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Saturday Would Have Been Great Day For 97th VanDusen


BY DAVE SHEA

A comforting overcast and a dead calm would have made Saturday a great day for the 97th VanDusen Invitational Track-Field Meet at OFA's Steve Barlow Track-Field facility.

But the Van Dusen joined the many great North Country sporting events which have been cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic and the facility stood empty and aching. The pandemic wiped out all of the the New York State Winter High School Championships and NCAA Championships and has kept all high school, college and community spring sports venues empty with a haunting silence.

There will be an asterish in next year's meet program and the Van Dusen will remain as the one of the longest continually staged meets in New York State history.

The VanDusen traditions will go on and more more memories join the thousands which have already been made.

Longtime Canton Track-Field Coach John Casserly asked for VanDusen memories on his facebook page on Saturday and received several excellent responses. Longtime OFA Girls Varsity and current OFA Girls Modified Track-Field coach Penny Sharrow went deep into her scrapbook and came up a gem.

The clipping came from the front page of the Advance News from Sunday, June 2, 1974 with Kelly Comments after a resurgent OFA program ended Potsdam's long control of the meet under the coaching of the late Bill Lewis. The meet was also was also the Section 10 Championships at that time. John Bramhall and former Potsdam standout Steve Barlow combined lead OFA back to the team championship circle and revived memories of an era of excellence under the direction of the late Alton "Slim" Elliott.

The clipping contains a great photo by John Scott of Bob Spears and Rick Byrnes of OFA placing 1-2 in the 800 backdropped by one massive crowds which always filled the bleachers and encircled the track when the event was the Section 10 Championships staged on the first weekend of June 12.

Saturday would have also been the first VanDusen where the athletes and spectators would have travelled on the Penny Raftis Sharrow Drive which was dedicated last June to enter facilities.

Commenting from Oregon Coach Bramhall wrote "'74 was a great year to bring the Van Dusen Trophy back to OFA."

Bramhall also recalled the year the meet was almost moved because a portion of the the cinder track near the track shed was flooded. "You may remember the International Scout we used to drag the cinder track? That year we poured gasoline on the wettest sections and tried to burn the water away. Later when I was dragging the track the gasoline would reignite right behind the Scout! Crazy times and great memories!" he wrote.

From Aaron Todd: aIn the mid-90s I remember George Gordon setting up court on a camping chair in the infield. He’s be in that chair almost all day and he was coaching the Gouverneur kids to be sure, but he always had a word of advice for kids from other schools too. One of the reasons Section X track was always so special, all of the coaches were rooting for you, and we all knew each other so well.

Always the best meet (and not just because they give the 800 winner a giant trophy!). Broke 2:00 for the first time there as a junior, and it’s one of the few races I can remember every second of. But the best memory I have is winning the 4x800.

From Tristan McKnight I put on this shirt on in honor of the Deusen, and dug up one of my old running journals to refresh the memories. My notes for the 2004 meet (May 15) said "nice weather, some rain" and apparently I got a PR in the 400 hurdles that I was pretty excited about (though I knocked another second off that a week later, so I was definitely still a work in progress...) Digger a little further, it looks like I set my PR for the 110HH at the next year's VD (my senior year). Fun times.

From Penny Sharrow: How about the first Co-ed Van Dusen - when it ended up under the lights as it ran ( no pun intended) a little late and the OFA Girls Team helped carry the Boys Team to the Overall Trophy after they had some unfortunate dq's - that felt great !! And always the beautiful weather. I also think Leslie Revier (Norwood-Norfolk) set a State record in Triple there too.

Note: Leslie Revier went on to win a track-field scholarship at the University of Minnesota.

From Amy Farrell I’ll never forget getting the chance to run on the Freshman Relay when I was in 7th grade. It felt like I’d qualified for the Olympics! Always my favorite meet of the year as an athlete and coach.

Note: Running on the Freshman Relay started a magnificent on-going running career for Farrell which eventually produced All-American honors at St. Lawrence University and a age group world championship at the Ironman Worlds in Kona, Hawaii. From Eric Barr I always loved the VD. I don’t remember any that weren’t great racing weather. From Deb Danehy Lyndaker (see photo above) Amy Farrell and I coaching there last year..... 26-27 years after battling against each other as competitors. It would have been a beautiful day for a meet today. Relays are always the best. From Timothy Danehy Did my first (and one of my few) sub-5:00 1600s in 1988. Placed very well - in the slow section. Sad not to be able to see Nick (Deb Danehy Lyndaker) do something much more impressive today. From Chris McRoberts Remember the year we had thunderstorms right at the beginning. Didn't think we were gonna get it in that yr.

From Michael Curry: Near the end of the season so fitness levels were nearly at peak, lots of personal bests. Great to spend an entire day with friends and feel just as good seeing them doing well.

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This site is dedicated to the memory of Chuck Kelly, longtime editor of The Journal and Advance News in Ogdensburg and the greatest newsman in the history of Northern New York.