Posted by: COSI | July 29, 2008

Frustrated Athlete But Dedicated Leader

Ever found yourself at a disconnect between how you perceive yourself and the reality of where you are in life and what you are capable of? I may not be the only one in this realm, but I’m still stuck mentally as a 19 year-old, award-winning college athlete. Too bad the body is soooo far past that point.

My athletic career, though, built a lot of character and blessed me with opportunities to see what being goal driven could achieve.

I was a typical gangly, pimple-cursed adolescent, compounded by being always one of the very youngest in my grade.

Senior H.S. Photo

Senior H.S. Photo

A challenged childhood—divorces, bouncing back and forth between being raised by my young parents, then grandparents, then back to my dad when he remarried—didn’t help with self-esteem either.  Thankfully, I was blessed with caring grandparents who provided unconditional love—something I hope I can emulate as our grandparent days fast approach.

I was always late to head off to school and also loved to get away from my house, so I found myself naturally running or biking everywhere. A few gym classes in junior high school where I did well, even sometimes winning running and jumping competitions, opened up a world where I could actually distinguish myself, feel better about myself, and gave me goals to work toward—something my life had missed up to that point.

So started my series of ups-and-downs in distinguishing myself early in a sport, only to have injuries hold me back for long periods. Improving to 5th man (at the ripe old age of 13) in my first year on the Cleveland Heights Cross-Country team as we took second in the state championships (ironically on the Ohio State University golf course) hooked me on running. Back and forth I would go from then on—showing great promise for my age, setting some records, then languishing in recovery—using swimming and biking as alternatives.

My senior year saw my latent talent in track finally start to blossom, leading me to successfully win the Ohio State Championship in the two-mile in 1969, setting the state meet record at the time.

1969

1969

Now I had to choose the school willing to offer the best scholarship—no family money for college with my dad switching careers late to go into teaching. Since Ohio State showed little interest in me (I was miffed—Archie Griffin as OSU alumni director kindly apologized to me many years later for the OSU oversight—he and I would have overlapped at OSU if history had been different), the University of Pittsburgh won out.

1969-70 Pitt Track Team

1969-70 Pitt Track Team

My college career was another series of ups and downs, but with some memory making opportunities. I found myself thrust into the big time (too early at 17 and 18 in retrospect for me). But there I was running next to (although not for long as the cross-country race went on) Olympians like Martin Liquori, David Wottle and Frank Shorter. I was a contemporary of the track legend Steve Prefontaine and have a cherished photo of him from when we were both at the 1970 NCAA championships. (Ironically, just within the last year, I’ve gotten introduced to Ian Stewart, the Brit who edged Prefontaine out for the bronze medal in Steve’s only Olympics before he tragically died.)

That was the 1972 Olympics for which I so desperately worked to make it to the Olympic trials—Pitt’s 6 mile record under my belt—both in my freshman and sophomore years, and a national ranking (ok, bottom of the list—but I was on it) stoked my hopes. A back that finally succumbed to a congenital flaw and bad coaching ended that dream the year of the trials.

And there you have it—the end of a career and the start of my time warped perspective.

So if you see a slightly overweight fellow with a COSI hat shuffling along the Olentangy bike trail, or maybe riding my bike with aged seriousness on the trail—that might be me—still reliving memories—disconnecting my mind and its imagination from the realities of my body.

But the residual benefit is the dedication I bring to COSI and setting high expectations for our organization and pushing toward them—all characteristics honed running circles around cinder tracks or along the paths next to Shaker Lakes in Cleveland learning to enjoy the beauty and power of natural settings.

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Responses

  1. You are OK for an ‘East-sider’ of the Cleveland area. Thanks for sharing your life on this blog. Sometimes it is difficult to share all aspects–good and bad of a person’s background, but it definitely gives us a good perspective on you.
    Now to that ‘slam’ on being slightly overweight and riding on the bike trail–you are really a health aware individual, getting in your needed doses of activity. Keep on bikin’ and perhaps I will see you on the trail.
    P.S. You forgot to mention in your COSI email that COSI in at the Agricultural Building at the Ohio State Fair.

  2. Hi David,

    Just love the blog! I didn’t know your athletic history! In the beginning it sounded a little like Forest Gump- run, David run!

    We are so blessed to have you as our leader. Thanks for deciding to run this leg of your life with us!

    Michelle

  3. Thanks for the encouragement to keep plugging away! And thanks for the reminder about COSI having a presence at the state fair–that’s utilizing our new Science Spot outreach activity centers.

    David


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