Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Paying it Forward–Rally for Girls’ Sports Day

I've always believed sports can be an integral part of any young girl's development. That belief stems from my own introduction to athletics as a young girl.

For me, sports were first and foremost a bonding experience with my dad. He made sure, early on, that I knew how to throw a baseball properly and shoot a perfect jump shot.

As I began to participate in organized sports, it was my dad who bought me my first softball glove and first pair of basketball shoes. Early on, we bonded over the pain and nuisance of wearing eyeglasses while participating in sports - so he bought me my first ulgy, black athletic eyeglass holder - thankfully, he then allowed me to begin wearing contacts by sixth grade.

But it was once I discovered running - specifically high school track - that I really began to embrace athletic participation. And, you guessed it, it was my dad who bought me my first running tights, racing spikes and even my first sports bra.

My participation in high school track led me to college at the University of Minnesota where I competed on the track team. Later I volunteered for years as a track official with the team. But even I have been surprised by what athletics did for me longer term.

Today I still run, albeit longer distances at much slower paces than my high school sprinting days; I even competed for a couple of USATF-MN teams post-collegiately. I've coached high school athletes, and worked at countless road races, track meets and cross country races. And I make a living as a freelance writer by telling the stories of other people's athletic endeavors.

What did I win by playing sports? A lifelong passion for health & fitness; the ability to compete, win and lose with grace and dignity; the understanding of how to set and achieve goals; the knowledge of what it means to contribute to a team; self-confidence, self-respect & self-esteem; and, perhaps most importantly, the zeal to encourage, influence and support the next generation (as well as newcomers of any age.)

When the National Women's Law Center asked bloggers to write a post today, December 8th, about the importance of girls in sports and the benefits of athletics participation, I gladly signed up. In trying to come up with my angle on this broad topic I decided to seek out some of today's experts: girls who are just now moving up the ranks through athletic pursuits of their own.

Thankfully, opportunities for young women today abound, so I had many "subjects" from which to choose. I ended up asking the daughters of two friends to write just a glimpse into their athletic lives. Their stories follow.

Nine-year-old Grace Byers is in fouth grade at Burroughs Community School in Minneapolis, Minn. She started figure skating in December 2008. When she's not skating, Grace practices yoga in mother and daughter yoga classes led by her certified intructor mom, Faith McGown. She also participates in the yoga classes Faith teaches to her figure skating club. An extremely active girl, Grace is learning to enjoy running with her mom, who has run Twin Cities Marathon and many other races.

This weekend I competed in a figure skating competition in White Bear Lake. I took first place in my event. Since I started skating three years ago I have won 10 medals and trophies.

Ever since I started figure skating I have been more focused in school and I am getting better grades. It’s made me a better student and a stronger person. Every year our school does a family fun run. In 4th grade you have to run 40 minutes. It used to be hard for me. Since I started skating, I run the whole thing. I even run some 5ks with my mom.

Even though I compete on my own, I am still part of a team. I am good friends with many of my teammates. We help and cheer for each other even when we compete against each other. I think all kids should have a sport. [Photo caption: Grace with her first-place trophy–Saturday, December 4, 2010. Photo courtesy: Faith McGown.]

Maddie Peterson, 15, is a sophomore at Saint Louis Park Senior High School in Minnesota. This spring she will play Ado Annie in her school's production of "Oklahoma!"

In the fall I run Cross Country for Saint Louis Park. I’m the fifth fastest varsity runner on the team. Our girl’s team doesn’t think of running as a sport that you do after school. We think of it, as a way to make new friends every year and create sister-like bonds that will last all throughout your whole life even if you stop running. Since our girl’s team is so small we have more of a chance to get to know each other better. I’m glad I don’t go to a huge school with a giant team because you don’t get the same kind of relationships with every runner. This year I learned something from every girl on the team.

Over the summer when I train for the season my parents sometimes have us do family runs. Our family is very close but usually I prefer running alone. When I run with my family I’m distracted and it feels like they’re going extremely fast, but really I’m going too fast. When I’m running alone I can think and clear my head. My parents always say, “How come you can run with your team but you hate running with us?” and I tell them its because with my team I don’t feel any pressure from them. You can go as fast as you want at practice and everyone will be ok with it.

I want to be an opera singer when I’m older. I’ve often thought that my abilities to project my voice like I can come from my lung capacity from running and the endurance I’ve built up. I asked my opera teacher one day if it was a good idea to exercise and sing at the same time. He told me yes it is and he would sometimes hum his song while running. At practice I tried singing some songs while running. It wasn’t perfect but it’s a start! [Photo courtesy: Susan Peterson.]

Monday, December 6, 2010

NYC high school sprinting star in desperate need of bone marrow donor

I started my running "career" as a sprinter, way back in the day. (Actually, my first running was from the batter's box to first base, but that's a story for another day.)

Today, when I write feature articles about runners, one of the questions I often ask is what their favorite "discipline" is within the sport: cross county, roads, track or trail. My very unscientific study has found that often the first discipline introduced is the favorite. For example, I have many friends who love cross country. When I ask why that is, they'll often recount how it was the first sport they tried out for in high school.

For me that sport was track and it's what I always answer as my first love (followed closely by road racing.) And within track, although I went on to run middle distance in college and dabbled in distance racing post-collegiately, I always think first of my sprinting days.

My decades-long interest in sprinting (and sprinters) is why this story about a young New York City woman first caught my eye. Reading her story touched my heart. Ahtyana Johnson is a senior at Cardozo High School. She's a highly-recruited sprinting star who was recently diagnosed with an often-fatal, rare blood disorder. She's currently in need of a bone marrow donor.

From the article "If you are healthy, young and have a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant, the odds in your favor are in the 97-plus percent range," said Sandra Walter of the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation. [photo courtesy:]

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fundraiser for MN Trail Running leaders

If you're in Minnesota this weekend, please consider attending the Larry & Colleen Pederson Benefit Run on Saturday (November 27, 2010). Runners will gather at Afton State Park for a run, potluck and silent auction. The event is open to all and will begin at 7:00 a.m. at the park’s visitor center.

The following is directly from the event website:

"The Pederson Benefit Run was created to support our friends Colleen & Larry Pederson, who sustained a tremendous amount of damage to their home during the recent flood in Zumbro Falls, Minnesota. After the flood, many people who were able to do so, volunteered to help Colleen & Larry with cleaning up the mess & the damage left behind after the water receded. The work has seemed endless, with many hours spent cleaning, tearing down walls, ceilings, pulling out the floor and the fireplace, before rebuilding could begin. Still many, especially those who were not able to be there in person, have asked what more can we do? As trail runners we thought let’s do what we do best…Run! And the idea for the benefit run was born.

"Over the years Larry and Colleen have become familiar faces in the Trail Running Community, dedicating countless hours of their time so that runners may enjoy the sport they love so much. Each year some of the fun that we get to experience on the trails because of them are The Fall Superior Races, Zumbro 100 & In Yan Teopa. Larry also founded the
Upper Midwest Trail Runners Association, visit the website for further information about UMTR and the races they direct."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gabriele Anderson joins WomenTalkSports (plus Twitter & Facebook)

Last week the WomenTalkSports blog network added Gabriele Anderson to their Professional Athlete Directory. For those of you who don't know, Anderson runs for the elite, post-collegiate Team USA Minnesota. She was also a standout during her tenure as a University of Minnesota Golden Gopher distance runner.

Anderson had a busy week last week, as she also set up this Facebook page and joined Twitter with the very apt username: GabeRunsHappy. I've never met Anderson, but from everything I've ever heard and/or read about her, "GabeRunsHappy" seems to describe her perfectly.

She's an outstanding athlete, as evidenced by a second-place finish in the 1,500m at last spring's NCAA outdoor track meet and a 7th-place finish in the same event at the USA Outdoor Championships meet. She also is a two-time cancer survivor. You can read (and hear) about her accomplishments through the following links.

–Gabe's U of M bio

–Anderson's Team USA MN bio

–May 27, 2010 Minneapolis Star Tribune article about her racing highlights [and cancer battle] to date

–June 23, 2010 article on Runner's World Racing News page

–September 27, 2010 article on the Universal Sports website.

–Sunday, October 31, 2010, Anderson was featured on the Women Talk Sports Weekly Radio Show.

I'm looking forward to reading more and more about Gabe and her running endeavors in the coming years. [photos courtesy of the University of Minnesota.]

About WomenTalkSports: "With the goal of promoting and empowering female athleticism, is an online network that connects the best blogs relating to women's sports. The site aims to raise the level of awareness of women in sport by providing comprehensive sport coverage, spotlighting outstanding achievements, and working with sporting associations on advocacy issues and empowering programs."

Monday, September 6, 2010

September Events in the MN Running Community

There are a number of special events–besides road, trail and cross country races–going on this September in the Minnesota running community.

On Sunday, September 12, Kevin Brochman and Cary Kangas are hosting a speedgolf tournament to benefit the Cynthia Schroeder Brochman Memorial Scholarship fund at Saint Olaf College. Brochman was an active member of the Minnesota running, snowshoe racing and cross country skiing communities. She also enjoyed golf and volleyball. The Bob-n-Broc' Speedgolf Tournament is an especially appropriate honor because it combines two of the activities Brochman was passionate about: running and golf.

Later in the evening (6:30 p.m.) on Sunday, September 12, USATF-MN will host its annual meeting at Broadway Pizza in Minneapolis. All USATF Minnesota members 18 years of age or older are encouraged to attend and participate. The Annual Meeting will feature the election of officers (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer) for the upcoming year. There will be a free pizza buffet for all USATF Minnesota members in attendance.

On Saturday, September 25 there will be a fundraiser for Colin Farbotko. He is a Minnesota triathlete, runner, skier and web designer. Farbotko, a former board member for MDRA, is battling ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.) "A benefit thingy for Colin & Marney" is a fundraiser to help remodel the home of Farbotko and his wife, Marney, to make it wheelchair accessible. The event will be a walk starting at the Lake Harriet bandshell with a BBQ to follow. Additional donations are encouraged.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Speedgolf tournament to benefit Cindy Brochman scholarship

Cindy Brochman will be honored Sunday, September 12, 2010 at the 13th annual Bob-n-Broc' Speedgolf Tournament. Brochman, a former speedgolf champion, passed away in December 2009 after a year-long battle with stomach cancer.[Photo: Cindy flies down the 18th fairway at the 2005 Minnesota speedgolf tournament. Photo courtesy: Cary Kangas.]

This year's Bob-n-Broc' will take place at Rich Valley Golf Course in Rosemount, Minn. Immediately following the speedgolf tournament, there will be a 9-hole, shotgun-start, (slow) golf tournament. The tournament proceeds with benefit the Cynthia Schroeder Brochman Memorial scholarship at Saint Olaf College.

Kevin Brochman ( or 651-231-0779) is looking for participants for both tournaments as well as volunteers to help facilitate the event. Please contact him if you would like to participate. Bob-n-Broc' founder Cary Kangas says, "The whole event is a blast. You've got to see it to believe it!"

In December 2009, shortly after Brochman's death, her family established a scholarship in her honor at her alma mater, Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. The endowment for Brochman is now at $13,730–just over half-way to the goal of $25,000. [Photo: Cindy at the 2005 Chicago speedgolf tournament. Photo courtesy: Cary Kangas.]

Additional donations to the scholarship fund will be accepted at the tournament. Donations may also be made online at the Saint Olaf College website. Be sure to check "Other" under "Designation" and write "Cynthia Schroeder Brochman Memorial Scholarship" under "Comments and Special Instructions."

Cindy golfing in Hawaii, April 2009.
[Photo courtesy: Kevin Brochman.]

It will surprise absolutely no one who knew Brochman to learn she was very successful at speedgolf immediately upon taking up the sport. Here are some of her results over the years, as shared by Cary Kangas.
2005Hit & Run*Under 441st
2006Hit & Run*Under 422nd
2007Hit & Run*Under 452nd
2008Hit & Run*30-452nd
*Bob & Broc'
#Chicago Speedgolf Classic

History of the Bob-n-Broc'

The Bob-n-Broc' was formerly called The Hit & Run. It was renamed this year in memory of two pioneers of speedgolf in Minnesota, Bob Feldman and Cindy Brochman. According to tournament founder Cary Kangas, "The Bob-n-Broc' is the country's oldest speedgolf tournament."

Kangas explains the history of the Bob-n-Broc' as follows:

"Bob Feldman was a dear friend of mine. He died a couple years ago from a type of leukemia linked to exposure to agent orange from when he was in Vietnam.

"Bob was a golfing buddy of mine. In 1988, we both took up running and ran races together. In the early 1990's, Bob found an article in Runner's World magazine about miler Steve Scott who had just set a record for the fastest round of golf. We were immediately interested in the idea and gave it a try. I consider Bob the founder of speedgolf in this area.

"After trying speedgolfing on our own a bit, in 1998 I decided to host a tournament to get others to try it. I got about 10-12 friends and co-workers (including Bob) to participate.

"I have continued to hold the tournament every year since then. The average number of participants is in the 10-12 range each year. It is mostly locals, but we have had people from Oregon and Virginia here as well. Roscoe Shaw, our speedgolf friend–and an F.O.C.–from Virginia says, 'Speedgolf is the slowest growing sport in America.'

"A few years ago (2005), I wanted to bolster participation. I routinely run the Trail Mix in Bloomington. So I printed some business cards with information on speedgolf, plus my contact information, and left them on the picnic tables by the Trail Mix finish line that year.

"A week later I got an email from Cindy asking about speedgolf. She and Kevin first participated in 2005 and then every year through 2008." [Photo: Cindy, in a familiar position: accepting awards, at the 2005 Minnesota speedgolf tournament. Photo courtesy: Cary Kangas.]

A few years ago Brochman and Kangas were interviewed by KSTP-TV photojournalist John Gross. The result was this fun report on speedgolf. Kangas recalls of that day, "She almost got a hole in one while he was filming the story."

About Speedgolf

The rules of speedgolf are simple. Participants play a round of golf, but they must run between strokes. Golfers do not have to run fast. At the end of 18 holes, the player's time (in minutes) is added to their golf score to determine their speedgolf score. The player with the lowest combined score wins. [Example: player shoots 93 in 61:40, your score is 154:40.]

A good golfer who runs slow will typically beat a marginal golfer who runs fast.

For more detailed information about the rules of speedgolf check out the web site for Speedgolf International.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

5 FREE Clinics for Minnesota Runners

Anyone who doubts that supporting your local running stores and local event management companies is a good thing, need look no further than this list of upcoming events and clinics at local running stores or put on by local event management companies in the Twin Cities. Shopping local does bring benefits back to the local running community. And the best part? These are all FREE clinics.

First, TONIGHT, July 27, 2010
5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Marathon Sports
2312 W. 50th St
Minneapolis, MN, 55410

Dr. Paul Langer, podiatrist with Minnesota Orthopaedic Specialists, and Movement Specialist Chris Leisz, M.D. will be in the store to answer questions and give advice. This event is first come, first served so get there early.

Next up will be a nutrition clinic in Saint Paul this coming Saturday.

Nutrition Clinic
Saturday, July 31, 2010
9:00 AM
Run N Fun - St. Paul
868 Randolph Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55102

University of Minnesota graduates Reed Steele (masters, psychology) and Rebekah Yetzer (nutrition) will talk about nutrition tips for pre-exercise, during races and runs, and post-exercise. They will discuss what types of things to eat before you exercise, during your run so you don’t run out of glycogen, and what fuels you need for optimum recovery.

Clinic attendees will receive 25% off all nutrition products.

Then, next Thursday evening, August 5, 2010 there will be events on both ends of the metro.

Introduction to ChiRunning and ChiWalking
Thursday, August 5, 2010
6:30-7:30 p.m.
The North Face
799 Grand Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55105

This workshop will be led by Chris Fuller, president of The Sporting Life and the only certified ChiRunning and ChiWalking instructor in Minnesota.

Good Form Running clinic
Thursday, August 5, 2010
6:00 p.m.
Marathon Sports
2312 W. 50th St
Minneapolis, MN, 55410

Led by NCAA champion and US Olympian Grant Robison, this clinic will teach the benefits and techniques of Good Form Running.

Event is limited to 15 people in order to ensure a more in-depth, personal experience for the attendees. You need to RSVP for this event: (please put GFR in your subject line.)

Finally, on Saturday, August 14, 2010
Institute for Athletic Medicine Foot Analysis and Shoe Screen
10:30-11:30 a.m.
STARTLINE Running Store
12979 Ridgedale Drive
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Registered physical therapists from the Institute for Athletic Medicine's Running Program evaluate your foot structure and current running shoe, making shoe recommendations that work to reduce your injury risk and improve foot comfort. Use their expertise and the STARTLINE staff's knowledge and customer service to pick out your next great running, trail or walking shoe.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Roy Griak named to yet another Athletic Hall of Fame

The awards and honors keep coming for Roy Griak, the retired long-time head coach of the University of Minnesota Men's Track & Field and Cross Country teams and former Saint Louis Park High School coach. [photo courtesy: of MN]

Griak, who has served as an administrative assistant to the men's track & field and cross country teams for the last 13 years, was, in 1994, inducted into the prestigious Drake Relays Coaches Hall of Fame.

Two years later, Griak joined the impressive ranks of the University of Minnesota "M" Club Hall of Fame. His induction was a bit unusual because he was honored both as a University athlete (letter-winner in cross country and track & field) and decades-long head coach for both sports.

Griak was also inducted into the Minnesota Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1996, part of the first class for this creation of USATF-MN.

That same year, upon his retirement from full-time coaching at the U, the University honored Griak by naming the nation's largest cross country meet after him. The Roy Griak Invitational, boasting no fewer than 10 races in different categories, annually attracts thousands of high school and cross country runners from throughout the U.S.

In 2001, Griak was honored as part of that year's induction class for USTFCCCA [U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.]

In 2005, Griak, honored as a long-time coach, was part of the first induction class of the newly-established Saint Louis Park Athletic Hall of Fame.

More recently, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak declared Saturday, July 19, 2008 "Roy Griak Day in the city of Minneapolis."

It was, coincidentally, two years and 1 day later when Grandma's Marathon announced Griak would be a member of the 2010 class of the DECC [Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center] Hall of Fame through the following news release. [photo courtesy: Kirk Elias.]

A U.S. Olympic ski jumper from Duluth, a long-time collegiate track and cross country coach from Duluth, a legendary high school hockey coach from International Falls and a major league baseball pitcher from Hermantown make up the 2010 Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center Hall of Fame class.

Jim Denney, Roy Griak, the late Larry Ross and Jerry Ujdur will be inducted in a ceremony beginning at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 15 at the Harbor Side Convention Center at the DECC.

Tickets for the induction ceremony and dinner are $25 and can be purchased at the DECC ticket office at 350 Harbor Drive, the Duluth News Tribune at 424 West First Street and Grandma’s Marathon at 351 Canal Park Drive. Tickets can be ordered by mail, send to: Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune, 424 West First Street, Duluth, Minn. 55802 or by phone at (218) 727-0947. Tickets will not be available at the door.

Denney, 53, was a two-time U.S. Olympian in 1976 and 1980, finishing as the top American ski jumper both years. He placed eighth in the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., the second-best finish by an American since 1960, and was 21st in 1976 in Innsbruck, Austria. He was U.S. champion in 1976 and 1977.

Griak, 86, grew up in Duluth, and was a middle distance runner at the University of Minnesota. He coached cross country and track at Minnesota for 33 years, leading the Gophers to Big Ten cross country titles in 1964 and 1969, and a Big Ten outdoor track and field title in 1968. He coached 47 cross country and track All-Americans. He retired from coaching 1996 but continues as a University of Minnesota administrative assistant.

Ross, a Duluth native, was an All-American goalie at the University of Minnesota before coaching 31 seasons at International Falls High School. He had a 566-169-21 record and won six state championships, and had an undefeated streak of 59 games. He was inducted into U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988 and died in 1995 at age 73.

Ujdur, 53, pitched at Hermantown High School, the University of Minnesota and in the Major Leagues for Detroit and Cleveland, from 1980 through 1984. In five major-league seasons he was 12-16 with a 4.78 ERA in 261 innings, including a 10-10 mark in 1982 with Detroit with a 3.69 earned-run-average in 178 innings. He was taken in the fourth round of the 1978 baseball draft by Detroit.

I'm sure I'm missing many other honors and awards but will gladly continue to add to this list as I discover more. However, with all the honors, awards and accolades Griak has accumulated throughout his years as an athlete and career as a coach, perhaps no honor will surpass the one he will achieve this coming fall. At the 25th Anniversary of the Roy Griak Invitiational, each of the top 20 finishers in all 10 of the various races, plus all team coaches, will receive a commemorative Roy Griak Bobblehead.

You know you've made it when they create a bobblehead in your likeness!

Note from TJ: This spring I wrote about Griak's appearance on The Mary Hanson show in this TJ's Turf post.

Hennepin-Lake Classic coupon code

Have you registered for this summer's Hennepin-Lake Classic yet? 2010 marks the 33rd running of this Minneapolis late summer tradition. This year's event is Sunday, August 1.

This is one of my favorite races all year. (And, no, my favorites are not only events put on by The Sporting Life.) I love races with tradition and history in the Twin Cities and, because this race has been contested every year since 1978, it definitely qualifies as historical.

I love the fact that you can choose between a 10K (two laps around Lake Calhoun) or 5K (one lap), of if you're really ambitious, register for the double-header and run both races.

Over the years, I've run all the races at HLC, including the double header (which is even more fun than it might sound.) It really is a can't miss event. Or, at the very least, a "shouldn't miss" event.

Lake Calhoun, in the heart of Minneapolis, is a great location for running and walking events. There's always a fun, festive atmosphere at this race, even years where it's been so hot and sticky you'd think you'd been magically transported to the tropics overnight.

With race day just over one week away, on the off-chance you haven't registered yet, it's not too late. I'm even offering you use of my super-secret coupon code!

You can register here for the Hennepin-Lake Classic brought to you by The Sporting Life. If you use the super-secret coupon code: TJcodeHLC, you'll get $3 off your registration fees.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Duluth to Host 2012 and 2013 USA Half Marathon Championships

The 2012 and 2013 USA Half Marathon Championships have been awarded to Duluth, Minn., USA Track & Field and Grandma's Marathon-Duluth, Inc., announced today.

"We are excited to have Duluth play host to our USA Half Marathon Championships in 2012 and 2013," said USATF CEO Doug Logan. "We look forward to working with Grandma's Marathon to deliver what promises to be two great events in the city that will highlight the talents of our best runners."

The men's and women's national half-marathon title races will be run in conjunction with the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon on June 16, 2012 and June 22, 2013.

"We could not be more elated to receive the bid for these events. Our proposal was an aggressive one, as our staff and board members believe this is an opportune time to invest the resources necessary to attract these premier running races to northeastern Minnesota," said Scott Keenan, executive director of Grandma's Marathon. "We are excited to showcase the city of Duluth and its unparalleled hospitality to the country's best half-marathon runners."

The bid includes a per year prize purse of $82,000, including first-place awards of $12,000 for the men's and women's champions.

Duluth has a strong history of hosting national championship events, including the 2003 and 2004 USA Women's Half Marathon Championships. The 2003 race was won by Colleen De Reuck in a course record one hour, ten minutes — a mark that remains the fastest women's time on the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon course. The race celebrates its 20th anniversary next month.

The city also hosted the 1987, 1990 and 1994 USA Women' Marathon Championships as part of Grandma's Marathon, currently the country's 13th largest marathon.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mary Hanson interviews Roy Griak

In many ways, it seems inevitable that Mary Hanson would one day interview Roy Griak.

As host of The Mary Hanson Show, the longest-running program on cable in the United States (it's been on the air regularly since 1980), Hanson has tackled health and social issues for three decades. [photo courtesy The Mary Hanson Show.]

And as a long-time Minnesota track & field and cross country coach, fan and participant, Griak is the very definition of longevity. [photo courtesy of MN.]

It's no exaggeration to say Roy Griak and Mary Hanson are two of my favorite people. I first met Roy in 1986 when I was a freshman on the U of M women's track & field team. I loved how all the members of the women's track & field and cross country teams called this lovely man 'coach' as a wonderful term of endearment.

Mary Hanson and I became acquainted a few years later in the early 1990s when her daughter, Jennifer, was a member of the U of M women's track & field and cross country teams. By then I was volunteering at meets and met Mary, Jennifer and Mary's husband at the time, Ron Daws.

My personal and professional lives would intersect with both Hanson and Griak for years to come.

Because I was just finishing up a broadcast journalism degree from the U of M's Journalism School at the time, Hanson allowed me to tag along while she hosted a closed-circuit show for sick children at a local hospital.

Around the same time, Roy was generous enough to invite me to be his co-race director for a new event coming to town. It was a little event known as Race for the Cure. He and I worked together on that event–one of the biggest walk/run events in Minnesota–for 9+ years.

Griak has the perfect temperment and personality to work with the group of strong, determined women who brought this wonderful event to the Twin Cities in 1993. He remains the race director to this day. Jan Guenther, owner of Gear West, is now his very capable co-director.

And tonight those world's intersect again when Roy appears on The Mary Hanson Show.

"An interview I recently did with Roy Griak is going to be broadcast Monday night, March 29, at 9:00 p.m. on MCN, the Metro Cable Network, channel 6," says Hanson. "This channel reaches the entire seven county area."

The interview will be seen on cable multiple times and then on public television for the Twin Cities Public Television Minnesota Leaders with Mary Hanson series in a few months.

I will post information about additional cable broadcasts and the TPT showing when the dates are set.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Onward Cindy!

When people are asked to describe Cindy Brochman there are invariably a number of responses: a laugh, a quizzical ‘Hmm…. how do you describe Cindy?’ Then, inevitably, people will begin to share their memories of Brochman.

Often the stories are about the experience of knowing Brochman – laughing with her at a road race start line or seeing her cheering somewhere along the course – rather than stories of Brochman’s many athletic achievements. Although there are many such success stories, people who knew Brochman know she was as much about the experience of being an athlete as she was a competitor.

Brochman, 44, of Maplewood, Minn., died December 27, 2009 after a year-long battle with cancer. She wrote on a CaringBridge website throughout her last year, sharing her struggles and determination but almost always ending with some sort of edict for readers to get out there and enjoy the day. Because that’s what she did, even throughout most of the past year.

Brochman was a lifelong athlete, pursuing with gusto each of the many sports she participated in. To hear her brother, Tim Schroeder, tell it, she was genetically predisposed to do so.

“It’s just her tenacity, I guess. I don’t know where that came from. All of my family members have it. We all believed, ‘Why bother doing something half-assed?’ laughs Schroeder. “If you’re going to do it, do it well. Don’t just play at it, do it seriously and be the best at it. It doesn’t surprise me that Cindy was like that. It doesn’t surprise me at all that she improved her entire [athletic] career.”

As the only daughter in a family with three younger brothers, Brochman spent her younger years trying to stay one step ahead of the boys, both athletically and academically. As Schroeder recalled recently, “As siblings we would always push each other around. It’s life. But my father finally said to her one day, ‘You’d better be careful, they’re going to be bigger than you.’ And we were, eventually.”

But even then Brochman did manage to stay competitive with her brothers, leading the way by excelling at school through her 1987 graduation from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. and athletically throughout her entire life.

In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that Brochman only competed for two track seasons (1986 and 1987) and one cross country season (1986) at St. Olaf. She transferred to St. Olaf from UW-Platteville after her sophomore year. Her one and only collegiate cross country season, her senior year, was the year the St. Olaf women’s team took fifth place at the NCAA Division III championships. That one cross country season was enough to cement Cindy’s love affair with the sport and solidified a lifetime commitment to the program and to its long-time coach, Chris Daymont.

“I’ve coached way more talented kids than [Brochman]. But to this day I’ve never coached anyone as gutsy or quirky,” recalls Daymont. “She would do anything. She was so honest and so up front and so in your face. Honestly I loved it. If she had something to say, she said it. She was a difference maker.

“We did things that were amazing that year. [And Brochman] was the intangible glue that could put things together,” says Daymont. “She worked hard. What made her special was that she was always so in the moment; ready to take on any challenge.”

That team spirit led her to post-collegiate teams. She was a long-time member of the Run n Fun women’s racing team (a USATF-MN team sponsored by a locally-owned running store), a 12-year member of Baba Yaga, an all-women’s team competing (and winning or finishing second) at the grueling Hood to Coast relay race in Oregon, and a member of two USSSA (United States Snowshoe Association) national teams (2005 and 2006).

“Cindy was as much about wanting others to enjoy the team camaraderie as she was about individual accomplishments,” says Schroeder. “Not to say she wasn’t competitive – our whole family is. But she definitely wanted to make sure others were having fun. It was not just about her and her accomplishments.”

Brochman worked hard, played harder, and in her free-time she volunteered for the sports she loved. She served on the USATF-MN Board of Directors as Women’s Longest Distance Running chair for two years. She was USSSA’s Membership Chairperson for three years and had previously served for two years as its International Snowshoe Liaison.

Perhaps one of her biggest contributions was when she bid for, won and directed the 2007 U.S. National Snowshoe Championships in Minnesota. For that feat, as well as her own accomplishments as a racer, she was named the first-ever "Snowshoe Magazine Person of the Year" in 2007. Immediately following her death, the award was renamed “Snowshoe Magazine’s Cindy Brochman Memorial Person of the Year Award.”

“It would only be fitting to rename this award in Cindy’s honor because she not only meant a lot to Snowshoe Magazine but she meant a lot to the snowshoe racing community worldwide,” says Snowshoe Magazine Publisher Ryan Alford. “The snowshoe racing community owes a lot to Cindy for how much she’s given back. She’s certainly made her mark. She will be remembered well.”

And there have already been other remembrances for Brochman. This past fall Daymont unveiled the “Cindy Schroeder Brochman Alumni Cross Country Award” at the annual alumni meet. She says she began planning to name an award for Brochman five years ago, long before she was sick. Cindy was presented the first plaque at the meet. “I can guarantee you I will never forget that day,” says Daymont. “It was an amazing day in the history of St. Olaf cross country.”

Although Brochman’s time as part of the team at St. Olaf was relatively short, Daymont says her legacy has been great. Brochman has attended every alumni cross country meet since 1987. “Nobody else has done this. Nobody else came back every year,” says Daymont. “I’ve never seen her do anything halfway.” This past fall’s event was the one and only time she was unable to run the event, but she was still there to cheer the others on.

“She shows current St. Olaf students what they can be doing 22 years later – how well you can still be running – how this is a life-long sport,” says Daymont. “She also shows that once you’re part of this team, you’re part of it forever.” Daymont says Brochman is the embodiment of the depth, rich history and tradition of the St. Olaf cross country program and that is why she named an award for her.

Perhaps as a nod to how important Brochman’s two short years at St. Olaf were, Brochman’s parents, Bernie & Mary Anne Schroeder, are setting up a scholarship in Brochman’s name at the school.

The enormity of these gestures caught Brochman’s brother off-guard. “I’m kind of overwhelmed as her brother. I was unaware that she had that kind of impact,” says Schroeder. “It’s just now that I’m seeing these things. I would be surprised if she was aware of the impact she had.

“To her it was just a lifestyle. Just her lifestyle. It was not a question for her; it was a way of life,” continues Schroeder. “She never recognized the totality of what she was doing. I believe the totality of her athletic career was unique. She did a lot of stuff and was good at all of it.”

Fellow snowshoe racer and Minnesotan Brad Canham knew Brochman through racing but also because of work they did together for USSSA. Shortly after her death Canham wrote the following on a social networking website. It sums up Brochman well.

“Cindy was a tremendous competitor and a gracious and giving person. ... ‘Rest’ in peace may not be the right sentiment for an endurance athlete like Cindy, but perhaps a simple ‘Onward!’ is. So Onward Cindy, we'll miss you.”

Photo credits:
1. Cindy at Hood to Coast. Photo courtesy: Robin Balder-Lanoue & Team Baba Yaga
2. Cindy at 1987 Conference Track Meet; 5,000 meter. Photo courtesy: Chris Daymont
3. 1987 Saint Olaf women's track senior class. Photo courtesy: Chris Daymont
4. Cindy at 2008 Earth Day Half Marathon. Photo courtesy: Craig Yotter

5. Photo courtesy: Brochman family
6. Cindy at Rocky's Run 5K, 2004. Photo courtesy: Chris Fuller, The Sporting Life
7. Photo courtesy: Robin Balder-Lanoue & Team Baba Yaga

A small representation of Brochman’s many accomplishments and contributions:

–Member of an NCAA Division III-ranked volleyball team during her freshman year at UW-Platteville (1983).
–Consistently a top three runner for the fifth place NCAA Division III Cross Country Champion Saint Olaf women’s team in 1986
–Outdoor Track All Conference (1987) in 1500 and 5000 meter
–USSSA National Team in 2005 and 2006.
–Competed in Italy’s La Ciaspolada, the world’s largest competitive snowshoe race, in 2004 (16th), 2006 (18th), 2007 (14th) and 2008 (12th) making her the only U.S. snowshoe racer ever to compete four times. Her 2007 and 2008 races put her on the prestigious awards podium.
–Twelve-year member of Baba Yaga, an all-women’s team competing in the grueling Hood to Coast relay race in Oregon. Finished first: 1999, 2001-2007. Finished second: 1997, 1998, 2000, 2008.

Melpomene to merge with Pillsbury United Communities

Yesterday marked the 24th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day. This event has been a true showcase and celebration of how far female athletes of all ages have come in the past 2.5 decades.

But there was quieter news in Minnesota last week regarding women and girls in sport. In a newsletter dated January 29, 2010, Melpomene announced a partnership with Pillsbury United Communites.

I've been unable to locate the news directly on Melpomene's website, nor have I found mention of it yet on Pillsbury United Community's website. Therefore, without a hotlink to post, I offer the following, pulled directly from the electronic newsletter I received from Melpomene last Friday.

The Board of Directors of Melpomene has made a decision to perpetuate our mission through merger with a far larger organization, Pillsbury United Communities. The official announcement will come on February 1.

The merger gives Melpomene the chance to apply its 27 years of research in women's health for the benefit of thousands of underserved women. Our new name will be "Melpomene, a program of Pillsbury United Communities".

Melpomene's legacy will be preserved by donating issues of the Melpomene Journal, books, and other publications to nationally respected libraries. Sets of the Melpomene Journal, published from 1982 - 2002, have already been acquired by the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard and by St. Catherine University School of Health.

Founded in 1906 by the Pillsbury family, Pillsbury United Communities is a descendent of the Settlement House Movement. Today, Pillsbury United Communities (PUC) reaches more than 35,000 people each year through multiple locations in the inner city neighborhoods of Minneapolis. With an annual budget of over $8 million, PUC offers programs in housing, employment readiness, early childhood development, immigrant services, and wellness. Please visit the website at

We will thrive as a program of Pillsbury United Communities. Our emerging community model to build basic health habits with underserved women will grow in our new environment. Student interns studying in health fields will remain the backbone of the program. PUC has such a wide range that several of our projects will continue in the same location.

This is a very important and very positive change for Melpomene. We hope you will join us in celebrating the future!