SOME GREAT OLD MEMORIES - And some not so great

by Mike Byrnes

Let's see…the indoor meet started in 1984 and the outdoor version, seven years later. That's a grand total of 39 meets. Every one has a few special stories. In this month's Musings I'm going to muse about some of the ones that spring immediately to my facile mind. Most likely, I'll wake up in the middle of the night, remember a great anecdote, fall back asleep and never have a clue as to what woke me up.

Where to start? Trying to put these types of things in chronological order is impossible. Stuff just keeps 'popping up.' Like the year Jim Spier and I had made a FIRM decision to cut off the entrees at a reasonable time. You see, in those early days, we recruited right up until the day of the meet. Jim's data base hadn't grown into the awesome file it is today, there was no internet from which to cull superb performances and, to make matters worse, we weren't well known enough for coaches to call and alert us to some youngster who'd just had a noteworthy performance. Thus, we had to dig, scratch, make calls and find out who was out there that we didn't know about. Then, when we got some information, it had to be verified. Like the year we heard about a tremendous run over the 400mH, some kid in Iowa turned in something like 51.6 or so. Then, that was absolutely awesome. I got on the phone with the coach and invited the kid to come to the meet, all expenses paid. The excitement in my voice was palpable; this was one of the best efforts in that ever. AND HE WAS COMING! Then, about thirty minutes later, the coach, later a recipient of the Diogenes Award for Truthfulness, called and asked if I knew in Iowa, the event was run over LOW hurdles, not the intermediates? That made the time far less impressive and I tremulously asked if the coach would mind if the invitation was rescinded? He was great! "No," he laughed. "I figured you guys had made a mistake. I haven't told the kid yet so don't worry about it."

Anyway, back to this SOLID decision. The meet was being held in Syracuse and we both were absolutely determined to hold the line on late entrants. On Thursday, well past our self-imposed recruiting deadline, we were sitting in the meet hq when a gentleman, hat in hand, came into the room followed by a young man. He asked for us and as he walked over, I quietly said to Jim, "Remember, absolutely NO entries this late." He nodded in agreement. The man introduced himself and, hat in hand, asked if he could enter his son into the meet in the 440. "Impossible", we emphatically told him. The heats had already been drawn and there was no room. The man was utterly crest-fallen. "We just drove here from Detroit and couldn't you please let him in?" he asked plaintively. We bravely held firm. With sincere apologies we reiterated that the heats had been drawn and we simply couldn't do it. Long silence. Jim finally asked what had the boy run, more out of politeness than anything else. Now remember, getting results was a totally different story back then. The Dad hesitated, turned to his son and asked about the performance, the boy answered quietly. The Dad turned and said, "His best was about 47 seconds." We were stunned, absolutely and totally stunned. Jim whispered, "This is Darnell Hall, he's one of the best returnees in the country." We huddled. A few quick whispers, then, I said, "Mr. Hall, I made a mistake. Jim just pointed out there is a lane open and we'd be glad to have your son fill it." Huge smiles all around and a "SOLID" decision gave way to an intelligent solution. OK, we made a mistake BUT we corrected it. The next big mistake I made all by myself.

The year, 1994 and the 'best' athlete in the meet was a youngster from California, Michael Granville. As a soph, he'd clocked 1:51.03 outdoors, a national frosh record. Coached by his Dad, he'd come out of nowhere and his future was brighter than Obama's smile on election night. He hadn't done much indoor running but when an invitation was extended to compete in our meet, his Dad and he accepted eagerly.

We'd assembled a pretty good field and it looked as if the race would be a good one. Leading the field was a terrific kid out of Topeka, WINSTON TIDWELL. He was the #1 returnee with a best of 1:50.13 and MILTON CAMPBELL, the pride of Atlanta, at 1:51.67 would provide Granville's competition.

Granville won the race, 1:51.11 with Campbell, 1:52.64, Tidwell, 1:52.67, an unknown, JOE KIMBALL, from Bethesda Whitman, who ran the race of his life, 1:53.93 and KY ADDERLY, another splendid athlete from Arnie Schiffrin's Philly Central powerhouse at 1:54.62. Interestingly, there was another young Californian who would finish 7th in the race at 1:56.10. His name, OBEA MOORE.

Spier, Sundlun and I were exhilarated after the race. Perhaps now, after 10 years, Jack Shepard would include the results of our meet in this High School Annual. (He did.) Now, let me set the stage for what was my great mistake. At that time we awarded a trophy to the Outstanding Performer of the meet. Most of the events were complete and the Granville's had a plane to catch. We'd already selected Granville as the MVP but wanted to wait until the meet had been completed prior to making the award. OK. BUT, Mr. Granville kept reminding me about that plane. I kept putting him off. He almost begged and I relented, "Here's the trophy, congratulations," I recall saying. Beaming, Dad took the award, Michael shyly shook my hand and off they went. No problem, WRONG. The high jump wasn't over.

It was a terrific event in its own right. Two of the top returnees, ERIC BISHOP, 7-3 and JEFFREY FISCHER, 7-2 were dueling. No sweat, the indoor record, 7-5 (Gail Olsen, '78) appeared to be safe. Both Bishop and Fischer cleared 7-2 but the latter was finished for the night. Not so Bishop. The Georgian easily cleared 7-3 then had the bar raised to 7-5. What if he cleared and set a new hsr? Of course he'd be the MVP. But the trophy was firmly settled in Granville's arms aboard Flight 108 to LA. I was petrified. How could I have done such a thing!? Bishop soared over the bar but upon a remeasurement it was found to be 7-04.5. He could go no higher. But he'd just tied Dothel Edwards for #2-AT. A hurried conference, some choice words from Sundlun and it was decided to give two MVP's, one for the track events, another for the field. I was saved. Both went on to have good college careers but neither ever achieved the collegiate greatness that had been predicted. Moore, the seventh place finisher would go on to be one of high school's greatest stars but he also never achieved collegiate success. Strange.

Several years later the MVP award was dropped.

Were there other foul-ups? I'm sure there were but none ever caused me the anxiety of the 1994 awards.

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