Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tests and Quizzes at Washington University

Jeff Stiles and his wife, Heather, herd children Saturday night.
In the University Athletic Association, the "tests" are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, between the lines.
And believe me, test results are important here at Washington University.
 But there are also quizzes, and some of them are fun.
Early Saturday night, Jeff Stiles hosted a fun, intra-squad meet for his cross-country and track teams.
It's become a yearly thing at Washington and included some unusual events, such as "how far can you run in 45 seconds," a 1200 meter race, and what was announced as the "Intergalactic Two Mile."
Jeff had charge of his own children, as well as the runners, early in the proceedings until his wife, Heather, took them off his hands. (Kids and dogs are standard at most UAA events.)
He would introduce the runners -- to each other -- before every event with jokes, nicknames and mock announcer  grandiosity.
During the races,  other team members jogged in packs (at least one was wearing a tutu) or worked out on the football field and cheered on their teammates. Jeff called out splits as the runners passed.
Coming one week before the NCAA regional cross country meet, the qualifiers didn't run, but it's a way for those who didn't make the regionals to race one last time. And to mark the end of indoor track's early training for the middle distance runners.
Track and treat.

Saturday, the men's soccer team beat Chicago in overtime 2-1. In seven UAA matches this season, Washington has played six overtime games, winning three, tying two and losing one.
A couple of dozen fans and teammates stormed the field and piled on near midfield after the score, which all but assures the Bears of an at-large bid in the NCAA D3 tournament.

In football, the Bears will play Chicago next week for the UAA championship after beating Case Western Reserve University 14-13, as we like to say in the sports world, a huge win. Case had won the conference for the last two years and had not lost at home since 2006.
The Bears are 7-2 for the first time since 2001 and blocked two field goal attempts to hold on.

In volleyball, the top-ranked Bears lost the UAA championship to Emory University in four sets. Not to worry, however. Washington also lost the UAA  title match last year and went on to win the NCAA championship. (In the course of the tournament, Rich Luenemann's team gave the coach his 1,000th career win.) This year, the NCAA championship will be played here at Washington.

A record of athletics excellence
The Directors' Cup is a ranking of overall athletic achievement compiled by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
Washington University in St. Louis has done pretty well in recent years:
2009-10  - 3rd
2008-09 - 4th
2007-08 - 2nd
2006-07 - 5th
2005-06 - 7th
So how does Washington do it?
One answer is continuity.
John Schael, the Washington University athletics director, has held that job since 1978.
The university has had only two chancellors during his tenure, and one of them, Chancellor Emeritus Dr. William H. Danforth, was instrumental in the formation of the UAA.
There have been only two deans of students.
And among head coaches, eight have been at WUSTL for 10 years or more; two have been here more than 20 years on staff; one has 30 years.

When I talked to John on Saturday in the stands of Francis Field during the men's soccer match, he added two more points: Success brings success and people build programs.

Honey update
Honey sprung a leak, and it's ugly. The kind of leak that leaves a mark and a smell.
Honey and the gates of Francis Field.
It must have happened because the temperature reached 26 on Friday night. Or maybe her plumbing just gave out. I doused it with bleach.
I had to drive into St. Louis this morning (I got lost) and find a year-round RV park with "dumping" facilities.
Problem solved, but now I'm going to have to find other facilities.
We're parked inside the massive iron gates of The Francis Field. It's on the Register of Historic Landmarks and, along with nearby Francis Gymnasium, was built for the 1904 Olympics. Most of the stands that once held 19,000 have been removed. Today, one long section remains along the south side of the soccer/football field that holds about 3,300 fans. It has Field Turf, and a modern, dark clay colored eight-lane track named Bushyhead Track. The light standards are old, faded utility poles crowned with banks of floodlights, and one has a security camera attached. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the oldest sports venues west of the Mississippi still in use. That's pretty vague, but there's no doubt that it is really old AND still being used.
Honey is honored.

The loneliness of the SID
Chris Mitchell was first in, last out of the Washington press box.
Along my 45-day trek, I have pestered and annoyed every Sports Information Director at each of the eight UAA schools.
And I'm not done yet.
They're mostly sports junkies, stats nuts, writers, facilitators and multi-taskers. They work long hours and almost always on weekends.
Amazingly, not one of them has snapped at me -- yet.
I'm grateful for their support and forbearance. Here they are in geographical order: Jeff Bernstein (NYU), Nick Minerd (Case Western Reserve), Mark Fisher (Carnegie Mellon University), Dennis O'Donnell (University of Rochester),  Anthony Moscaret (UAA), Adam Levin (Brandeis University),  John Farina (Emory University), Dave Hilbert (University of Chicago), and Chris Mitchell (Washington University).
On Saturday, after the teams and coaches and fans had left Francis Field, Chris was still writing away, filing stories for the Washington University website about a full day of games and matches.

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