Kettering Striders

 

 

 

A Brief History of the Kettering Striders

Submitted by Steve Price, 23 February 2011

 

Though Iʼm not exactly certain of the beginning year of the Kettering Striders existence, I do know it was sometime in the early to mid 1960ʼs. Former track and basketball coach Jim Ehler (Fairmont East High School) would gather and coach a group of Kettering kids and take them to the Junior Olympics each summer.

During this era, the sole purpose of the Striders was to compete in this annual event. In the late 1960ʼs I was teaching physical education in the Kettering schools and Jim asked me to take over the team. With the help of BIll Wright, Barney Cook, and Wes Hieb we started organized practices at Fairmont East. The Kettering Recreation Department provided the kids blue t-shirts with our teamʼs name on the front.

 

A year or so later, I decided to start a girls cross country team made up mostly of girls from Rolling Fields Elementary schoolwhere I taught. A Kettering resident, Pat Irelan, bought racing spikes for the kids. Our transportation was Don Shells station wagon. He was the father of two of the girls on the team. Our little band went to road races and a few cross country meets consisting mostly of older runners. In 1968 we attended the Ohio AAU championships. At that time only two teams in Ohio sponsored age group teams. At that first meet our kids won the “State Title” over the Columbus based Ohio Track Club.

 

In the summer we continued attending the Junior Olympic Track meet and other meets that were starting to spring up around the state. In 1969 we sent a crew to Inglewood, California for the National AAU Cross Country Championships. For the first time a race for girls 9 and under was offered and our little ones won the National Championship team title for their age group. As I look back Iʼm not sure the kids knew what they had done because all they could think about was going to Disneyland after their race.

 

In the early 1970ʼs we sponsored the National AAU Junior Cross Country Championships and the following year the National AAU Senior Cross Country Championships on a course we had constructed at Bellbrook High School. By this time we had added a boys division. The track program was growing and there were now several teams in the Dayton area to compete against.We raised money for travel and uniforms through various fund raisers such as apple sales, car washes, paper drives, and donations. The club had become a family affair and by the late 1970ʼs there were 150 families with at least one family member who competed for the club.

 

A mens program was added, plus a race walking team. We now felt our club was complete as we offered something for everyone. Other than the Lincoln Track CLub in Nebraska, we probably were the largest track club in the country.

 

There were weekends when we had various teams competing in four different states. Besides the kids, there was a team for men over 40. They took third place in the USA Cross Country Championships for Masters runners that year.

 

Eventually we qualified for a “not for profit” organization with a slate of officers elected each year by the membership. For a few years we were sponsored by Paxtonʼs Sporting Goods store who bought uniforms for the team. However, most of the time we raised money ourselves to pay for travel and uniforms.

 

In the early 1980ʼs we sponsored a mens cross country team. At the same time I was coaching the University of Dayton cross country team and conveniently both teams trained together which made my life easier!At about this time, Xenia resident John Contestable took over the age group program. With the advent of video games and spring soccer, the AAU club system pretty much fell by the wayside.

 

While it lasted, we had a wonderful experience for many years, developing lasting friendships and promoting fitness for people of all ages. We sponsored countless track and cross country meets for almost twenty years, plus officiated at local events such as the Dayton River Corridor Classic half-marathon.

 

Several of our members represented the USA in international track, race walking, and cross country competitions. Joe Green eventually won bronze medals in the long jump event in the Olympic games of 1984 and 1988.

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