Archive for August, 2010

Princeton Women In The Top 10, Again

Posted: 31 August by Brett Hoover in Princeton, Women

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association has announced its preseason cross country rankings and the Princeton women are ranked seventh in the nation and second in the Mid-Atlantic region behind only Villanova, the nation’s unanimous No. 1 team. The 2009 Orange & Black claimed fifth nationally at the NCAA Championships in Indiana.

On the men’s side, the Tigers were edged by Cal Poly for the final spot in the top 30 with only two Mid-Atlantic teams — Georgetown and Villanova — in front of them. Additionally among the men, all six teams in the Northeast are ranked among the top 10 in the geographic region. Coming in at fourth, the Columbia Lions are the top-rated Ivy squad in the Northeast, followed by Conell and Dartmouth.

The Harvard women — also ranked fourth in the Northeast — are the top-ranked Heps squad in the region with Columbia and Cornell following behind.

The cross country season gets underway in less than two weeks with Cornell visiting Army, Dartmouth hosting Yale and others at its invitational, Penn at the Fordham Fiasco in Van Cortlandt Park, Princeton at Penn State’s Spiked Shoe Invitational and Columbia visiting Vermont.

Five Years And A Cloud of Dust

Posted: 31 August by Brett Hoover in Alumni, Brown
Tags:


I had to search for something in the basement this weekend and came across a dusty CD on which was written “Hall of Fame Photos.” It wasn’t for what I was looking — which was a power cord for a keyboard that I never learned to play — but it sent me down memory lane.

So here is the story about how I came to sit with the family of Fritz Pollard, just a few feet away from the stage, at the 2005 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio.

When I joined the League front office in 2000, I was excited that Executive Director Jeff Orleans had initiated an annual black history month celebration and I was determined to expand it and deliver it to a wider audience. With the web, the second part wasn’t terribly difficult, but the research and reporting seemed to never end.

It took me four years to finally focus on Fritz Pollard, the man who might have won a Heisman Trophy when he was at Brown University (if the trophy then existed) and then became the first black player, first black quarterback and first black head coach in the NFL.

I had seen a photo of an aging Pollard receiving his College Football Hall of Fame plaque, so I wanted to dutifully report the year that he had been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The problem? He had never been inducted into the Canton shrine. Being football’s Jackie Robinson hadn’t been enough. Being, with Jim Thorpe, the biggest draw in the game hadn’t been enough. Being a trailblazing coach? Not enough.

That stuck in my crawl. My feature turned from a fluffy piece on Pollard to an indictment of the NFL and its Hall of Fame. I registered “FritzPollard.com” and commissioned my friend Dipen Shah to build, nearly pro-bono, a nice website with the photos and content I had gathered. I then emailed every NFL team, a ton of media and several Hall of Famers. I sent the website to the selection committee.

Then, in the middle of the season, I got a phone call from Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy. We chatted for a few minutes and he thanked me for putting a spotlight on Pollard and pledged to get involved in the effort. Then came an email from Kellen Winslow, the father, who told me that he was going to work his contacts. Brown Athletic Director Dave Roach shifted his interest to the Pollard cause as well and we discussed tactics a number of times.

Buoyed by that response, I decided to continue my awareness campaign with the selection committee. In fact, I had a friend on the committee whom I convinced to push for Pollard. So as the selection committee met in Miami before the Super Bowl, I got a call from my insider. “I hope you are watching ESPN News,” he told me. Of course, I was.

When the 2005 induction class was announced, Fritz Pollard was finally named. Sitting in an apartment in the middle of New Jersey, I had to fight back tears. For me, a wrong finally became a right.

Calls came in from all over, including one from Fritz Pollard III. Many thanked me and credited my efforts, yet all I had done was written a story, sent some emails, made some phone calls and put up a website.

Fritz Pollard had done all the hard work. As had John Carroll, who had written Pollard’s biography in 1998. I had just jumped on a moving train and helped it speed up a little.

Nonetheless, the folks at Brown invited me to join them at the ceremony, picking up the hotel and the tickets, and I had a memorable (and hot) weekend in Canton with current AD Michael Goldberger and his son Kevin.

Invited to the Canton Marriott for the Pollard post-induction party that evening, I was initially surprised at the turnout. That’s because I’d wandered into Steve Young’s party. The Pollard affair was in the basement.

That’s where I joined a crowd of about 100 folks — including Winslow, Art Shell, Paul Tagliabue, Paul Warfield and Brown’s own Steve Jordan — to share some drinks, some food and some justice.

Yale’s Young to Retire

Posted: 28 August by Brett Hoover in Announcement, Yale
Tags: ,


Yale Coach Mark Young announced on Friday that he will retire from that position at the conclusion of the upcoming cross country season. Young, who enters his 31st season as a coach at Yale, will remain with the program coaching the women’s track and field team’s distance and middle distance runners through the spring. Associate head coach David Shoehalter will be Yale’s new coach.

Young’s retirement caps a career that has been marked by many significant accomplishments. Since returning to his alma mater as a coach in 1980, Young has led Yale to six Heptagonal Championships and four top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships in women’s cross country. The Bulldogs have also won four ECAC titles under Young’s guidance. The director position that now bears his name was endowed in his honor in 2008.

“I am extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish here at Yale during my tenure, and would like to thank all of the individuals who have been a part of it,” Young said. “We have demonstrated that student-athletes can achieve at the highest levels of their sport while simultaneously striving for academic excellence. Having worked with Dave Shoehalter for 17 years I am thrilled that he will take on the role of director when I retire, because that ensures continuity to that overall philosophy.”

Young was the national Cross Country Coach of the Year in 1987, when he led Yale to a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships — the best finish ever for an Ivy League women’s team. He also earned District I Cross Country Coach of the Year honors for the third straight time that season. In track and field Young was named NCAA District I Outdoor Track Coach of the Year in 1987, when Yale won the outdoor Heptagonal Championship and finished second indoors.

For the full story on Yale’s website, please click here.

Beating The Chinese Desert

Posted: 27 August by Brett Hoover in Athletes, Harvard
Tags: ,

Former All-Ivy League pick Eric LaHaie did something pretty remarkable recently, winning a 100-kilometer ultra marathon in a Chinese desert. But if you are unfamiliar with his name, consider that his 2001 All-Ivy certificate came as a football safety for the Crimson.

His victory in the Taklamakan Desert wasn’t LaHaie’s first such title. Last year he claimed victory in the six-day, 250-kilometer Gobi March, considered to be one of the top endurance competitions on the planet.

His recent win — in 11 hours and 20 minutes — was his toughest one. “It was actually one of the more difficult course I have encountered,” he wrote on his blog. “Tons of soft sand which slowly drained the energy in your legs with every step.”

Yet he literally dusted the field by nearly three hours while only six of the 35 finishers clocked a time of fewer than 20 hours! Here are the results.

He described the finish to Marco Werman on NPR:

“The floodlights that light up the finish line had gone off because the generator ran out of gas. So all of a sudden I just came over this sandy dune and there it was like 20 feet in front of me. And the only person there was our race organizer who I know. So she welcomed me in and it’s like 15 to 20 minutes of exhilaration followed by your body sort of goes into shock a little bit afterwards. Freezing cold and I started cramping up a little bit. So then I go into my recovery process which is just drinks tons of water and eat food.”

How about 15 days of sleep?

Big hat tip to Mary Boggs for these stories as another Cantab — Erin Sprague — set out to become the youngest person to run seven marathons on seven continents. Here she is on the Today Show in 2008.

About That Track Scholarship…

Posted: 25 August by Brett Hoover in Princeton
Tags: ,

In my eight years at the Ivy League, twice the music media tracked me down and peppered me with questions and requests. Both times centered on track and field, once about the subject of a song and the other about a high-school-athlete-turned-princess-of-hip-hop.

One story was kinda cute and fluffy, when in 2007 Delilah DiCrescenzo’s life was turned upside-down by the Plain White T’s. The song “Hey There Delilah” caused a stir that summer and I wound up taking numerous calls, including one from Stern Magazine in Germany looking for a photo of the Columbia steeplechaser, who is now an assistant coach at her alma mater.

The other was strange. In 2002, Ashanti broke on to the international stage, scoring eight Billboard awards and two American Music Awards with her self-titled debut album (which featured the hit Foolish). A triple jumper from Glen Cove, N.Y., Ashanti Douglas had drawn mild interest from the Princeton coaching staff. But when her fame hit, I was suddenly fielding calls about her spurning an athletic scholarship offer from the Tigers.

Aside from the obvious lack of athletic scholarships at Princeton, it took Coach Peter Farrell some bit of coaxing to remember Ashanti the athlete. When I would hear Ashanti’s name, I would wonder where the press got the story, if indeed someone had exaggerated her bio.

Well, recently someone sent me a link to an old story on ESPN.com when the movie John Tucker Must Die, which featured Ashanti, was released. Turns out, the singer herself was pushing the story, telling interviewer Miki Turner, “I got two (track) scholarships, one to Princeton and one to Hampton.”

Spurning those “offers,” she instead signed on with Murder, Inc., but that “scholarship” was revoked last year.

Just another strange tale of Heps Track.

Next Up? A New Look

Posted: 24 August by Brett Hoover in Announcement
Tags:

HepsTrack is light on content this week as it prepares for the coming cross country season with a new look. We are adding some new content pages and creating a more navigable look.

And one thing we’d like to do is establish a connection with a content-rich Twitter account from each of the eight schools. If you take a look at our refurbished Twitter page, you will see that we have started a list, where people can get up-to-date data from each school. The only thing is, we need some committed tweeters. Right now it seems that only Princeton has an active Twitter account. Brown and Columbia have accounts, but neither has posted in months.

We’d like to replace those with someone who can create an account and provide tweet updates during meets, etc. If you have started such an account, please let us know! And we’ll be back soon with a new look on HepsTrack.