Friday, August 18, 2017

D-III Girls Southwest Ohio Cross Country Preview...

The 2017 high school cross country season starts this weekend

I know, I know. The first cross country race of 2017 hasn't even been ran yet and I'm already looking at the entire southwest region of Ohio? Well, yes. With only 7-8 regular season meets for most teams in the area, cross country seems like the shortest schedule in all of high school sports. Also, unlike most other fall sports, there are no conference titles to compete for in August and September, so it's all about building up for the October post season.

Racing officially starts this weekend with the OHSAA Preseason Cross Country Invitational in Hebron. This is where the state championships are ran on November 4th and schools from all over Ohio will journey over to National Trail Raceway on Saturday with hopes of running the course again in 11 weeks. On the contrary, most schools from this area of west central Ohio won't attend the OHSAA Preseason Invite and will instead begin their seasons next week with a local meet.

If you're wondering which schools to keep on the radar for the next several months, below are my predictions for the top Division III girls teams in the southwest region.

Top returners at Ft. Loramie are Danielle Berning and Paige Rethman

Ft. Loramie
If any team is trending up, it's the Ft. Loramie girls. After making a trip to state last year for the first time since 2013 and finishing 17th out of 20 teams, they return the SCAL Runner of the Year in sophomore Paige Rethman and 1st Team All-SCAL classmate Danielle Berning. Both girls had a tendency last year to lead races early and work off one another. Another sophomore, Hannah Siegel, and senior Jenna Thomas were both 2nd Team All-SCAL last year and could challenge early for the top five positions. The strength of head coach Dennis Prenger's Lady Redskins though will most likely be determined by a dynamic freshman class that includes future stars Danielle Eilerman, Corynn Heitkamp, and Caitlyn Gasson. All that youth means plenty of room for growth and that has to have Ft. Loramie fans optimistic for a big 2017.

Back from a track injury, Kara Spitzer should lead the Versailles Tigers

The Lady Tigers have a long history of success in Division III. They won a state title in 2003, were state runner-up in 2004, and captured another title in 2007. In 2015-2016 enrollment numbers bumped the girls up to Division II and that resulted in the first back-to-back seasons of missing the state meet since 1998-1999. Naturally, Versailles fans had to feel excited when it was announced they would return to D-III for 2017. Fans should be more excited about junior Kara Spitzer, who is finally healthy after some injuries cut short her spring track season and she just started practicing recently. After Kara I see seniors Megan Rismiller and Kenia McEldowney, along with junior Liz Watren and sophomore Emma Peters being a core five for head coach Mark Pleiman. Also, I'm keeping my eyes on freshmen Kennedy McEldowney and Lauren Menke who may very well round out the varsity team.

Paige Boehringer is the new front runner for Covington this year

Can the Lady Buccs begin the season as a better team than last year after graduating 4-year star Anna Dunn? Impossible, no they can't. Can they put themselves in position by October to advance to their third consecutive state meet, and just the fourth state meet in program history? Definitely, yes they can. Covington has a budding star in junior Paige Boehringer who ran under 20 minutes in four races last year. The can also put three other girls in the 20's with junior Ashlyn Plessinger and seniors Kelsey Dysinger and Danielle Alexander. I believe the rest of the mix includes senior Emma Danmeyer, junior Chelsea Ford, and possibly freshman Allie Garman. I've gathered one thing about head coach Josh Long's teams over the years. They never seem to begin the season on fire, but they're always right where they need to be for the post season. That's good coaching folks.

Reghan Bieleski of West Liberty-Salem has proven she can run with Ohio's best

West Liberty-Salem
Heading into the 2016 season it was hard for anyone outside of Logan County to imagine West Liberty-Salem advancing to the state meet. That didn't matter to long-time coach Ann Vogel. She built success around an experienced junior in Reghan Bieleski and developed three outstanding freshman in Grace Adams, Lydia Moell, and Payton Umphries, who together led the Big Orange to state for the first time since 2012. Those top four girls are back again this year and it gets even better for West Liberty-Salem fans. I believe two new freshman will have a huge impact in Katelyn Stapleton and Maddie Bahan.  Katelyn should even challenge for the #1 spot in my opinion. Throw in junior Lauren Fowler and the Big Orange might be as good as anyone come October.

Anna Fiessinger and Megan Frazier are part of another talented Russia team

The Lady Raiders are riding a five year streak of state meet appearances, the longest active streak of any D-III girls team in the region. Head coach Doug Foster returns three 1st-Team All-SCAL finishers in senior Megan Frazier and juniors Claire Meyer and Anna Fiessinger. He also returns a 2nd Team All-SCAL runner in sophomore Clare Caldwell. The key for Russia will be finding that all-important fifth runner and there are 3-4 girls capable of stepping up to fill the spot. One girl I'm anxious to see is incoming freshman Becca Seger, who as an 8th-grader finished runner-up at the SCAL Championships last fall and appears to have a lot of potential. I also look for senior Becky Pinchot, junior Emma Delaet, sophomore Andrea Monnin, and freshman Katelyn Monnin to compete for the top seven. Expectations for the girls program at Russia are high, but then again, that's nothing new.

The five schools mentioned above all have strong traditions in girls cross country and will likely battle for the four state qualifying berths earned at the regional meet in Troy come October 28th. Until then, I plan to enjoy the short regular season one Saturday at a time. Finally, if you could care less about teams and just want to know who the biggest individual stars are, look out for sophomore Addy Engel from Catholic Central in Springfield and junior Karmen Knepp from Bradford. Addy's personal record is 18:41 and Karmen's is 18:44, meaning both girls are not only two of the best in the region, they're also two of the fastest runners in Ohio.

Addy Engel and Karmen Knepp might be the best in the southwest this season

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

100th Blogpost - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

100th Blogpost

For years I've been an avid reader of Fish Report and would periodically comment about a historical article appearing on the website by sharing my recollections about the subject matter. After several such reflections, Fish Report asked me to consider writing a blogpost about my memories. I agreed, and the first post appeared about two years ago and weekly thereafter each Tuesday. That means this is about the 100th blogpost, give or take. Check them all out at this link.

If you clicked on the link and scrolled all the way to the bottom, you would notice a counter of the number of visitors to the blog site indicating about 65,000. When my first blog was posted, the counter read 15,000. So 50,000 clicks and two years later, here we are!

The blog that received by far the most hits was this March 7th post about WWII hero Vernie Hoying that's been read over 2,000 times! Of course, it helped that Fish Report ran the article as its cover headline that day indicating it would be the best article you’ll read in a while. Not sure which garnered the least hits, but my guess is it would be any blogs about the Michigan Wolverines!

Back two years ago, when considering whether to write the blog or not, I woke up early one morning around 4:00am and started jotting down possible topics for the blog. The list hit 20 ideas in about 5 minutes, proving there was enough subject matter to get started.

The weekly cadence every Tuesday fell into place since that day tended to be the slowest news day each week on the Fish Report. In other words, my blog has been fodder filler!

There are a few fans out there in cyberspace who routinely comment on the posts; many times offering the “rest of the story” or topics for future blogs. For that feedback, I’m grateful. And the Fish Report has been very helpful along the way with last minute edits, tweaks and refinements to make the post more accurate or entertaining. My wife does a great job proof-reading the column, keeping me from embarrassing myself too much! The most interesting part of the weekly routine is doing the research on the blog topic on-line. There’s always some nuance that surfaces to make the subject matter even more memorable. For example, while surfing the net for this blog about long-time SDN sport reporter, Zack Crusey I came upon a photo of his gravestone pictured below that I included in the blog. Amazing what you can find on the internet. 

My list of future blog topics is now up to 87, good for more than another year of posts. So keep checking in every Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Go Cart Memories - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Go Cart Memories

Growing up on a farm meant early exposure to the equipment and buildings that always seemed to be in need of repair. As a result, Dad had a well stocked tool shed with all kinds of interesting odds & ends inside. Coupled with all the space on a farm, as kids, we seemed to have a natural desire to build objects that moved. The urge started with crude go carts made of wood somewhat like those shown above, only we never used a helmet. Mom always did say we were hard-headed! If we couldn’t find the right items in Dad’s tool shed, we’d scrounge parts from my uncle's even more elaborate tool shed across the road from us.

Naturally, we’d want to race the go carts down hills around the farm very much like depicted in the photo above. It was indeed fun!

Just like new cars and trucks at the time, each year brought a new go cart model, always better than the one before. Braking or steering would be improved, or we'd find an old chair that could be jerry-rigged to the go cart to provide more comfortable seating like the example shown below.

About this time of year each summer, the annual Soap Box Derby would be held in Sidney, followed by the national championship race in Akron. Even though we never entered a car in the downhill race, the thought of doing so was very compelling.

As we grew older, motorizing the go cart became a passion, but a real challenge to accomplish. At the time, old-style reel-type lawn mowers were being replaced with the newer rotary mowers, so finally Dad’s old reel mower was shot, which presented the opportunity and challenge of retrofitting the old lawn mower chassis onto the go cart. Our go cart in the end looked a whole lot like the unit pictured below, although there were no seat belts or horn. Unfortunately, it went no faster than a lawn mower because we were never able to scrounge the right-sized sprockets and chains to speed it up.

One reason was because our interests changed after a neighbor picked up an old Kushman motor scooter like the restored version shown below. His was literally junk, but we loved every minute riding that thing around the farm and into town. Since it sat two, my neighbor and I could and did go about anywhere on that old scooter.

Too often though, it would breakdown and we’d have to fix it just like the guy pictured below with the Kushman in about the same condition as my neighbor's.

Looking back, my experiences during these formative years clearly influenced my eventual career choice to become an automotive engineer. As my wife says, I (and Dilbert) have The Knack!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Mackinac Bridge - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Mackinac Bridge

The above photo of the frozen underside of the Mackinac Bridge was the runaway winner of the 2017 Detroit News photo contest. A friend and fellow retiree participated in the contest, so I took an interest and voted on-line. My friends photo is shown below and was one of the finalists.

My first trip over the Mackinac Bridge occurred in 1968 and was documented in this previous blog post. Since that time, we’ve made a number of trips across the bridge and always come away amazed at the edifice itself as well as the vistas of the straits from the bridge. One can see the entire 5 mile bridge from nearby Mackinaw Island as shown in the panorama below.

The bridge was constructed in 1957 at a cost of $83 million. Imagine what it would cost today? Click this link for an interesting documentary on the bridge construction by legendary announcer Lowell Thomas.

The bridge handles about 5 million crossings per year peaking at 600,000 each month during the summer and dropping to 200,000 a month in winter. Every Labor Day since the bridge opened, Michigan’s governor has lead thousands of walkers across the bridge. For the first time this year, for safety reasons and because the bridge walk has become so popular, the entire bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic during the walk, so imagine the photo below with all lanes filled with walkers.

The Bridge Authority offers charitable non-profits the opportunity raise funds by having their donors bid on a visit to the top of one of the bridge towers. Here’s a short video about the experience including some amazing views.

The above favorite photo shows the bridge at sunset with a huge freighter underneath. And this dramatic video shows the northern lights over the bridge. Finally, check out what’s going on at the bridge at this very moment by clicking this link to the Bridge Authority’s live cams. Check them again on Labor Day morning to see the walkers crossing.

All this bridge talk has gotten me itching for another ride across the straits before the summer is over. Road trip, anyone?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Versailles - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.


My wife noticed on Facebook recently that one of her friends had taken their grandchildren to Versailles Poultry Days and had posted some photos that brought back many fond memories of Poultry Days for my wife, as she had grown up in nearby Russia.

One of my sisters was in the Miss Chick pageant, and a high school classmate of mine actually won the contest in the mid-sixties. She’s pictured below:

I don't ever recall as a kid going to Poultry Days; however, my memories of Versailles involved poultry as well, primarily going to buy baby chicks documented in this previous blogpost. My wife’s fondest memories of Versailles were countless trips to the swimming pool every summer. Her Godmother, aunt Rita, would round up all the neighborhood kids and travel to Versailles from Russia to enjoy the pool. My wife recently called her aunt and over the course of the conversation, discovered she is a big Fish Report fan and actually reads my blogposts! Imaging that? In her honor, the following photo of Rita at her first communion along with her brother (my wife’s Dad) is now posted to cyberspace.

My wife and I visited the palace of Versailles in France a few year ago and we happened to mention to the tour guide about a town in Ohio with a French heritage named after Versailles but pronounced differently. She said that’s the way the German’s pronounce Versailles when they tour the palace.

After searching eBay, the following memorabilia were found for sale. Below are two offerings related to the now defunct auto dealership, Elson Ford:

And this presumably empty box of Ward Way ice cream:

Along with this 1981 ad for Poultry Days:

Here’s a sesquicentennial token and commemorative place from 1964. My wife remembers going to the celebration, but having to leave early because her arm was hurting from being broken when hit by a car while walking home from cheerleading practice.

And a postcard from horse and buggy days along Main Street:

An historic photo of Midmark employees in 1915. My niece now works there:

An undated price sheet from a local poultry producer:

And finally, in honor of Versailles deep poultry roots, this video is being provided for your musical enjoyment.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Summer of ‘71 - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Summer of ‘71

Writing last week about the 1971 All-Star game brought back even better memories of that summer, as it was more importantly, the summer I met my wife. I had just completed my senior year in college and had returned back to Dayton to start my job at Frigidaire. My friend Tom was having a party on Friday, May 15th and somehow without cell phones, email, Facebook or Twitter, I found out about it through the prevalent technology back then, the Grapevine!

And there she was, a pretty brunette setting on a couch in the living room of Tom’s apartment. I sat down on the arm of the couch next to her. We started talking and have continued that conversation for some 46 years now. While taking a walk together yesterday on a perfect summer morning, I mentioned this week’s blog topic to my wife. We shared again our favorite times, such as the first movie we had seen together called “The Summer of ’42”, an Oscar-winning film about a love story during WWII staring Jennifer 0’Neil, pictured on the right, who looked a lot like my wife.

We recalled the canoe trip on the Au Sable river; our first visit to Michigan, where we were to eventually live for the last 45 years. Also, the great times around the pool with friends at our apartment complex (photo below), the all-you-could-eat lobster fest where my wife reminded me I gobble down 7 lobsters, the joy exploring new places and doing things together for the first time.

This song by Helen Reddy entitled the “Summer of ’71” perfectly captures that wonderful summer.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Baseball’s All Star Game - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Baseball’s All Star Game

With the Baseball All Star Game being played tonight, the following article appeared in our local paper about the 1971 game that was the writer’s favorite All Star game of all time, which also happened to by my favorite as well. Most players on the two teams are now Hall-of-Famers.

Simply put, the greatest All Star Game ever!
Reggie Jackson homers during 1971 MLB All Star Game at Tiger 
Stadium off Pittsburgh’s Doc Ellis. (AP)


However, I must admit it is not an objective opinion.

I was born in Detroit. It was held at Tiger Stadium. I was a kid playing Little League baseball that summer in Birmingham. We had just gotten a color television, a first for my family. It was the initial sporting event I recall seeing in color.

The Tigers’ Norm Cash started at first base and Bill Freehan at catcher for the American League. Detroit lefty Mickey Lolich, in the midst of one of the most underrated seasons ever by an MLB pitcher (376 innings, 308 strikeouts, 2.85 FIP, 1.18 WHIP, 25 wins), worked that night. Al Kaline appeared before the Tigers’ adoring fans, rapping a base hit in two at bats.

The field was incredibly green and plush, with red, white and blue stars painted in each outfield spot.

This was more than a quarter century prior to interleague play, and before there was more than just a “Game of the Week” shown on national television. The Tigers only broadcast 40 games per year on TV, only those on the road except Saturday afternoon games.

Particularly compelling were the National League stars. My favorite was Roberto Clemente of the Pirates, although I couldn’t tell you exactly why because I seldom got to watch him play. I know this: Clemente’s baseball card was my favorite.

Clemente homered during the ‘71 All Star Game, into the right field upper deck bleachers above the 415 foot sign off Lolich. It was a majestic clout. Henry Aaron, Johnny Bench, Harmon Killebrew and Frank Robinson also slammed homers. Each is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The topper, or course, was Reggie Jackson hitting a shot off the light tower above the roof in right-center field. It planted the seed for Jackson’s legendary status.

The best part: The American League won.

Why? Because back then, it really, really mattered. Just the year before, Pete Rose bowled over catcher Cleveland catcher Ray Fosse to win it for the National League.

And at the time, it was like the AL never, ever won it. In fact, the NL won the previous nine All Star Games, and 11 straight after the AL triumph in Detroit.

I covered a few All Star games after becoming a baseball writer, including the 2005 event at Comerica Park. Each presented a wonderful experience. The MLB All Star Game remains, by far, the best of the four major professional sports.

And there have been other electrifying all star events in various sports. For example, to this day, people often talk about the exploits of Julius Erving, Michael Jordan and/or Spud Webb in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

But for my money, the 1971 MLB All Star Game at Tiger Stadium stands alone and can’t be topped.

It helped solidify my love for baseball because it was unique, and hit home, in many ways.

Click here for a video of Reggie Jackson's massive home run.

Here's the starting lineups for that memorable game: