Larry Ellis continues to be honored

The legacy of Larry Ellis lives on.

    And on and on and on.

    An array of top talent, collegiate and post-collegiate, helped assure that
last weekend.

    Their names included Emily Infeld, Jesse Carlin, Renee Tomlin, Dustin Emrani, Alex Hudak, Carl McKenzie, Rob Novak, Alex Mason, AmandaGoetschius, Donn Cabral, Kyle Merber, Conor McCullough, Sylvia Galarza, Cadeau Kelley, Tuan Wreh, Tiina Magi-Sole, Justin Frick, Domonick Sylve,  Austin Hollimon and
Michael Eddy.

    All were were starring cast members of the 11th annual Larry Ellis Memorial
Invitation Track and Field Meet at Princeton University’s William Weaver Stadium
Friday night and Saturday afternoon and early evening.

      Once again, the meet was a tribute to the late and great Larry Ellis, who’d
played a long-long list of starring roles in track and field throughout his remarkable life

     An outstanding coach on the high school, collegiate, national and Olympic levels,
Ellis was the first president of USA Track and Field. when that organization morphed into its present form from its predecessor as The Athletics Congress.  He would
guide the new group through an  achievement-filled era.

    Ellis had starred as a brilliant scholastic middle distance runner at DeWitt Clinton High
School in the Bronx, parlaying the stamina he’d originally built running the streets of his native borough into national acclaim.

    He took that scholastic recognition on to New York University, where under the
expert coaching guidance of Emil Von Elling and Joe Healey, Ellis ran his way into
All-America status and led NYU to numerous Metropolitan Intercollegiate,
Penn Relays, Millrose Games, IC4A and NCAA honors before his graduation in 1951.
Additional Ellis stardom followed as a member of the New York Pioneer Club.

   After Army service - he fought through some of the most intense phases of the
Korean War - he returned home to make his coaching mark (1957-70) at Jamaica High School in Queens, where his star athlete was Bob Beamon, later to become the
Olympic champion and world record-holder as history’s first 29-footer in the long jump.

  Princeton University now beckoned and when he was named head coach of the
Tigers’ track and field team (in 1970) he also had the distinction of being the
first African-American to serve as head coach of an Ivy League athletic team.

    For 22 years, he built a reputation as a superb coach and his Princeton teams
and individual athletes continued bringing a world of honors back to the
Old Nassau campus in Mercer County, New Jersey.

   In 1984, he thus became an obvious choice to be named head coach of the USA
men’s team bound for the Los Angeles Games, And this, of course, gave him the heavy
responsibility of guiding an American squad to to the top of the tables in the
first Games to be held on home territory in 52 years (since the 1932 Olympics.
also in Los Angeles, also staged at the classic Memorial Coliseum.)

   From 1992 to 1996, he continued his long and distinguished record of service as the first president of his sport’s new governing body, USA Track and Field.

   Ellis’s health weakened as cardiac problems emerged but he got a new lease of life with a heart transplant.  Tragically, though, the new heart gave out, too.  Larry Ellis left us on the 4th of November, 1998.  A memorial service was held in the Princeton University Chapel, with a distinguished list of attendees from the track and field world and the world at large.

   “This meet is our way of commemorating Larry; he meant  so much to all of us
at Princeton, and to me personally,” said Fred Samara, the Princeton’s men’s head coach.  (And like Ellis, as a graduate of Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton High
School, a product of New York City’s PSAL.)

   “He gave me my start in coaching (in 1977) and was a mentor to me.

   “I was working up in Northern New Jersey, for a private company, and
had heard about the job here.  At the same time, I’d also got an offer to work in
California for a different company.”

    Samara was at a major crossroad in his life: “I had to make a decision, whether I wanted to coach or to go into business.

    “I came down here for the interview and, obviously, I chose coaching.

  “It was a lifestyle decision and Larry played a big part in that.  He was such a
good person and a good person to work for.  It bore fruit because, all throughout my career, he supported me.

  “In 1982, after I’d only been here four years, he went to the A.D. and said ‘we should name Fred co-head coach.’  For him, as he gave up part of his own position for me, that showed what type of man  he was.

  “I had always wanted to be a coach, even when I was younger. I
worked with Larry from the fall of 1977 to the spring of 1991. 

  “Larry was an amazing guy, always well organized, always meticulous and even-tempered.  That was a good thing for me because, when I was younger, I was anything but even-tempered.

  “Larry was just a great coach. We complemented each other very, very well.

 “We had very good years together.”

   Just as Ellis did, Samara plays a major role in the sport beyond Princeton.  As a past USA
national decathlon champion and 1976 Olympic decathlete, Penn graduate
Samara  serves as director of development for the  USATF multi-event committee and has earned much credit for helping to lead the nation back to global excellence in the decathlon.

    Each Ellis Meet has major emotional ties for Crawford “Ed” Sabin, chairman of the USATF-New Jersey Officials Committee
and chief clerk at the Ellis Meet.   Ellis and Sabin were boyhood friends in the Bronx,
occasional training partners,  and New York Pioneer Club teammates.

     “Larry was a fantastic man and a great gentleman, but he was also a very sincere, honest, hard-working person,” said Sabin.

  “You had to earn his respect.  Once you had that, he would reach out and
embrace you. He was two years older than I, and aways a good, sensible friend.

   “Eventually, we got to know each other socially.  Always, Larry was a gentleman; always kind, always considerate of others.

   “He was a deep thinker, and always, a man who loved all humanity.  Larry never
blew his own horn, so to speak.   He did things and achieved things in his own quiet way.

   “He had a plan for himself, a mission for himself, and he accomplished it.  It was
always an honor to come down and officiate at his meets.”

    Seeded sections with deep fields in the distance events, plus the hammer and discus,
Friday night - even in cold and on-off drizzle -
got the 11th Ellis Meet going in  outstanding fashion.

    Georgetown products Emily Infeld (2:08.99) and Renee Tomlin (2:09.90)
delivered solid women’s 800 performances, placing 1-3 with Staten Islander
Jesse Carlin, the former Penn star, squeezed between them (2:09.69.)

   American University grad Dustin Emrani of Central Park Track Club
(1:49.01) led the first four men’s 800
finishers under 1:50, with Manhattan College’s Alex Hudak (1:49.16), Georgetown’;s
Theon O’Connor (1:49.77) and Cornell’s Nick Wade (1:49.99) in hot pursuit. 
Seventy-nine of the 80 starters broke two minutes.

  A great men’s 1,500-meter duel saw Villanova’s Carl McKenzie (3:44.37)
fight off NYAC’s Seton Hall grad Rob Novak (3:44.83) with Princeton’s
Trevor Van Ackeren (3:45.24) right behind.  Sixteen men broke 3:50 and
63 of 73 entries went sub-4.

   Syracuse runners, led by Rebekah McKay in 10:20.7, took the first five places in the women’s 3,000 steeplechase.

  Good men’s steeplechasing saw Alex Mason of Georgetown win it in 8:58.09 over New Hampshire’s Matt O’Connor (8:58.59), as 27 of the 45 who ran broke 9:30.

  It was Amanda Goetschius of Charlotte in front of the women’s 5,000-meter
field in a decisive 16:16.97, with four more runners sub-17 minutes and 35 all old beating 18.

    A stirring men’s 5,000-meter battle saw Princeton’s Donn Cabral outlast Kyle
 Merber, the acclaimed Columbia sophomore who clocked a
sub-4 mile at the Armory this winter, 13:58.24 to 14:03.67. The depth was
impressive: seven men went
under 14:10 and 77 of 99 entrants beat 15 minutes.

   Overcoming drizzly conditions, Rhode Island’s Derek Peterson (170-11) and
Shore AC’s Sylvia Galarza, formerly of Rutgers (154-9), took the two discus titles.   

   Meanwhile, at Princeton’s all-new hammer facility, Tiger freshman Conor
McCullough whirled the 6-kilogram (international junior weight) ball and chain
243-9 (prepping for the National Junior Championships and, hopefully, the World
Juniors) while NYAC’s Jake Freeman took the standard-weight 16-pound event
with a heave of 226-8.

   The rain had cleared by Saturday’s noon start, but generally  cold conditions

    Cadeau Kelley and Tuan Wreh are cousins and Shore AC teammates.
They were also kings of their realm at the Ellis Meet.

   Not long after Kelley, an Akron University alumnus, won the long jump at 24-10, ex-Penn star Wreh (who’d placed third in the LJ), came back to win the triple jump at 52-1 3/4.

   Another Shore AC triple jump winner was Tiina Magi-Sole, who took the women’s event at 40-6.  And, almost at the same time, her husband Chris, was clearing 6-4 3/4 for fifth in the men’s HJ.  Husband and wife now as  well as
clubmates, the Soles are former teammates at Manhattan College.

   It was Princeton senior Justin Frick soaring 6-11 ½ to pace the men’s HJ field.

   In Domonick  Sylve, the U.S. Military Academy has the fastest high hurdler in its history. He’d lowered the Academy record to 13.79 in the dual meet against Navy a week earlier and won again at Princeton.  Still, he  had a real fight on his hands to hold off Georgetown’s Chris Kenney,  13.84 to 13.89.

    Princeton has a top caliber 4x400 relay team, but the Tigers who are
key elements of that squad focused on individual events this time. 
After Michael  Eddy edged Shore AC’s Marvin Lewis to win the 400, 47.76 to 47.81,
it was Tiger teammate Austin Hollimon holding off Lewis, too, this time in the 200, 21.46 to 21.66.

   Pre-meet ceremonies honored the Princeton senior trackmen who’ve
made the Class of 2010 a memorable one in Tiger history.

   Most were pre-teens when Princeton, and the track and field world,
 said its farewell to Larry Ellis in 1998.

    He is gone but certainly not forgotten,  and the Tigers who continue paying homage to him plan to keep all those memories alive, for years and years and years.