By Jane Johnson
As a member of the Gulf Winds Track Club, you are part of a large group of accomplished running enthusiasts of all ages, abilities, sizes and temperaments. It’s easy to let your impression of the club begin and end there – and be duly impressed by the sheer breadth of athletic talent and determination exhibited by the club as a whole.
However, from that perspective, you run the risk of not being able to “see the trees for the forest.” As blessed as this club is with an abundance of talent and grit, we also are an incredibly interesting collection of unique individuals whose personal “non-running” stories are just as fascinating.
To pique your interest, and hopefully to inspire you to get to know your running compatriots a little better, here is a small sampling of what you can find out if you look below the surface of a person’s running personae:
Jerry Ongley, a super fast grandmasters runner served in the Marines in the Belgian Congo. He also is a talented woodworker and makes beautiful bowls and custom writing implements on the three lathes he has in his workshop.
Mae Cleveland – when she isn’t winning 50 mile races at the age of 63 – also holds three college degrees.
Fred Deckert spent many years as an IBM engineer in upstate New York, and is actually responsible for inspiring his wife Margarete to start running.
Judy Alexander was accepted into the prestigious Julliard School of Music in New York City as a high school senior.
Felton Wright once held the male American marathon record for his age group as a teenager.
As the single mother of three children, Sue Kelly worked full time, put herself through school and earned her Ph.D. and still found time to be a swim meet official and compete in road races of every distance from the mile to the marathon – and even complete a few triathlons on the side.
Gene Opheim is a national champion race walker and also an expert custom cabinetmaker – which I can attest to firsthand from the cabinets and bookshelves he built for our house.
Our own newsletter editor Mike LaBossiere is a professor of philosophy at FAMU holds a Ph.D. in Ontology – a field of study that 9 out of 10 people can’t even begin to explain!
Kate McFall is a speech pathologist by training, but is currently a real estate professional and she once ran a marathon in Mongolia!
Nick Yonclas, the successful attorney son of a Greek immigrant who owned a drug store/soda fountain in upstate New York, played quarterback and defensive back at Ohio State University under the legendary Woody Hayes!
Sarah Docter-Williams was a member of the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating team and competed all over the world as a teenager and was also a national age group champion cyclist and then went on to run track and cross country at the University of Wisconsin.
When he isn’t working as a special agent for the I.R.S. or running ultramarathons in exotic places, or organizing the Relay for Life with Peg, Gary Griffin is an Elder at Faith Presbyterian Church and the Chairperson for the South Africa Partnership Task Force for the Florida Presbytery and served as.
After GWTC’s legendary David Yon spent his winter vacation helping to build a medical clinic in Rombo Kenya, he went on to rendezvous with his wife Mary Jean and Judy Kelly (wife of former GWTC president Tim Kelly) in Tanzania, where they began their ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Bill McGuire (phenomenal grandmasters champion and singer/musician extraordinaire) and his wife Linda have devoted their professional lives to educating and improving the lives of children with disabilities.
When Jennifer Emo – Maclay senior, Chenoweth Award winner and named to the All Big Bend cross country and track teams for several years for her outstanding performances in the mile, two-mile and 800 meters – went up for an interview at Rhodes College (where she will be studying and running in the fall), the person in the Admissions Office who interviewed her was none other than middle distance specialist Dave Wottle, memorable for winning a gold medal in the 1972 Olympics and running in a golf cap.
Decisions about our state’s delicate economic future are guided in large part by the brilliant economic analysis performed by Alan Johansen, member of the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference and staff director for the Senate Finance and Tax committee.
Prior to becoming a successful attorney, Scott Mitchell served in the navy on a nuclear submarine and in the past few years has learned to play the piano and banjo.
Allie Hunter, Lincoln High School senior, Chenoweth Award winner and local champion in soccer, cross country, high jump, 400, 800 meters and the mile on the track – will be trading in the Spanish moss of Tallahassee for the Ivy of Dartmouth College, where she will be a freshman in the fall.
Karl Hempel served as the president of the Capital Medical Society and is a former Chief of Staff at TMH – and was the personal physician for late Governor Lawton Chiles.
Herb Wills was once the 10th overall male finisher at the Boston Marathon.
In addition to being recognized for the Newspapers in Education program, Joe Dexter is also a nominee for the Florida Teacher of the Year Award.
While Warren Emo, architect of many of the finer commercial buildings in the area was playing high school football in Gainesville, he was part of a test group of athletes who tasted and experimented with the prototypes of what would eventually become Gatorade.
These are just a few stories among hundreds that you can discover if you take the time to get to know your fellow runners. Life is short – don’t wait. I think you will be amazed at what you find out.
Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.
-Thomas Henry Huxley, biologist (1825-1895)