Thursday, May 26, 2016

V. 1. #23. The First Girls Pole Vault Competition In Ohio

V. 1. #23. The First Girls Pole Vault Competition In Ohio

It was the spring of 1995. Pole vaulting for girls was not yet a regular event in Ohio. At that time only California sanctioned high school girls pole vaulting. Andy Wolf, long time coach at Anderson High School, is considered among the best and most innovative coaches in the state. Each spring his school hosts the Anderson Invitational. In 1995 he decided to include the pole vault for girls, even though it was not yet officially sanctioned by the state (it is now), as one of the events in his meet. And, he thought he had the right candidate for this endeavor. 

Her name was Allison Kline and she was a 17 year-old junior at Anderson High School. Allison’s athleticism was evident as she had qualified for the state gymnastics meet two years in a row and she was a cheerleader. Coach Wolf suggested to her that she attempt vaulting. It sounded interesting to her and even though her parents thought it was funny they knew she liked challenges and was willing to try most anything. 

On the team Allison participated in a variety of track and field events but she also had a secret weapon. Her boyfriend, senior Jake Andreadis, was the defending Division 1 pole vault champion. Jake had already vaulted 15'0" himself. With Allison willing to give it a try and Jake there to help her, she had only a few weeks to prepare for this first-time contest. 

The night of the meet arrived. Fourteen young ladies were out to win on this historic occasion. The bar was initially set at 6'0". Most of the girls failed to successfully make it over, but Allison and a few others cleared it. 

Dave Moore was the official at that meet.  He knew that some of those girls only had a day or two of practice.  They looked very bad, but they (or their coaches) wanted to be part of this inaugural happening.  However, it was evident that the top five or six girls had someone helping them with their preparation.

At 6'6" only she and two others sailed over the height. Now it was raised to 7'0". Allison had topped that measurement in practice, but could she do it under pressure in actual competition?

All three girls failed to clear the bar during their allotted three tries. Since a triple tie for first existed, extra attempts were allowed in order to determine a single winner. Allison went skyward and, as she reached the apex of her journey, she left space between her body and the bar. The other two competitors missed and that is how Allison Kline, a junior at Anderson High School, came to make history in the spring of 1995, by being crowned the first high school female in Ohio to win a girls only pole vault competition. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

V. 1 #22 Cincinnati’s Non-Traditional or Unique Races

V. 1  #22  Cincinnati’s Non-Traditional or Unique Races
By Roy Gerber
(Roy has been running for 50 years. Recently a knee injury relegated him to walker status. He worked on the Cincinnati Heart Mini-Marathon for 12 years−five as the Race Director.”)

Runners are always looking for a new challenges and a change from the monotony of omnipresent road races. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“Obstacle Racing Finds Itself Stuck in the Mud”, May 12, 2016), discussed this need for change and the subsequent popularity of obstacle-course racing. According to the article, the research group Running USA defines this category as "events with interactive component like mud or paint, fitness challenges, and other creative twists.”
This interest is nothing new and back in the day, Cincinnati had its share of races with fitness challenges and other creative twists. Here is a list of some of those creative or non-traditional races that you may have missed. Some still exist. Some of these runs were unique because of their very nature, while others offered a distinctive venue.
This list is by no means comprehensive.  You are invited to submit ones that we may have missed or personal stories to any of those that are listed.
The Connolly Hour  (1972 - 1981)
Directed by race director emeritus Don Connolly, the Connolly Hour took place on the University of Cincinnati track. The run was sponsored by the Clifton Track Club and served as the CTC One Hour Run Championship. As a timed event, the goal was to cover as much distance as possible within one hour. When the hour was up, the runners stopped where they were and the distance of the partially completed lap was measured. Each runner was required to bring a scorer with them to record the quarter-mile splits for each lap for the entire hour. The runner who covered the most distance during the hour received a clock.
In 1972 Brenda Webb set a world's best for women.  Her distance was nine miles, 1625 yards.
The Connolly Hour was unique in that it afforded runners an opportunity to participate in a rarely contested event. It was also unique in that it afforded middle-of-the-pack runners an opportunity to run with the top runners, albeit only for a few seconds as they were being lapped.
Bill Denny Memorial Run (1975 – 1993)
First held in 1975, this was a handicap race where the runners lined up perpendicular to the starting line instead of parallel. Each runner had a different starting time with the slowest runner first, followed by the next slowest, all the way up to the fastest runner starting last. As things usually worked out, serious runners found themselves dueling slower fun runners at the tape. Sometimes a 5K and sometimes a five-miler, the run was held in Mt. Airy and later Miami Whitewater Park.
Straight Street Hill Climb (1977 - 1991)
Started by the Clifton Track Club and Mike Boylan in 1977, runners had an opportunity to run the 0.36 mile uphill on Straight Street, between the intersections of McMicken and University Avenues. According to an engineer for the City of Cincinnati, the grade of Straight Street is among the steepest in the city, averaging between 16-18 degrees along the way.
Tom Possert Leading a Group
Participants of the Straight Street Hill Climb, who used to refer to themselves as MAHFU−Masochists and Hill Freaks United, often ran Straight Street as part of the annual Clifton Track Club Hill Series which also included runs up Monastery, Grand, and Colerain Avenues.
An opportunity to bike up Straight Street was added in 2011 and today thrill seekers can run up the hill, then down and finish by biking up to the finish line again in what has been called the world’s shortest biathlon. What makes the Straight Street Hill Climb unique was that it gives runners an opportunity to come close to attaining their maximum heart rate (that’s right, not target heart rate). Coincidently, at the top of the Straight Street hill is the entrance to the Deaconess Hospital Emergency Department.
Great Last Gasp Gas Mask Relay Race  (1978 - 1984)
This was a fund-raising event sponsored by the Personal Mobility Committee. The Great Last Gasp Gas Mask Relay initially featured a “revolving gas mask trophy” presented to the winning team. The 2.7-mile race finished at the Environmental Protection Agency in Clifton after starting at Fountain Square.
The race later morphed into a five-mile relay race when the course began at the auto emissions testing station on Central Parkway in Cincinnati and ended at Covington’s Old Town Plaza. Each of five runners would go one mile. What enabled this race to make this list was the fact that the runners passed an automobile tailpipe and a gas mask as a baton during the race. Also, the first (starting) runner and the runner anchoring the relay were asked to wear the gas mask while they ran.
The proceeds from the Gas Mask Relay helped start Cincinnati’s ride-sharing/van-pooling program in 1978. The Great Last Gasp Gas Mask Relay had its last gasp in 1984, but the memory of the smell of the sweaty, rubber gas mask lasted for years.
Esprit Yogurt Run  (1979 -1982)
Another unique venue run, the Esprit Yogurt 10K race first began in 1979 in front of the Montgomery Square Kroger store and two years later moved out to Kings Island. Sponsored by Esprit Yogurt, the race started and ended in the Kings Island parking lot after touring the back roads and behind-the- scenes of the Kings Island property.  
 Author of article wearing his Dolfin striped shorts
Zoo Run  (1979 - Present)
First run on October 6, 1979, the Zoo Run was originally a 2.5 -mile race on the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden grounds with a shorter race for kids around Swan Lake. Originally sponsored by Burger Chef, the run was renamed The Cheetah Run around 1985 and now benefits the Zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program.
Something Under 10K Prediction Run (1980)
Held in January 1980 along the Lunken Bike Path, the exact distance of the race wasn’t provided until just prior to the starting gun. Runners were then asked to predict their estimated time of finish, with the winners determined by those finishing closest to their estimates. Naturally, runners could not wear watches.
Run Like Hell  (1982 - Present)
A number of races, like the Run Like Hell, have differentiated themselves by their unique venue.  Begun on October 30, 1982, and held on, or just before Halloween, the Run Like Hell race started from Xavier University and went into the Walnut Hills Cemetery. Its popularity remains to today, because where else can you run in cemetery wearing a costume while raising money for Cystic Fibrosis?
Devil-Take-the-Hindmost  (1984 – 2014)
Devil-Take-the-Hindmost, directed by Bob Roncker, was an adaptation of an old track training session. Originally run on the Summit Country Day track near the original Running Spot, it was later moved to Owl’s Nest Park on Madison Road. Devil-Take-the-Hindmost was essentially an elimination race on an oval course with some twists: the entire group would run on the track for a pre-determined number of laps or for about one mile. Then it would be announced that the “Devil Would Take the Hindmost” meaning that on the next lap, the last runner across the start/finish line would be eliminated. The next-to-the-last runner would be told they were “on the bubble.” Once the first runner was eliminated, the runner who was “on the bubble” was then in danger of being eliminated at the end of the next lap unless they were able to pass another runner. This scenario was repeated until only one runner was left.
The Devil ready to eliminate whoever was "on the bubble"
The key rule to this race was that no one was allowed to pass or “lap” the last runner. This would invariably force the lead pack of runners to slow down and trail behind the runner in last place. Once this last runner was eliminated, there would be sprints by the remaining runners around again to the start/finish line in an effort to avoid being last. Depending upon the number of race entrants, it might take 15 or 30 laps to eliminate all but one runner. In sum, the last runner might not be the fastest of the entire field, but rather the one capable of a burst of speed when needed. The unique rules, plus the seemingly always muddy Owl’s Nest Park course, made for a fun time. 

Reds Home Run Run (1986 - )
The race entry fee for the Reds Home Run Run included admission to both games of a Cincinnati Reds double header. The run occurred between the two baseball games and most of the racecourse was along Mehring Way. What made this race unique was that the runners would enter Riverfront Stadium and finish the race in right field outfield. What made the race even more different was that a few baseball fans decided on the spur-of-the-moment to participate in the run after consuming large quantities of Hudepohl beer, brats and metts. Much to the enjoyment of the crowd, one “runner” tried to duplicate Pete Rose’s headfirst slide into second base. 
Merit Mile  (1990 – 1992)
Modeled after New York City’s famed Fifth Avenue Mile, the Merit Mile was sponsored by the Merit Savings Association and directed by Stacey Osborne. The race was run between the Norwood Plaza and the 4700 block of Montgomery Road. It offered a unique opportunity to run a straight away one-mile race and be named “age group stud.” It remains unclear if award-winning women received “stud-ette” ribbons. 

Comair Run Way Run  (1990)
You guessed it, the race was held on the new runway at the Greater Cincinnati International Airport. Comair, the now defunct subsidiary airline of Delta, sponsored the race in 1990. Race Director Don Connolly’s wry sense of humor was reflected on the entry form where the 10:00 a.m. start time was listed as “Takeoff 10:00 a.m.”
Ronald Reagan Highway 5K  (1993)
The first and last Ronald Reagan Highway Run was held right on a closed section the Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway in July of 1993. The run was held as part of the renaming and completion of what was formerly and locally known as Cross County Highway. Due to the extreme heat that evening, there was an option to finish at the one-mile marker.
East Fork Backpack Trail Run  (1995 – Present)
The East Fork Backpack Trail Run utilized the same handicap methodology in which all runners received a handicap based upon past performances, age, and sex. Because of the time-staggered starts, the goal was to provide every runner an equal opportunity to finish first. Held on the densely wooded trails of East Fork State Park, the very challenging, muddy course made passing other runners difficult. The direction of the course was reversed each year (counter-clockwise on odd years, clockwise on even years), which was helpful for finding shoes you lost in the mud the previous year.  First held in 1995, the East Fork Backpack Trail Run continues today as part of the “Dirt Days Trail Series.”
*** Special thanks for help from Tom Niehaus, Don Connolly and Andy Wolf ***
Feel free to share any memories or corrections that you have of these events.