I believe a special word of praise is in order for the Altoona Area High School boys track team.
Last weekend, for the first time in the school's history, the 400- and 1600-meter relay teams qualified for the Penn Relays' high school championship final. Their performances were among the very best in the entire country, and Brady Gehret's relay split of 45.7 seconds was among the finest ever recorded in Penn Relays history.
These accomplishments are, however, just the latest in a string of noteworthy accomplishments. Two months ago, the team won the indoor state championship for the first time. Perhaps most special was the outdoor state championship won last spring. This was won despite losing their best athlete earlier in the season.
It took real character for the team to regroup and win the championship despite such obstacles. I have nothing but admiration for the team and coaches for this great effort.
Something special is happening with Altoona's boys track team. They have raised their game to a new level and are now one of the best programs in the United States. Let's support them in their quest for another state championship.
Having fun with numbers
Fermented and fragmented thoughts ...
What's in a name? What's in a number?
There some sports numbers that have been worn and still are worn with the Major League Baseball exception of one (42). Think about when you hear a number who comes to mind? When you hear a first name who comes to mind. No last name needed.
There are many I am sure, however. But consider these. Some make both lists.
Number 1: Richie Ashburn, Phillies, Hall of Fame and friend of Harry Kalas. Billy Martin, New York Yankees and numerous Miller Light commercials. Who heads the list as really No. 1? Kickers - to make them look taller.
Number 7: Big Ben; John Elway; Mickey Mantle
Number 8: Yogi Berra, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Number 10: Fran Tarkenton, Larry Bowa
Number 13: Wilt Chamberlain, Dan Marino
Number 23: Michael Jordan, LeBron James
Number 24: Willie Mays, Jeff Gordon
Number 32: Jim Brown, Steve Carlton
Number 43: Troy Polamalu, Richard Petty.
You get it? How about the first names: Troy, Ben, Michael, Larry, Magic, Willie? How long is the list? And? Who is really the top of the list as number 1 or number 43? Who will you know without the last name?
I'm embarking on my 26th year as a volunteer participant in the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), region 452. Previously, I've coached and officiated; now I officiate only. Athletes in AYSO range in ages between 5 to 19, and include youth of both genders.
Though my own son is long gone from AYSO, I continue my participation for a number of reasons. One, AYSO encourages the development of soccer skills, both on a personal and a team basis.
Secondly, AYSO emphasizes a philosophy and values based on the building of character, both personal and team. Thirdly, every athlete plays and learns to respect the spirit of "the beautiful game," as it is commonly referred to in much of the world.
And finally, positive coaching, playing, officiating, and parental encouragement are emphasized. And players have a great deal of fun.
I encourage parents and youth to come on Saturdays to Valley View Field in Altoona to check us out. Typically, games run from 8:30 a.m. to late afternoon. If you like what you experience, please register your youngsters, and get involved as well.
Woodley meeting positive
I was not at the Curve opener. I was, however, at the Steelers training camp on a very hot July day.
After practice, most players walked past autograph-hungry fans. LaMarr Woodley must have signed for several hundred people. When my 5-year old son got his little paper signed he said, "Thanks, LaMarr."
I now say the same thing after he makes a big play!