A. J. Windless
A. J. Windless wins the mile easily, jogging across the finish line and conserving energy for the 800.
Contract Dispute
I think  every year we had a different cross country coach. In track, Jack Hedlund had been terrific my sophomore and junior years, but my senior year he took a job as the new football coach in Ridgeway. His replacement had been a classmate of my older brother and had run on the same team with him, winning the MVP award. But Dan didn't seem to have a lot a respect for him, saying he lived in a town 10 miles away and did not attend track practice but took the bus home every day. "I think the only reason he did so well is because they had just introduced the hurdles that year and no one else knew how to do them." To be fair, for all we knew he may have worked out very hard every day at home, but my brother's lack of respect fueled a little  of my own.

One day it snowed and I picked up the telephone to find out what the temperature was. Our coach must have known that during the winter I did that to decide whether or not I would run outside because this loud retort from behind demanded to know what I was doing. As I tried to explain he emphatically scolded me, making an example out of me, undoubtedly wanting to let this team know that he was in charge. He had posted a note on the bulletin board that there would be no running outside today, that instead we would run laps in the gymn. Apparently he saw my action as a challenge to his authority, but I had never even seen his note. Little did he know how important it was that his runners feel respected and appreciated. My feeling was, "Who are you?" I had been running on my own since sixth grade. I had made myself the runner that I was. It was me that ran three times a day and stayed after practice doing additional reps. It was me that studied the books and magazines and had corrected my running form. Even Jack Hedlund, who had schooled his fieldmen until every step and motion was perfect, never gave me one word of advice. What did this new coach, that had never even attended his own track practice, know about distance running? Who was he to tell me what to do? I was so insulted, and so sure that I was not going to put up with this kind of treatment, that I quit the team and walked out of the gymn.

There was a lot at stake, including the full ride scholarship offer I had accepted from Walsh College. A number of people told me that I should just talk to the coach and return to the team, but I felt too insulted, and didn't feel like I had anything to apologize for. Two weeks passed, then the athletic director came and asked me to return to the team. He told me that if I returned I wouldn't even have to say anything to the coach, that everything would be okay.

I returned to the team, but not in very good shape, more the result of illness than the hold out. I was fighting a bad cough and took two weeks off just prior to our first meet with Red Bank Valley where I won three events, but my time in the mile was a dismal 5:06. I completely missed one or two meets after that and it took me until half way through the season just to get down 4:42. At one of the invitaitonals I ran a 4:40 and finished well ahead of everyone, only to be told afterward that I had been in the second heat and therefore had only placed 5th. My entire career I had never been entered into the second heat, and it was inconceivable to me that the coach could have had done that. When I asked him about it he told me the outdated time that he that he had entered for me. When I pointed out that I had just run 4:42 the week before he said "I wasn't aware of that." Placing 5th was a bit demoralizing to me because despite all of my hardships, my goal still was to go undefeated in the mile run. I finally decided that because I had soundly won my heat, in a sense I was still undefeated. As yet, no one had been beaten me head to head.


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