AL HAMNIK: A much needed jump start for Gary track memories

2014-01-14T18:15:00Z 2014-01-25T22:45:06Z AL HAMNIK: A much needed jump start for Gary track memoriesAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
January 14, 2014 6:15 pm  • 

Once upon a time, high school track and field was a glowing beacon that put Gary on the national map.

"It's startling to see what Gary track and field accomplished," said Steve White, president of the state hall of fame museum in Terre Haute. "When Gary runners stepped off the bus at meets, the other athletes looked at them in awe."

Those were golden times in Gary when team turnouts were high, facilities were primo, fan interest off the charts and "dominance" the operative word.

White's detailed research found that Gary produced 40 boys state championship teams in a 62-year period and 50 in all, including six girls titles.

There also were 18 runner-up finishes by the boys.

But the city has since gone from eight high schools to just three — Wallace, Roosevelt, West Side — with Wallace's days reportedly numbered.

Facilities are dreadful in all sports, student interest is at an all-time low and any sense of Gary's glorious history sadly lost among today's youth and their coaches.

That will hopefully change at the 2014 Hall of Fame Track and Field induction Jan. 31 at The Sheraton at Keystone Crossing in Indianapolis.

It will be followed by the Feb. 1 Museum Induction and Reception in Terre Haute honoring the 50-year anniversary of Roosevelt's 1964 state champions.

Highlighting the evening will be a tribute to Gary Froebel's Miles family, the only family in modern IHSAA times to have three brothers — John, Howard and Galvester — win state championship gold medals in track.

Did you know that? I didn't.

"A lot of times, things don't sink in until you're much older," said Delores Miles Crawford, one of seven siblings in the family.

"We're just so, so, so, so excited they're being honored now. It's never too late."

A lengthy list of former Gary track standouts, coaches and other VIPs are scheduled to attend the reception. More than 40 members of the Miles family are expected as well, Delores said.

The IHSAA will have a re-enactment of the '64 trophy presentation to Roosevelt at the museum reception and commemorative medals given to all banquet attendees.

"It's going to be an incredible night," White said. "Great videos, great photos, great memories."

White and cohort Marshall Goss, director of the Hall of Fame Museum, are committed to rounding up Gary's forgotten track stars for future induction.

"They're going to get in. It's just a matter of time and patience before they do," White said.

Goss claims this is the only high school track and field hall of fame museum in the country.

"The really big story is that the Gary school system was a blueprint for school systems in the U.S. back in the '20s and '30s and few people know that," Goss said.

"People came from all over to see Gary's schools and how they were run."

Tickets to the reunion are free if you go through the IATCCC web site and there is talk of Roosevelt alumni association president Annie V. May (219-938-6611) providing bus service.

Goss (812-339-7121) and White (812-243-4031) are other contacts who can give you answers.

Gary track memories still have enough breath left to fog a mirror, so these two huge events can only help.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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