Tuesday, July 12, 2016

V.1 #34 Charles Anderson Passes Away

Charles Anderson Passes Away

Recently a wonderful individual and long time local coach passed away. His name is Charles Anderson or as many people affectionately referred to him as Andy. He taught and coached at St. Bernard High School for many years. He was 93 when he died. For a number of years he and his family lived by the Eastern Shore.

There was a time that on the Fourth of July only one local race was contested. This was the Charles Anderson Run in St. Bernard. It began in 1978 and was held for many years. Much like Andy, who would not be described as conventional, the distance of the race was 4.6 miles.

Don Connolly recalls how Bob Caroll, a former runner under Andy, enlisted him to direct the race.  This was the first race that Don was a meet director. It was a stellar event and drew rather large crowds. 

Bob Roncker was a young high school coach in the mid 1960s. Whenever he needed some coaching counsel, Andy was his go to person. Former athletes, who had the good fortune to be under his tutelage, had plenty of stories to tell about him. A couple of stories by his former runners are included below.  Andy was a fine person and we miss him.

Memories of Andy by Ray Schraer

Andy is the name most people called Charles Anderson, the cross-country coach at St. Bernard High School.  My first memory of Andy is really a memory of his 1962 cross-country team.  I was a sophomore at Sycamore High School, running cross-country for the first time.  I was having a relatively good season, moving up in each of our league races from 15th to 5th place.  So, in a dual meet with St. Bernard, a much smaller school than Sycamore, I was surprised by the strength of their team.  They put three runners ahead of me, including my cousin, Bob Dickerson, who was also running cross-country for the first time.  So, I thought their coach must have must have been using some effective training methods. 

Toward the end of my sophomore year, my parents bought a motel in Kentucky.  The Campbell County High School where I would have attended did not seem like a good place to pursue running: They did not have a cross-country team, and while they had a track team, they did not have a track.  So, my parents agreed to let me live with my grandmother and pay tuition to go to St. Bernard High School.  Because of that decision Andy became my cross-country coach for two years.

Saying Andy was my coach, however, doesn’t really describe our relationship.  Yes, Andy made up workouts and took us to meets, but he did more than that.  He was also a role model.  He was the only adult I knew who ran.  Andy showed me that you could continue to run even after high school and college.  And, he ran even though he was a chain smoker who used the end of one cigarette to light his next one.

Andy was a good coach.  I think his training methods achieved the best possible results for others and me on our team.  St. Bernard was a small school, so we didn’t have a large number of boys come out for cross-country.  In other words, Andy didn’t have a large talent pool; he worked with the runners he had.  Andy’s workouts included intervals on different sections of our home course.  I remember doing 220s up Tower Avenue.  Andy recorded our workouts in his training log.  He kept a log each year and refined his workouts based on previous years’ results.  Andy was a coach who thought about what he was doing.  In other words, he cared – unlike some other coaches I had who just said to go out and run, with no actual thought about training methods.   He cared, but in a low-key way.  I don’t recall him ever being angry or yelling; he always seemed positive and supportive.   I remember asking him about a runner who seemed to have a lot of potential but was very inconsistent.  Andy told me that the runner’s family was poor and probably had a deficient diet, a comment that showed an insight and sensitivity that has stayed with me.

Since my parents did not live in the St. Bernard school district, I had to sit out of competition my junior year.  I still ran cross-country, but Andy would have me step forward before each race and tell the other team that I did not count in the scoring.  Since I also would have to sit out the track season, I decided to train for and run the Boston Marathon.  I did a lot of long runs and wanted to try the full marathon distance before going to Boston.  We had a five-mile loop around St. Bernard, which I would use for this trial run.  Andy measured the extra mile plus 385 yards for me so I could finish the entire distance.  Also, when I ran the trial, he was there to call out each 5-mile split and the finishing time.  I was and remain grateful for his help.

I was allowed to compete my senior year.  I remember one meet in particular, the 7th annual Lowell Thomas Meet, for Class A schools.  The course was a true cross-country course:  30 yards from the start and finish was a ditch, maybe 3 feet down on one side and 3 feet up on the other.  There were stream crossings, narrow trails, and bad footing.  Andy had expertise as a trainer as well as a coach; he taped everyone’s ankles for protection.  I was lucky enough to get in the lead just before the trail part of the course.  Since it was difficult to pass on the trail, I was able to extend my lead over runners who otherwise might have challenged me.  Before the finish, I saw Andy out on the course telling me to slow down through the ditch.  I don’t know if I was near to a course record or not, but I appreciated Andy’s concern that I get safely to the finish line without worrying about the time.
Due the differences in age and role, it wouldn’t be accurate to describe Andy as a friend.   But he was probably as close to a friend as a coach and one of his runners can be.  I was at his home many times and knew his wife and kids.  That didn’t happen with any of my other St. Bernard teachers.  He was even open to helping after I had graduated from St. Bernard.  I remember running with my cousin Bob shortly before his wedding.  We frequently set up a sprint at the end of our runs (which I always lost).  This time, I started my sprint and immediately felt the most severe backstitch I ever had.  It hurt so much that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to be his best man in the wedding.  We called Andy, and he invited us over.  He massaged my back and helped work the pain out.

There were sides of Andy I did not know.  Since I came to St. Bernard in high school, I did not know him as an elementary school teacher.  I also did not know him as a basketball coach.  But the sides of Andy I did know left a lasting impression on me.  I’ll remember him fondly.

(Editor’s note: Ray was co-captain of Miami University’s cross-country team his senior year. Perhaps, following in the tradition of his nonconformist high school coach, he chose not to run track during his senior year for the University because of their length of hair policy.)

Memories of Andy by Bob Dickerson

During the 1962 track season, St. Bernard had one sprinter, one hurdler, two distance runners and a guy who was cut from the baseball team because he had bad eyes and the coach was afraid he was gonna get killed - field event guys don't count - and me.  I was a junior and it was my first year of track. I started training with the distance guys but they switched me to the sprints because we only had one sprinter and I was faster than the field event guys. 

After the track season, Andy said he was going to restart the cross-country team for the '62 season.  I told him I was in. He suggested that I try to make the 500-mile club in one year, which no one had ever done. Most guys ran the 500 miles over six years. (Twenty 2.5 mile runs in the 7th and 8th grade and then twenty 5 mile runs each year in high school.) With one sentence, he challenged me to catch up to the other two distance runners, challenged me to do something that hadn't been done before and gave me a realistic workout schedule for a 16 year-old with 10 weeks of sprint training. That's great coaching. As I recall, I did 60 five-mile runs - 300 miles - before the CC season started. 

In spite of the small squad, we had a successful CC season. I think we won all the dual meets, often by taking the first three places. The District was the last meet of the season and we thought we had a chance of winning.  That was a big job for a small team because there were no classes or divisions in Cross Country - all schools ran together. To win, we had to beat the big suburban schools such as Princeton, Colerain and Moeller. 

I don't remember exactly what Andy said in the pre-race huddle but it was shorter than I expected. It was on the order of, "Run hard and you'll win."  Somehow, Andy got our fourth and fifth runners, the sprinter, Lou Dahmann, and the baseball player, Mike Reenan, to run their best races of the season and we won. 

Andy entered me in the Thanksgiving Day Race. With his encouragement, I continued my 5-mile runs. In February, he mentioned the big indoor track meet, the Mason-Dixon Games, in Louisville. Andy took my cousin, Ray Schraer, and me to the meet (Ray was a sophomore at Sycamore that year.) The highlight was watching Miami freshman, Andy Schramm, (Deer Park H.S.) beat America's best marathoner, Buddy Edelen, in the two mile in 8:57.  Running in February can get to be a chore but watching that meet renewed my enthusiasm. Before the track season Andy suggested that I read the biographies of Roger Bannister, John Landy and Herb Elliott. The Mason-Dixon Games and the books kept me enthused and I started my second track season in great shape.

I started teaching in Cincinnati in 1967 and, as a new teacher, I was assigned the fifth section of the sixth grade. None of the kids were reading anywhere near grade level and all of the readers were for sixth graders.  I talked to my supervisor and principal and they offered some suggestions but basically, I was told to "make do" with what I had.

I was running cross-country with The Ohio Valley Track Club and talked to Andy occasionally about my training. During one visit, I mentioned the lack of the proper readers and Andy immediately drove us over to St. Bernard Elementary School. He unlocked the school and we went to the book room. I left with about 20 or 25 readers for second, third and fourth graders. They were worn out and out dated, and were not going to be used again by the St. Bernard School District, but they were just what the kids that I had needed. 

Andy was a great coach and a great person.

BTW, my E-mail name is "5miler".

(Editor’s note:  Bob continued competing after his St. Bernard days. He ran cross-country and track for Miami University and in 1968 he won the local Thanksgiving Day Race.)

Here is a story about Andy that has not been verified but it comes up so often that it is part of the St. Bernard lore.  If it is not true, those who knew him certainly believe that it was possible and probable that it did occur.

One day Andy was leading a group of his athlete’s on a run. The group came upon an automobile that was blocking their way. Polite words were exchanged, but the driver refused to move. With that, Andy hopped up on the hood, scampered across the top and proceeded to continue on his way.

Memories of Andy by Lou Dahmann

I was the sprinter mentioned in Bob Dickerson's posting on Andy's 1962 cross-country team that qualified for the state meet. As a sprinter, running any distances over 440 yards was highly distasteful. But in those days, we had a small group of six or seven guys who went out for as many sports as possible.

I admired Andy to the point where I bit the bullet and joined his team. His fierce competitiveness soon worked its way into my own attitudes. I remember he used to say, "There are two types of people in this world-the winners and the $%#&!. We made sure we were winners.

Andy also joined forces with Jerry Finkes to coach our track team. Coach Finkes was, and still is, a first class mentor. I remember one night at Lockland. I was setting my blocks for the 100 yard dash when Andy squatted down beside me and offered this advice: "When the gun goes off, bug out!" Obvious enough, but this advice served me well in my teaching career in a certain local school system.

As a result of my experience being trained by these two gentlemen, I was able to run with the big boys at UC, and later, to coach track and cross-country for 40 years. Our teams at Western Hills knew how to "drill the hills", a strategy first learned at St. Bernard High School. As mentioned in Ray Schraer's posting in the last issue, Andy used the Tower Avenue hill in front of school to have his teams run 220 reps. He wanted us to attack hills, not shy from them. Thinking back, I realize that he was setting his runners up with a strategy for life. We weren't thinking about this when Andy was cracking the whip, but he sure was.


  1. I did not go to St. Bernard, but I did run with Bob Dickerson and Ray Schraer at Miami U. They were both very good runners, but I was just trying to make the team. Listening to their stories about St. Bernard, I wished that I had gone to school there. Bob and Ray: if you see this, send me an email. I am 74 years old and living in Brandenburg, Ky. where I am still running. Loved you guys!

  2. Oops, this is Mike Sims at simsmike497@gmail.com