A. J. Windless
Intramural Cross Country Winners
Freshman Endeavors
I attended an eight year grammar school and a four year high school. Our grade school had no track team, so I wouldn't have a coach for another three years. My big brother left to fight in the Viet Nam war. Fortunately he enlisted in the Air Force one day before the draft came to get him. Otherwise he would have crawled around in the jungle, taken heavy gunfire, and rarely known who or where his enemy was. Years after the war was over a veteran lived in the basement apartment right below me. Every night I could hear him screaming as his nightmares took him back to that tropical horror. That's the insanity Dan was spared. In a strange twist of fate he preceded me to Thailand by over three decades, doing two tours at the air base in Sattathip, where he maintained the guns on B52 bombers. Before he left, however, he bought me "The Jim Ryun Story", a book about the 19 year old American runner who set the world record in the mile run, an event that was usually dominated by men who peaked in their mid-twenties. The book detailed his enitre story including his staggering workouts. A typical workout for Jim Ryun would be to run 400 meters 32 times at 3 minute intervals. He would run 400 meters in less than 60 seconds, lift weights for 2 minutes during his "recovery time" and then run another 400. He did 4 sets of 8 repetitions, jogging a mile in between each set. After reading the book he became my hero and my role model, although for the next few years it was more dream than action, as I did very little to prepare for my freshman year. In October, just my second month of high school, they decided to have an intramural cross country race. The school was contemplating the creation of a cross country team for the next year, but before making that committment  they first wanted to see how much interest and talent the students revealed. I wasn't in shape, so about 5 days before the race I started training . No one had ever told me that it would take at least a month to make a difference. In fact, the only thing I got out of training a few days before the race was additional fatigue. The local newspaper took a photo of the top two runners as well as the top two freshman. I thought I had finished first among the freshmen, not even aware that another freshman had finished ahead of me. In that photo, as shown above,  Jake Sorg on the left took first place while his younger brother Andy took second. Kneeling on the left, Mike Fedorko took first among the freshman, while I kneeled on the right. The Sorg brothers, Jake a senior, and Andy a sophomore, would leave quite a legacy at our high school, each of them lowering the school record for the mile run in large increments. While I was a freshman Jake ran the mile in about 4:40, almost 20 seconds faster than my brother's proud win just three years earlier.  My best performances were two 4th places, neither of which scored any points for the team, while my best time was a disappointing 5:13. Perhaps my most vivid memory of my first season is that on the way to one meet we stopped at a mom and pop's hamburger place where I ordered my very favorite, a strawberry milk shake, and savored every delicious spoonful. Unfortunately, it did not stay down, and I learned quite quickly that distance runners should always run on an empty stomach.
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