October 22, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain County track and cross country hall of fame inductees announced

The fifth class of the Lorain County Track and Cross Country Hall of Fame has a little something for everyone:
Four of the six enshrinees have a distance-running background. Another specialized in sprints. One is a legendary coach. Five were state champions.

Middle-distance runner Tarver “Cy” Perkins, distance runner Mike Beetler, sprinter Tammy (Porter) Derrico, distance runner Anne (Densmore) Fox, distance runner Glen “Sonny” Wilburn and coach Marv Hougland will be recognized in a 30-minute ceremony today at 5:15 p.m. at Midview’s Ed Adelsberg Stadium. The ceremony will be held between prelims and finals at the Lorain County Athletic Administrators Association Invitational (the former Midview Lorain County Invitational).

Tarver “Cy” Perkins

The fastest middle-distance runner in Lorain County history, Tarver “Cy” Perkins missed a berth on the 1948 U.S. Olympic team by inches.

The 1940 Clearview High graduate was fourth in the 800 meters at the ’48 Olympic Trials in Evanston, Ill., barely losing out on the third and final qualifying spot to USC’s Robert Chambers at Northwestern University’s Dyche Stadium.

Both were timed at 1:51.4. It was a heartbreaker.

Perkins led the field at the bell with a 53.5 split, but the next lap didn’t go as planned. It’s speculated he hoped to make his big move with 300 meters left, but then delayed the strategy until about the last 150.

“Cy said that he didn’t run his race,” said Cindy Perkins, his wife of 35 years and his spokesman because he has trouble hearing. “His plan was to make his move earlier, but he hesitated when he hit that spot of the race. Another runner in the race told him to wait a little longer. When it came time, he didn’t have the burst he wanted to finish.”

Ohio State’s Mal Whitfield won in 1:50.6. A future U.S. Olympic Hall of Famer, Whitfield went on to win the first two Olympic gold medals for that distance in Olympic-record time (1:49.2) at London.

“That’s all he’s really said about the race,” Cindy Perkins said. “When he had the chance to go, he didn’t for some reason. When he did go he didn’t have the fuel.”

A picture of Perkins in the aftermath of his crushing setback was caught by national media. It’s on page 24 of the July 19, 1948, edition of Life magazine.

“As anyone would relate, it was a great disappointment,” Cindy Perkins said. “You do carry that one race with you forever.”

A phenomenal postwar comeback put Tarver in contention for an Olympic spot. As was the case of many students during the ’40s, Perkins’ track career was interrupted by World War II.

Before going off to the U.S. Navy from 1943-46, Perkins helped North Illinois State Teachers College’s track team to an undefeated season. He returned to campus in the spring of 1947 some 45 pounds overweight. The 6-foot-1 Perkins worked himself into shape through track workouts and long games of handball to have the best track season of his collegiate career.

The 1947 track team finished 7-3 and in the final meet of his college career, Perkins set a school record in the 800 (1:53.4), a mark that stood for 24 years.

He earned a berth on the 1947 United States AAU team with a third-place finish at nationals and had a stellar tour in Scandinavia and Scotland.

Perkins ran the third-fastest 800 meters in the world at 1:50 flat at Bislet Stadium in Oslo, Norway, which set a track record. He set the U.S. record for 1,000 meters at Vaxro, Sweden. Perkins finished second to world-record-holders twice on that trip. In six meets, he won three times at 800 and was second twice.

He was ranked No. 10 in the world for the 800 in 1948. He also won the 1947 AAU title and clocked 1:50.1 at a meet in Oslo. He ran a 4:01 mile in 1948, six years before England’s Roger Bannister became the first man to break the four-minute barrier.

Perkins was Class B state champ in the mile for Clearview in 1939 (4:34.7) and ’40 (4:32.1).

Mike Beetler

The 1982 Firelands High boys cross country team didn’t win a sectional or district title, but it did pull off a win in dramatic fashion when it counted the most — at the Class AA state tournament.

Firelands defeated Holy Name, 121-143, for the big prize and Mike Beetler’s third-place finish led the way.

It’s the only state team championship Firelands has ever won since opening its doors in the 1956-57 school year. It’s also the last time a Lorain County boys team won a state cross country title.

Beetler led Firelands with time of 15:42, followed by senior Doug Deshuk (sixth, 15:53), senior Darrin Benedict (12th, 16:05), senior Bryan Coates (30th), sophomore Jim Krupar (52nd), freshman Tom Byrd (129th) and freshman Bill Collins (133rd).

The 30th anniversary of the team’s state title was held in conjunction with the 2012 Nelson Howe Invitational at Firelands.

“We all pretty much had the same memories,” Beetler said. “A lot of what we talked about was what a messed up season it was.”

The Falcons won only one major meet before state. The reason: Benedict and Coates missed the majority of the season.

Benedict was sidelined in early September with mono. He was out of the lineup and didn’t return until sectionals. Coates was ineligible because of a residency issue. His family temporarily moved to Wellington to live with grandparents because the family home burned down. Coates wasn’t granted clearance by the Ohio High School Athletic Association until the postseason. He was relegated to open races prior to that.

“They (Holy Name) thought they had that,” Beetler said. “I know they did. They beat us all the way up until that meet. We went under the radar. A lot of people didn’t know who we were.”

Firelands (66) was third of the three district qualifiers behind Holy Name (40) and Elyria Catholic (56) in the district at Lorain County Community College. The Falcons finished second to Holy Name, 92-103, at regionals.

“We were loose and more relaxed,” Beetler said. “We knew we had nothing to lose. All of us believed we could do it. The momentum grew through districts and regionals. When we got second (at regionals), we knew we were sitting in a good position. We felt like we were going to come out of nowhere. That played a lot into it.”

Beetler advanced to state the next two years as a junior and a senior, finishing second in the individual race at the 1983 and ’84 state meets. He lost the 1983 Class AA state title by less than a second to Sandusky St. Mary’s Tom Schnurr, 15:38.1 to 15:39.

“I had a big lead at the mile,” Beetler said. “I got a cramp. After he caught up to me I gutted it out. If I hadn’t got a cramp it wouldn’t have been a problem. It was because of breakfast. I tried to emulate what I had for breakfast the year before. I think it was the hot chocolate.”

Sandusky Perkins’ Scott Fry defeated Beetler in 1984 with a meet-record time of 14:50.2, a mark that still stands. Beetler was second in 15:52.

Beetler finished third at the Kinney Midwest Regional at Racine, Wis., and 11th at the Kinney Nationals in San Diego and earned third-team All-America honors in 1984. Beetler held the LCCC 5K course record of 15:38 from 1984-2002. He was a state placer in the 3,200 meters in 1984 and ’85, finishing fifth and second.

At Ohio University, Beetler was second-team All-Mid-American Conference in cross country as a freshman. He ran injured for each cross country season after that and was never able to run track due to illnesses and injury.

Tammy (Porter) Derrico

The 100-yard dash didn’t excite Tammy (Porter) Derrico until her senior year, but once it did, there was no stopping her.

The Elyria High senior won the 1978 Class AAA state title by edging Brenda Kazinec of Brush. Both were timed at time of 11.0.

“That was a proud moment,” Derrico said. “But most of all, if there was anyone that was proud it was my parents (John and Grace Porter). They were at every single meet. Both of them were in the stands at state. I’ll never forget it. My mom was waving at me and crying. My dad was giving me thumbs up. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is me up here.’”

Kazinec later was an All-American and record-holder for Michigan. Kazinec defeated Derrico a week earlier at the Kent regional, 11.0 to 11.1. It was the Elyria sprinter’s only loss of the season at that distance.

Derrico specialized in the 220-yard sprint until her senior year. She regularly contributed on relays and long jumped, but never dabbled in the open 100. She was a 1977 state champ as a member of the 880-yard medley relay.

A preseason “win” over former teammate Jackie Below lit the spark. It was a hall race on the school’s third floor witnessed by Pioneers coach Steve Barnhart.

The race opened a lot of eyes. A 1976 Elyria High graduate and three-time All-Ohio runner for the Pioneers, Below won a junior college national title later that spring for LCCC.

“Jackie asked me what I had been doing,” Derrico said. “I said nothing. She said, ‘Wow, you could have been running this (the 100) the whole time.’ In reality, we were coming off a 20-1 varsity basketball season. I was in great shape from running suicides at practice.”

Another difference-maker? A spoonful of honey.

Honey?

Long before the days of supplements and fluid replacement drinks such as Gatorade, athletes relied on home remedies or drinks like Tang and Kool-Aid. Assistant coach Tom Below suggested a spoonful of honey between some events throughout the season for an energy burst. It proved key when temperatures spiked into the 90s during the postseason, especially at the state meet where the support staff provided 6,000 pounds of ice to athletes over the course of the two-day tournament.

Yes, it was that hot.

“I’d never thought to be here (first place in 1978), but halfway through the track season I started pushing for that goal,” Derrico said. “I kept winning and the times kept getting better. Gloria Barbee, Tina Brown and Betty Halliburton all encouraged me. With the support from my parents, I knew that’s all I needed.”
Derrico teamed with Barbee, Brown and Halliburton for third-place finishes at state in the 440-yard (49.4) and 880-yard medley (1:48.1) relays in 1978. She was also fifth in the 220 (25.4) as she led the Elyria to a fourth-place finish.

“Tom Below always made sure we stayed focused,” Derrico said. “Once we hit the finish line, he was right there. He directed us right to the tunnel where it was cool. The air (at state) was very heavy with humidity. The track was smoking that day.”

Derrico’s performance had a lot to do with that. She loved both track and basketball, but track just a bit more.

“Track was my No. 1 dream,” said Derrico, whose career started in seventh grade at Jefferson Junior High. “I always wanted to be like Wilma Rudolph (1964 Olympic gold medalist). I always thought about her and read a lot of her books.”

Anne (Densmore) Fox

Her size and age initially undercut respect, but Anne (Densmore) Fox quickly got the attention of her state rivals.

The diminutive 4-foot-9, 80-pound Elyria High runner pulled away from Clayton Northmont junior Kristy Orre to win the 1983 Class AAA state cross country meet in a county-record 17 minutes, 26.6 seconds.

Oree, the defending state champ, finished second in 17:58, nearly 32 seconds behind Fox at Ohio State’s North Facility Campus in Delaware.

“The strategy was to stay close with her the first half,” Fox said. “She might have gone out a little too fast. I was in a pack of five. She was out there a little bit.

“The plan was to catch up to her or pass her (at 1.5 miles). I think I surprised her and took the wind out of her. She sprinted ahead for a second, but then fell back. The pace was too fast.”

Orre took the defeat hard.

“We didn’t talk afterwards,” Fox said. “Kristy wore her hood up on the awards stand.”

Orre won state in a tournament-record time of 17:16 in 1982. She got her revenge against Fox the following year, as well as at state track. Orre went on to win seven state titles in high school, setting five state records.

But on Nov. 5, 1983, Fox had her day in the sun.

“We planned a strategy and stuck with it,” said Fox, an Avon High special education teacher. “Kristy was definitely the favorite. (Coach) Deryl (Nalle) said that if I could stay anywhere near her that would be awesome.

“My previous big-race experience were these huge 10K road races against elite athletes when I was 12 years old. I had good performances, but I wasn’t use to winning anything big. My mom (DeRae Williams) kept me grounded and told me almost right away not to let this go to my head. To win and be on top of the awards stand, I was happy.”

Fox caught many off guard. She was a move-in from Maryland prior to ninth grade. But she definitely had experience on her side.

“That first year was neat,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect. Deryl kept me grounded. He reminded me that I was good locally, but that we didn’t know the competition of the whole state.

“Deryl ran into my mom at the grocery store the night before the state race and he flashed three fingers at her. He told my mom that he thought a top five was realistic and top three would be good.”

Fox set a 10K national age-group record for 12-year-olds (36:38) and was coming off her second straight South Atlantic TAC Junior Olympic Cross Country title.

Lorain County was aware of Fox’s running prowess even before high school. Her aunt lived in Elyria so her family frequented the area when she was younger. Fox ran in the Chronicle-Telegram 5-miler/10K a couple of times, the first time when she was just 9.

Fox won the inaugural Elyria Applethon in 1981 at age 12. She also trained with legendary Elyria Catholic coach Dick Elsasser, a neighbor, after Fox’s family moved to Elyria.

A major growth spurt after her freshman year was a blow to Densmore’s early running success. She was 5-foot-3, 100 pounds by the time she was a senior. By the time she graduated from Ashland University, she had added another nine inches and was 5-10, 125 pounds. Nonetheless, she persevered and a remained a committed athlete throughout high school and college.

Fox was third at state cross country as a sophomore and fourth as a junior. She was also All-Ohio twice in track, taking second in the 3,200 (10:45) in 1984 and fifth in the 1,600 (4:59) in ’85, setting school records in the process.

Glen “Sonny” Wilburn

Glen “Sonny” Wilburn of Amherst didn’t run cross country until his sophomore year, but he quickly developed a vision and a dream.

“I had posters of Jim Ryan and Marty Liquori in my bedroom,” Wilburn said. “I always use to say that I’m going to be national champion. I don’t know if I always had the faith to believe it, but that’s what I kept telling myself.”

Wilburn won the 1971 Class AAA state team race his junior year at Ohio State’s Scarlet Golf Course by defeating Bob Lunn of Youngtown Austintown-Fitch, 9:28.3 to 9:30.

“I went into the race never expecting to win it,” said Wilburn, North Ridgeville’s girls track coach. “Probably the top five was my goal. I didn’t know how good I was. It was a case of right place, right time.

“The key was about staying in contact the whole time. When they move, you move with them. I pulled it off. When we were coming down the last straightaway I had a better kick than everyone else.”

Even veteran Amherst coach Dick Cooley was stunned.

“He was a bit shocked that I got first,” Wilburn said. “I think I was kind of shocked myself. The day was like a blur. I remember I got choked up a bit on the awards stand and had some tears in my eyes. It hits everyone a bit differently. It was a tear-jerker.

“It didn’t sink in for a couple days. Reality was when I went back to school on Monday, everyone was all excited and patting me on the back. I was a little kid in shock.”

Bone spurs in his left foot hampered Wilburn’s cross country season his senior year. He limped and was in a lot of pain, but still finished fourth at state in 10:01. Wilburn had surgery after the season to remove the bone spurs, sidelining him for more than four months and delaying his start for track. He came back in time to make the postseason run and finished fifth at state in the 2-mile (9:25.7).

“I had the hope of breaking nine minutes (for track) my senior year,” Wilburn saidhad a lot of big plans. I was depressed, I know that.”

Wilburn’s efforts helped Amherst finish 11th at the 1971 state meet and in ’72.

He was a three-time junior college All-American at Lincoln Land Community College in Illinois, was 1974 national track champ for the 6-mile run (29:13) and second for the 3-mile (13:55) in ’75. Wilburn also placed fifth at the ’73 junior college cross country nationals for the Loggers.

But he still cherishes his days running for Amherst.

“That’s probably what helped us to run so well for Amherst was the foundation that was set there by Cooley,” Wilburn said. “If it weren’t for him I don’t know where we’d be.”

Marv Hougland

Clearview’s Marv Hougland won more state track titles than any other Lorain County coach in history. The late Clippers coach, who died at age 76 in October 2010, led Clearview to back-to-back state titles in 1978 and ’79.

After finishing in a three-way tie for second in ’77, Clearview defeated Bluffton 30-26 for the ’78 state title and then edged Shadyside 38-37 to win it in ’79.

Mark Walden won four state individual titles for Hougland’s teams. He won the 440- and 220-yard dashes in 1979, and was a member of the winning 880-yard relay in ’78 in addition to the mile relay win in ’79.

“He really had a gameplan on the points that he thought we could score in each event,” said Walden, a Clearview assistant coach in football, basketball and track from 1987-2001 and 2010 to the present.

“After we won it in ’78, Marv told us he thought we could win it in ’79. That’s what we did. He had us believing it. We believed it.”

Hougland’s two state titles equal the grand total for the rest of Lorain County’s boys programs combined. (Oberlin won in 1932 and ’36). Clearview also won titles in 1973 and 2010 for a total of four.

“Marv was an awesome, awesome guy. I loved him very much,” Walden said. “He made a major impact on my life.”

Hougland was affectionately known as “Silver Fox” by his Clearview family, but Mike Walsh said Hougland had another nickname.

“We called him ‘Schultz’ back then,” said Walsh, the Elyria High girls basketball coach and a 1981 Clearview graduate. “That name came from the German prison guard on the TV show ‘Hogan’s Heroes.’ Every time we’d be doing something at school he’d give us that look, ‘I know nothing.’ We’d answer back, ‘Yeah, Schultz. We hear you.’”

But Hougland earned the respect of students year after year. It led to a fairly automatic process. Athletes from the football team would first go to the basketball team in the winter, then out for track in the spring.

“He was a bit sarcastic at times, but had a great sense of humor,” said Karen, his wife of 29 years. “We all called him Marvism, little things he would say.”

He retired from teaching after the 1998-99 school year, but remained on staff as a Clearview football assistant through the 2001 season. Hougland stayed active after leaving Clearview. He was linebackers coach for three years at Oberlin College (2002-04), then served another two for Firelands (2005-06) before retiring.

Overall, he coached from 1956-2006, missing only the two years he served in the U.S. Army in the late 1950s.

As a defensive coordinator, Hougland helped Clearview advance to the football playoffs 11 times from 1973-2001.

Today

  • WHAT: Fifth annual Lorain County Track and Cross Country Hall of Fame enshrinement
  • TIME: 5:15 p.m.
  • WHERE: Ed Adelsberg Stadium, Midview High School

Contact Paul Heyse at 440-329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.