What runners always do. We run. I’ve already seen people planning to get together to run in a show of support for the victims and the city of Boston, in cities and towns all over the country. It is the appropriate response, because what we need is each other plus the relief that comes from tiring yourself out enough to put your mind at ease.

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Hope and Rain

Spring is a heart full of hope and a shoe full of rain.
–unknown

Senior Allison Weimer anchors to victory on Senior Day
Photo courtesy BGSU Athletics

Yesterday I was the PA announcer for the Bowling Green versus Toledo women’s track meet. Toledo finished fifth out of the twelve teams at this year’s Mid-American Conference indoor championships while Bowling Green’s goal was simply to avoid last place (a goal accomplished by a scant five points). On paper, Toledo should have won by a lot.

Yet somehow the Falcons hung in there, and when the 4×400 relay came around the winner of that race determined the winner of the meet. It suited Bowling Green just fine, as one of the season’s highlights so far was setting a new indoor school record in that event at the MAC Championships. The ladies walked out on the track and put it away.

The weather was atrocious. It was 39 degrees but felt much colder, what with Bowling Green’s famous wind plus rain that began to fall during the last few events. It helped the home team; like the Green Bay Packers and cold weather, Bowling Green athletes may not like a battering wind but they don’t fear it as the visiting teams do.

This meet between two natural rivals located just 25 miles apart was an annual affair through 2000, and then it stopped. I ran at Bowling Green a long time ago, and I’ve spent a lot of the intervening years bitter and angry about what happened to my team. I had many winters of discontent.

Things are beginning to change, though. This will always happen at universities. People come and go. Students are there for a short time, and faculty, administration and staff see heavy turnover as well. The new group of people I’ve come in contact with in the athletic department seem to agree with me about what universities are for.

That the meet was held at all filled my heart with hope. Winning it was extra. I got a shoe full of rain, too, and didn’t mind a bit.

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