1978

The 100 Mile Relay - USNA’s Quest For a World Record Thirty Years Ago

By Michael McCrabb '78

In the 1970s distance running began experiencing extraordinary growth as a participation sport among Americans.  Many of us growing up in that era remember how running personalities such as Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter, Jeff Galloway and other Olympians fueled this momentum.  While the movement expanded to include cycling/swimming in various combinations and distances, running remained king of the cardiovascular sports during the last quarter of the 20th Century and to this day.  The Marine Corps Marathon (originally the Marine Reserve Marathon), the New York Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, and several others began in the 1970’s along with hundreds of shorter distance races across the United States.

Distance running popularity was not lost on the Naval Academy’s midshipmen.  Those of us not quite fast enough to be a part of Coach Al Cantello’s teams sought out chances to compete in the growing number of regional distance runs such as the Shamrock (Virginia Beach) Marathon, the Maryland Marathon, and the JFK 50 Miler.  By the Fall of 1976, due in large part to the efforts of Midshipmen Dave Wilson ’78, Chuck Wright ’79, and faculty advisor then-Lt Steve Ries ‘68, the Naval Academy’s Distance Running Club was established.  This brought organization to individual midshipmen efforts to participate in new events like the US Marine Corps Reserve Marathon based in Washington DC and races steeped in tradition such as the Boston Marathon.  

During this time Midshipman Wright learned of the 100 Mile Relay event while reading a Guinness Book of World Records and soon thereafter the idea of USNA runners attempting to establish this record was transformed into a mission.  There were at least three Naval Academy attempts during this time to claim the 100 Mile Relay world record- 100 individuals running one mile each consecutively.  What better institution was there to take on such an effort than a service academy, touting a student body filled with athletic, motivated individuals used to reaching for, and achieving, great milestones?  In Navy’s case accomplished runners came from outstanding cross country and track teams, along with dozens of former high school running standouts competing in battalion cross country and other sports- many of these runners had become members of the newly commissioned Distance Running Club.  It wasn’t difficult finding the required number of quality runners within the halls of Bancroft, but getting someone to make time and effort to organize such an attempt among everyone’s busy schedule was a challenge.  Nevertheless we were able to find Distance Running Club members who took up the effort in 1977, 1978 and 1980.  This is the story of USNA’s 1978 world record effort, 30 years after the fact.

As in each of the relay events, the 1978 run was strictly a grass roots effort, to the point of not even coordinating with senior academy officials.  We gained Coach Cantello’s permission to use the Halsey field house indoor track for most of the day- a Tuesday (the relay schedule coordinator had no classes on Tuesdays)- and it was then a matter of getting the OK for a few of us to miss noon meal formation to continue the event uninterrupted throughout the day.  A week day also meant that all runners were held captive in the Yard by an academic routine.  Scheduling around each runner’s classes was considerably easier than convincing them to stick around on rare liberty days.  Of course coordinating schedules and getting the word out to each of the runners via email would have been great, if we only had such a tool in those days.  But the concept of email was more than a decade from showing up on Microsoft’s design board.  Instead, we spent hours working a schedule that matched runners’ free periods and gave us back up runners strategically placed throughout the day- with good reason since we ended up using six of thirteen backup runners.  With 100 runners over an eight hour period of mandatory classes and other required events, the unexpected was going to happen and we needed to be prepared.

The April 11 event began right at 0800 in a quiet, almost empty field house.  Tim Murphy ’80, led off the effort with a 4 minute and 46 second mile while the next two runners, Class of 1980’s Conrad Smith and Gerald Chandler  loosened up.  The lone scheduler/timer accounted for the rest of the crowd that morning.  Every few minutes another runner would arrive and another would move on to class.  Throughout the morning the gold baton was passed from runner to runner without applause or fanfare.  Each runner’s time was automatically and manually recorded to document individual splits and cumulative time.  Runner number 30, Joe Suggs ’81, pulled off the day’s fastest split at 4 minutes, 21 seconds.  The midshipmen would have to average a pace under 4 minutes, 46 seconds to better the record.

During the morning Mr. Gene Bisbee, a sports writer from the Annapolis Capitol, stopped by the field house to check on the event.  Mr. Bisbee, who also covered the 1980 USNA relay event, would return to capture the event’s emotional finish, but for now there wasn’t much excitement.  Approaching noon time a small crowd began to form as word of the event got out and earlier runners checked on the effort’s progress.  At the relay’s midpoint a string of varsity track runners- Pete Tatro ‘80, Kevin Kenny ’81, Jim Driscoll ’81 and Dave Carty ’81 would put the midshipmen ahead of world record pace with mile times well under 4 minutes 30 seconds, and the midshipmen would keep themselves slightly ahead of world record pace throughout the afternoon with other varsity track runners still to perform.  Shortly after 1500 classes ended and a larger audience began to gather with earlier participants, academy staff, and the usual afternoon field house crowd taking interest.  A new world record was virtually assured as varsity track members clicked off mile after mile under 4 minutes and 30 seconds.  Runner number 99, Charlie Hautau ’78, responded to a growing field house noise level with a 4 minute, 23 second split and runner number 100, Jim Cheever ’78 sprinted the world record’s final laps as an emotional crowd roared its approval and appreciation for what it was witnessing.

Five minutes later runners and observers began moving on to their afternoon routines:  the track team still had practice and intramural events were scheduled for the same track used to set this new world record.  But the mission was accomplished.  The record was ours and all that was left to do was notify Guinness with necessary documentation.  The final time was 7 hours, 50 minutes, 46.8 seconds, minutes faster than the previous record.  USNA’s runners averaged an incredible 4 minutes, 42.5 seconds per mile.

Unfortunately Guinness would not be satisfied with supporting documentation submitted for this 1978 event.  Unlike the record setting 1977 and 1980 USNA efforts, the 1978 effort, despite being the fastest of the three attempts, would not enjoy official recognition.  The 1977 USNA effort, performed during June Week festivities, would be eclipsed less than a week later by the Shoreline NJ Track Club according to Guinness officials.  The 1980 effort lasted long enough to be officially recognized as a world record.

Fast forward to 2008.  What happens to these runners over a short 30 year period?  One might be surprised.  Kids who were then barely out of high school, some still teenagers, are now commanding aircraft carriers, carrier battle groups, and carrier strike groups.  Others have become their own company’s chief executive officer, or senior executives at major corporations.  Still others have followed their passion for getting directly involved in their children’s high schools, teaching, coaching, and mentoring. More than a few of them have also become grandparents.

Over the past few months I took the trouble of tracking down as many of the 1978 event’s runners as I could.  While our USNA Alumni website was helpful in gaining contact information on 25 to 30 of the participants, it was typical alumni networking amongst the runners that got me in touch with 70 plus to date.  By the time this goes to print, the number may reach 80.  Of that group at least 18 reached the rank of O-6, with 4 reaching flag/general officer- so far.  At least 12 others own their own businesses or are senior officers in large corporations.  And a significant number who responded were much more enthusiastic about involvement with their kids’ running than talking of their own accomplishments.  Adding 30 years to our bodies took a toll on 100 per cent of us though.  If we haven’t given up on running altogether, we’ve at least slowed down and shortened the runs somewhat.  But among this group literally hundreds of marathons have been run, along with numerous 50 mile runs and triathlons, and many are still highly competitive in running, cycling, and swimming events, and still setting age group records.
 
Chuck Wright, who might be credited with starting us down this track, recently retired in San Diego as a Captain, having been a Carrier Air Group commander.  Chuck, one of the main organizers of the 1977 relay, ran his last marathon a couple of years ago and keeps to biking and golf now.

Steve Ries, our founding Distance Running Club advisor, retired after 30 years in 1995 as a Captain, having had a number of sea commands and is working in the DC area for the Department of Homeland Security.  He still runs, and at age 50 ran a 2:50 Shamrock Marathon.

Conrad Smith ’80 runs his own consulting business in Seattle WA and ran three marathons this past year.

Gerry Chandler ’80 also runs his own business, Chandler Management Group, in San Diego after flying helicopters for the Navy and Marine Corps for twenty years.  He’s still running 5Ks after running in Half Ironman triathlons in the 1990s.

Tom Walsh ‘79 is a FEDEX pilot living in the Virginia Beach area most recently.

Mike Porter ’81 retired from the USMC and lives in Stafford VA, has 4 children who run cross country, and is involved in coaching the high school’s cross country program.

Peter Craig ’78 lives in Marblehead Mass and works for a sailboat company, Premiere Racing, also managing two annual international sailing events in Florida.

Rea Heatherington ’80 retired as a Captain after commanding Naval Recruiting District Denver and now works for Jeppesen in Colorado.

Mark Meredith ’79 retired as a Captain and works as an independent consultant in Annapolis.  Still does the occasional 10K race.

Pat Good ’80, USMC retired, lives near Westchester PA, working for Boeing, and is involved each year in Masters running events in the Penn Relays (Philadelphia) as well as 400 and 800 meter races.

Charlie Stevenson ’78 retired after twenty years in the Surface Navy and teaches high school physics and helps out with the cross country team in Lee’s Summit MO.

Gene Givan who was with the Class of ’79, also lives in Lee’s Summit MO and has been with The Hallmark Company for 25 years.

Rich Yasky ’78 retired after his last tour as Air Boss on the USS Roosevelt in 1999 and currently works for NASA in Langley VA.  Still does some weekly running.

Jim Reilly ’78 spent twenty years in the submarine service and commanded USS POGY.  He lives in San Luis Obispo CA and still does an easy run occasionally.

Greg Mislick ’80, one of the organizers of the 1980 world record set by USNA, retired from the USMC and is a professor at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey CA.  He may be our record holder for running 28 marathons over the years.

Byron Marchant ’78 is General Counsel for the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Corporation in New York.

Dan Cloyd ’79 is still on active duty as a Captain and recently turned over command of the USS EISENHOWER, currently working on the OPNAV staff in DC.  Dan was into serious triathlon competition in the 1980s, and still runs, bikes, and swims.

Rear Admiral Steve Voetsch ’79, has been a Carrier Air Group commander and currently commands Navy’s Operational Test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFOR) in Norfolk.

Tom Dudley ’78 lives in Boston and was until recently CEO of an international corporation.  Tom has run triathlons and recently ran in USNA’s Old Goat Ten Miler.

Lee Korzan ’80, a reserve USMC colonel, is with a law firm in South Bend IN.

Eric Taylor '79 was gun boss on battleship USS MISSOURI and eventually retired up in Juneau AK as a transportation planner for the state.  They adopted two children from Russia to round out the family.  Eric's latest running events have been the Alaska Skagway-to-Whitehorse Relay events (10 legs totaling 110 miles).

Scot Miller ’78 recently retired from SPAWAR San Diego as an O-6 having commanded the Naval Center for Tactical Systems Integration in San Diego.  Scot almost always found time to run at least one marathon per year, including a treadmill marathon when deployed on USS VINSON.

Perhaps the most touching instance during this research was a phone conversation with Mrs. Kathy Moreau, mother of Steve Moreau ’80.  Steve was well known at Annapolis for his extraordinary strength and stamina developed as a member of USNA’s crew teams.  He was well liked for his always positive demeanor, friendliness, and competitiveness.  Steve was killed in an aircraft mishap back in 1987 within months of the passing of his father, RADM Arthur Moreau.  Mrs. Moreau reminisced about Steve’s time in the Navy and his classmates who still stay in touch with her.

Al Steel ’79 lives in Houston TX and ran a number of Boston Marathons back in the 1990s.

Rear Admiral Sam Cox ’80 has been in the Intel world for much of his career and is currently assigned to Naval NETWARCOM in Norfolk.

Cale Haren, ’78 lives in Stafford VA and works for the Department of Homeland Security.

Guido Manzo ’78 is in Flemington NJ working for a medical equipment company, has a daughter who graduated in USNA's Class of 2005, and is still a faithful cyclist.

Bruce Prutzman ’79 lives in Ft Collins CO and flies for American Airlines.  Bruce always claimed to be more of a sprinter than a distance runner.

Another interesting conversation was with the wife of Scott Whitney ’79.  I eventually talked with Scott, who ran for Coach Cantello, but learned from Deborah that his son now runs for Coach Cantello who is still making life difficult for USNA cross country runners.  Scott now lives in Pine Brook NJ and heads European Operations for Covanta Energy.

Bill Peacock ’81 started in aviation, transitioned to the Civil Engineer Corps, and commanded a Seabee battalion before retiring in 2005.  Still running 20-30 miles per week. 

John Haugen ’81 (Vancouver WA), Mark Kendall ’81 (Fayetteville GA), and Chris Owens ’81 (Fayetteville GA) all fly for Delta Airlines.  Mike Beauchamp '79 also flies for Delta, living in the Seattle area having run a dozen marathons in his younger days, now sticking to 10Ks.

Mike Szostak ’79, lives in the Hampton VA area and works for Dynamics Research Corporation.

Ron Thompson ’80 lives in the Houston TX area and still puts in about 25 miles per week, competing in 10Ks and half marathons.

Al Scott ’81, recently retired as an O-6 and is now a senior lecturer/ associate director at the Naval Post Graduate School Monterey CA.

Karl Fairbanks ’81 lives in the Seattle WA area and works on the F-22 program for Boeing.

Brad Hahn ’81 lives in Allentown PA and is IT Director for Air Products.  A former submariner, Brad ran marathons and still runs 5Ks.

Bruce Mikesell ’81 went on to Med School and is an Emergency Room physician in Ronan, Montana where he competes in such races as the Snow Joke at Seeley Lake (in February) and the Hellgate Dualthon.  He still runs, but not at the 2:37 marathon clip that he used to maintain.

Kevin Kenny ‘81 lives in Evansville IN and says he leaves running to the younger folks, but did have one piece of advice: "Don't EVER run barefoot on shipboard non skid".

Jim Driscoll ’81 is still on active duty commanding the State University New York (SUNY) Maritime NROTC and coaching their cross country team.  He also commanded Prepositioning Squadron ONE.

Dave Carty ’81 is in the Franklin TN area and sticks to biking.

Rear Admiral Frank Pandolfe ’80 is Commander, USS ROOSEVELT Carrier Strike Group in Norfolk VA and still runs several times a week.

Neil Hogg ’81 recently retired from active duty having commanded HSL-46. Currently working on SECNAV staff, Neil still does some running and coaching his kids in soccer.

Dave Kroupa ’81 had his current running feats highlighted in SHIPMATE six months ago thanks to his classmates and their column.

Jeff Maynard ’80 is a patent attorney in Baltimore and ran 5 marathons before giving up on running due to injuries in the late 1980s.

Dave Wilson ’78 is in Lakeland Fl and is working for Jacobs Engineering.  He’s run 13 marathons but is mainly biking now.

Kevin Jackson ’79 lives in Manassas VA and works for Sirius Computer Systems. 

Kevin O’Flaherty ’81 commands the USS George Bush (CVN 77) and delights in his customized command wide physical fitness program.  Perhaps his crew can come up with their own 100 mile relay team.

Bob Lakis ’79 lives in Perrysburg OH and works with the Davis-Bess Nuclear Power firm.  He runs twice a year- PRT runs with his reserve unit.

Glenn Krumel ’79 retired in 1999 and lives in Boulder CO, where he says snow skiing and backpacking are more fun than running.

Mike Connolly ’81 was a surface warrior before getting into the medical device industry in the Seattle area, currently running his own company, Mirabellis Medica.  He has run regularly since leaving USNA.

John Brady ’80 also helped organize the 1980 USNA world record effort, but to this date he is one of the few runners that we’ve been unable to contact.

Len Dato ‘80 retired as an O-6 after several recent trips to the Middle East.  Three knee surgeries have forced him out to the golf course more often (maybe he has something there).  Len is a Retail Area Manager/Senior VP for SunTrust Bank in Raleigh.

Brigadier General Dave Beydler ’81 commanded a Marine Air Group and is currently assigned to the Joint Forces Command Norfolk.  Of course he still runs, he’s a Marine!

Robert Connolly ‘81 is retired in the San Diego area.

Dave Schach, who was with the Class of ’80, lives in Seattle, works for Microsoft, and just ran the Seattle Marathon in 3:03. 

Al Kuntz ’78 lives in Whitefish Montana and flies for Southwest Airlines.  He still runs, having completed a 50 miler 3 years ago and recently winning the 50-54 year division in the Two Bears Marathon, in addition to helping coach one of the local high school cross country teams.

Dave Ciccarelli ’81 runs his own company, Loudoun Management, lives in Winchester VA, and is very much involved in the local high school cross country and track programs.

Steve McShane ’80 lives in Suffolk VA after twenty plus years in the submarine force, including command of the USS Maine (Gold Crew).  He's shifted from running to elliptical training and swimming.

Larry Myers ’81 ran several marathons and a couple of JFK 50 mile runs. He’s currently with RWD Technologies near Baltimore.

Tom Hoffman ’81 is still on active duty with the USAF at Patrick AFB FL as a flight surgeon.  He remembers running in the 1980 event, though not in the 1978 event- we have proof to the contrary.

Rich MacInnes, ’80 runs his own company, Net Results Group, has written books in his civilian profession, and is very much involved in competitive biking in the Louisville KY area.

Kevin Walsh, ’78, a former Marine NFO, has worked for DCS Corporation for 21 years and lives in Leonardtown MD, near NAS Patuxent River.

Dan Gehweiller was with the Class of ’79 and now runs his own landscaping business, Hydrosod, in the Roseville CA area.  He and his wife have nine children, including one who is a Marine combat veteran recently returned from Iraq. 

Dave Case ’81 is currently in Norfolk assigned to Commander Strike Force Training Atlantic staff.

Mark Stevenson ’79 flew EA-6Bs before earning his doctorate in Geophysics.  He's currently working at SPAWAR San Diego and does the occasional jog and bike ride.

Ralph Brunson ’81 was an NFO and now lives in the Long Beach CA area working for Boeing on the C-17 program.

Mark Donahue ’81 is still on active duty as a Captain with the US Pacific Command J3 staff in Hawaii, having most recently commanded an Amphibious Squadron in San Diego.

Scott Belanger ’79 lives near NAS Patuxent River and works for DRS Technologies supporting NAVAIR programs.  He was very competitive in 10Ks and marathons into his 40s, but is now relegated to treadmill running.

Dave Haller ’80 served his time in the submarine community and for the past 18 years has worked in various submarine programs.  He lives in Crofton MD and has run 50 milers and marathons.

Dave Stehlin ’79 was Marine Infantry and is now CEO of Ceterus Networks, living in Flemington NJ.  He’ll still do a few road races each year.

Randy Scanlon ’79 works for Booz Allen Hamilton and is rumored to be in the Norfolk area.

Matt Paggi ’81 was in the Surface Navy and currently works for IBM in Shelburne VT.

Denny Kilian '80 was a surface warrior for six years and is now in California.  Despite aching knees he still runs the Avenue of the Giants Marathon.

Charlie Hautau ’78 recently retired as commanding officer of the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport RI.  He now works for Rockwell Collins and lives in Falls Church, still running and battling age related injuries like most of us.

Relay anchor Jim Cheever ’78 lives in Richardson TX and works for the Raytheon Corporation.

Finally Mr. Gene Bisbee, who covered the 1978 and 1980 USNA 100 Mile Relay for the Annapolis Capitol, lives in Sacramento CA and among other things writes a biking blog, www.bikebiz.com

Despite the success of contacting a majority of the 1978 100 Mile Relay participants, I feel a sense of failure on missing the following runners:

Tim Murphy ‘80
Dale Rugieri ‘79
Mark Gibson ‘79
Paul Grenseman ‘81
Eric Taylor ‘79
Dave Quinn
Brian Clancey
Joe Suggs '81
Bob Laughlin '78
Terry Mack ‘80
Pete Tatro '80
Gerry Crossland ‘79
Rich Waddel ‘80
Jim Sheairs ‘80
Bob Johnson
Mike Wetmore ‘80
Tim MacNeil ‘79
Jeff Colvin ‘80
Mike Loman ‘80
Jim Eubank

 

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