I delivered this speech at the Pamakid Runners Club General Meeting on March 26, 2012.
I’m a little sweaty and in sweats instead of being formally dressed but I think Betty would forgive me. I’m wearing the same shirt I was wearing in 2010 when I took this photo, my favorite photo of those I’ve ever had the privilege of taking with Betty.
Betty Cunneen was our club’s first President.
Some of you may have seen her at the club picnic last July. Alzheimer’s had taken its toll on her but it was nice to see her at a Pamakid event.
She went into hospice care early last week. The Cunneen kids (Connie, Kelly, Pat Jr., and Garrett) were all there with Pat Sr. in her final days. Pat assured us that they were at peace and ready to let go. On Sunday, Betty passed on.
Our club, the Pamakid Runners began in 1970. The Cunneen and Boitano families met every Wednesday evening for a run around Lake Merced and then pizza at Shakey’s. At the time there were members of the San Francisco Dolphin South End Runners (DSE), the San Francisco Rowing Club, Dolphin Club, and South End Rowing Club who wanted to compete as a club at local races. The AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) would not recognize them because they were a combination of multiple groups, not one single club.
Armed with a desire to run as part of an official running club, Betty Cunneen called a meeting to form a new AAU club. They set a date for September 2, 1970 to discuss club details, including the name. The group tossed out several good ideas, including gems such as the Lake Merced Striders, Pacific Pacers, and my personal favorite, the Runaway Pancakes. Grant Newland invented the name Pamakid Runners and a bird called Soonar as the club mascot. That name and that mascot, won by a landslide.
With their name intact and Betty Cunneen on board as the club’s first president, the Pacific Association of the AAU officially sanctioned Pamakid Runners Club in January 1971. The Wednesday night runs continued for more than 15 years. The club’s first organized race was an 8-mile jaunt from Daly City to Lake Merced. A few years later, they organized a relay race at Lake Merced. This race later evolved into the annual Rites of Spring Run and Dinner, which we still celebrate to this day.
That’s just a small part of our club’s history but in a few paragraphs it gives you an idea of how we got started. We are not a jump on the bandwagon kind of club – we were founded before the running boom of the 1970’s began. Before Frank Shorter’s 1972 Olympic marathon gold medal made running popular. Before women were freely allowed to participate in races (Pat Cunneen has told stories about Betty and the girls having to register with fake names to get into Bay to Breakers because women were not allowed to participate).
Pat has shared some great pictures and stories from the Pamakid years in the 1970’s. What stood out was that Pat and Betty were out doing what they loved – running. It seems like the Cunneen kids had no choice…they could either run with their mom and dad or wait in the car.
Malinda shared this photo with some club members last month. It’s of Betty running with the caption, “Watch out Cheryl Bridges.” Well it turns out the reference is to Cheryl Bridges, known now as the mother of Olympian and American record holder Shalane Flanagan. But in 1971 she was simply Cheryl Bridges, 2:49 marathoner, which happened to be the women’s world record at the time. Cheryl must have been one of Betty’s running rivals in the 1970’s. Malinda and I are casual acquaintances with Cheryl and when we contacted her, she commented that she distinctly remembers the runners with the bird on their singlet.
This got me thinking that it’s a good thing Betty helped pick Soonar and Pamakids as our mascot and club name. I don’t know if I would be so excited to have a big pancake on my singlet and to be yelling “Go Flapjacks!” before races.
Let’s take a moment to remember and reflect on Betty and what she’s meant to the club. We all owe Betty as well as Pat and the Cunneen family a lot.
If you didn’t get to meet Betty take a moment to realize that when you race for the Pamakids, when you attend a Pamakid social event, when you’re part of a “Go Green!” cheer or feel pride in the success of your running club or in the fact that your club donates so much money to charities, remember that it all started 41 years ago in large part to Betty Cunneen.
For those that knew her, think of a favorite memory of Betty.
With that in mind, let’s pause for a moment of silence.
Thank you. This ends the official part of our general meeting. I invite you to now mingle and share some favorite memories of Betty Cunneen.
The USATF National Club Cross Country Championships are taking place in Seattle, Washington on Saturday, December 10, 2011. For the first time in recent memory and possibly in club history, the Pamakid Runners have runners traveling to compete at this meet. The last time the club had representation at this national championship meet was in 2006, when the meet took place in San Francisco. At that meet in 2006, newly minted master, George Rehmet placed 120th in the 40-44 age division and Keith Johnson placed ninth in the 65-69 year old age division. Also racing in 2006 representing the Hoy’s Excelsior team was John Spriggs. John will be racing for Pamakids this weekend.
There are two cross country championships a year in the USA. In February what is commonly referred to as the ”Winter Cross Country Championships” takes place. This serves as the qualifying race for runners who want to run at the World Cross Country Championships. This meet tends to be more elite and individual runner oriented. The list of recent champions at this meet include Olympic medalists and American record holders like Dathan Ritzenhein, Meb Keflezighi, and Shalane Flanagan. In 2008, Jocelyn Rodriguez ran in the Junior race at this meet for Pamakids, placing 33rd out of 63 runners.
The second meet is the National Club Cross Country Championships and it takes place in December. This is the meet taking place this weekend and it is often referred to as “Club Nationals.” The meet is more team-oriented with an emphasis on clubs from all over the country coming together to compete against one another. The list of recent champions, while still impressive, includes more the second tier of elite athletes like Aaron Braun, Scott Bauhs, Renee Metvier Baillie, Rebecca Donaghue, and Delilah DiCrescenzo.
I am very excited that the Pamakids are going to Seattle. To say that going to Club Nationals has been on my bucket list is not quite accurate, because I’ve been wanting to go to Club Nationals for longer than saying something is on your bucket list has been in vogue.
The Pamakids will have 21 runners competing this weekend, with two supporters (one fiancé and one six month old baby). Most of us are staying at the Seattle Hostel so that we get a real road trip/team bonding experience.
The races will take place at Jefferson Park Golf Course, which was also the host for the 2010 Pac-10 Conference Cross Country Championships. The course is basically a 2K loop that is run multiple times depending on the race distance. There will be four races (Masters Women, Masters Men, Open Women, and Open Men), with all the women’s races 6K and all the men’s races 10K.
The first race of the day is the Master’s Women at 10:45 A.M. Representing the Pamakids will be Louise Stephens (2011 Pamakid Female Runner of the Year and sixth place in the Pacific Association Cross Country Grand Prix), Malinda Walker, Amy Sonstein, and Cammie Dingwall. Registration shows that we can expect 140 runners in this race with 16 masters teams. The Pamakids look like they have the potential to finish somewhere between 10th and 13th.
At 11:45 A.M., the Masters Men will take the course. Running in Pamakid green will be Anthony McGrath, Adam Lucas, Jerry Flanagan, John Spriggs, Paul Zager, Mark Huffman, and yours truly, Andy Chan. Over 340 runners are expected in this race with 23 masters teams. With a solid day, the Pamakids can shoot for top 20. If everyone has a great day, maybe top 15.
The Open Men will be the final race of the day at 1:45pm. Justin “Beast Mode” Mikecz, Steve Holcombe, Raymond Yu (fresh off a 3:06 marathon at CIM last weekend), John Gieng (the 2011 Pamakid of the Year), Steve Perez, and Thang Ta (2011 Pamakid Most Inspirational Runner) will represent the Pamakids and be amongst the 370 runners with 45 teams.
For many, this will be the largest and most competitive cross country race they’ve ever run. It will be an experience to toe the line with runners from all over the country, many of whom are the best of the best in their respective age divisions. The Pamakids may not be in contention for the win in any of the races but we’ll compete hard like we always do and we plan to paint the Emerald City, Pamakid Green!
I think I will remember this decade as the decade I established myself as a successful coach. In the 90’s, I was still pretty competitive myself as a runner and I was a little more focused on my own running and racing than coaching. During the 90’s, I ran three marathons and set most of my PR’s. I also laid the groundwork for my coaching career (team manager at UCLA, asst. coach at Lowell, started Thursday night track workouts for the DSE), but it has been in the last ten years that I have made a bigger impact as a coach.
When the decade began I was 29 years old and had been a head coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory (SHCP) for just one and a half years. Although I had been coaching the Thursday night track workouts for five years, it was quite different – there was no Pamakid Runners club involvement and on average just eight to ten people were at each track workout.
Now as the decade ends, I am 39 years old and am in my twelfth year as head coach at SHCP. Thursday night track workouts have been going for fifteen years and we average 15-20 people at each workout. I am both President and Coach of the Pamakids and also coach many people privately.
I won’t rank my top ten coaching memories from this decade, but instead will list them in chronological order. If you are reading this as a word file, you can click on the hyperlinks for more details about the event.
I’d never really followed the discus much as a coach. Before 2000, a high schooler throwing the discus 140 feet was pretty darn good to me. That all changed with Tony. When Tony threw, the discus just soared and soared like a Frisbee. All season long meet officials didn’t believe me when I warned them that we had a kid who could throw the discus over their boundary flags. This was most apparent on an April evening at UC Davis. Tony nearly hit the official with his 182-11 toss (fourth best in the state at that point in the season). We had to help the official mark the throw because he was more focused on getting out of the way than spotting the landing of the throw. Tony went on to throw a best of 194-4 (I missed this throw because Shannon Rowbury had an 800 race at the same time) and placed sixth at the State Meet.
June 2001 – Shannon Rowbury winning the State Meet 800.
Shannon and I shared a lot of great moments when she was in high school (Arcadia 800 win, Outdoor Nationals win, State Champion in the 1600) but her first State Championship stands out in my mind as special above the others.
April 2002 – The Varsity Boys beating Mitty in a dual meet.
It had been at least ten years since SHCP’s Varsity Boys had won a dual meet. We targeted April 17, 2002 as our chance to end the streak. It was a back and forth battle and it all came down to our victory in the 4X400 Relay.
The dream of getting the boy’s team to State Meet started two years earlier. It was a tight battle between six schools for the four qualifying spots. Our theme was “Be a hero and let’s get to that big dance in Fresno.”
A week before the race I announced that I would run 7:20 pace for the first seven miles of the race to help people hit their goal of a 1:36 half marathon. I had a good-sized group of runners and I was really proud when everyone came in at or under their goal time. It was during this run, from mile four to six, that Sara Saba and I discussed how to go about fielding a Pamakid women’s cross country team in the near future. Less than three short years later, the Pamakids cross country team grew to include men and women, open and masters.
May 2007/May 2009 – Coaching the whole kid, not just the athlete.
A high school coach is tasked with more than making someone successful in sport. I am proud to have played a role in the development of two special people: James Mabrey (2007) and Tammia Hubbard (2009). Both of these individuals came to SHCP thinking that they were basketball players. They faced numerous challenges but through our hard work they were successful in school and ended their high school careers as league champions.
I was coaching Michelle in her first year after finishing college. After she ran a fast time at the San Jose Rock ‘n Roll half marathon, her goal changed from just running a marathon to going for a sub-2:47.
Everything happened fast from early-May to early-July. Shannon was home in San Francisco training for the Olympic Trials and I volunteered to help her in any way that I could. For the most part that meant meeting her at the track to help her do Coach John Cook’s workouts and talking to her about anything and everything. There was a bit of a media blitz as Shannon went from chasing the “A” standard to being the favorite to win. It was all a brand new experience for me – especially the priceless moment: watching the kids you coached in high school make the Olympics!
December 2009 – Seeing Pamakids succeed at CIM.
It was a wildly successful day for the Pamakids at CIM – all three relay teams placed second in their division (thanks in part to the now famous meet sheet). In addition there were numerous PR’s among the thirteen Pamakid marathoners and all four people that I was coaching achieved their goal of a Boston qualifier.